Unstructured Blazer vs. Structured Blazer for Staff Wear

One of the biggest debates for restaurant and hotel staff uniforms is whether blazers should have structured or unstructured fits. Both have their advantages and drawbacks when it comes to style, comfort, and functionality.

This article will examine the key differences between structured and unstructured blazers to help hospitality owners and managers make the best uniform choices.

The Blazer: A Hospitality Staple

A Brief History

The blazer holds a rich legacy in the realm of professional attire, especially in the hospitality industry. Its origins are often linked to the British Royal Navy, where the crew of the HMS Blazer began wearing these jackets to appear smart for a visit by Queen Victoria. The term 'blazer' itself is thought to have come from the ship's name, but there's also a theory that it's derived from the 'blazing' red color of the original jackets.

Over the years, the blazer has evolved from its nautical military roots to become a symbol of club membership, academic prestige, and professional decorum. By the 20th century, it was adopted by various hospitality entities as a way to convey a sense of exclusivity and attentiveness.

Purpose in Hospitality

The use of blazers in hospitality settings serves several purposes. It creates a uniform look among staff, which can be important for guests to identify who can assist them.

The structured design of a blazer provides a sharp and authoritative appearance, promoting confidence in the services offered. This is especially relevant in high-end venues where the expectations for service and professionalism are elevated. Moreover, blazers are versatile. They can be paired with different styles of trousers, skirts, or dresses and can be accessorized with ties, scarves, or badges to fit the specific aesthetic of an establishment.

In addition to their aesthetic appeal, blazers can be practical. They often feature pockets that can carry small items like pens, notepads, or guest checks, which are essential tools for many in the hospitality industry.

Structured and Unstructured Blazers: What's the Deal?

The choice between a structured and unstructured blazer reflects the establishment's level of formality and service ethos. Let's look at each one more closely.

What is a Structured Blazer?

A structured blazer has padding in the shoulders and inner canvasing to maintain its shape. This gives the blazer a more formal, tailored look. To define the features in greater detail:

Defined Shoulder Padding

This padding creates a sharp shoulder line and a tailored silhouette, which enhances the blazer's structure and prevents fabric sagging.

Check that the shoulder padding maintains its shape over time by pressing a finger to test resilience. You'll also want to ensure the shoulder seam hits right at the edge of your shoulders for the best fit and structure.

Inner Canvasing

Canvasing is an inner lining that runs along the lapel, chest, and sides. It prevents wrinkling and helps the blazer hold its shape. This supports the structured style.

Proper canvasing should lie smooth and wrinkle-free against your shirt when worn. Bunching in the canvas can indicate poor construction. Additionally, lapels with canvasing should hold their shape well and not curl or flip outward when worn, demonstrating quality.

Firm, Sturdy Fabric

The fabric of a structured blazer shouldn't stretch, drape, or sag—it should feel dense and hold structure. As such, structured blazers tend to be made of sturdy fabrics like wool or polyester blends. Lighter fabrics, like linen blends, would lose shape.

Versatile Styling

With its sharp lines, shoulder pads, and framing, a structured jacket or blazer can be dressed up or down. It works well for both formal and business casual uniforms.

A versatile structured blazer offers maximum usageconsider a neutral-colored option in navy, grey, black, or tan. You can then swap out the t-shirt, ties, and accessories for both formal business and smart casual looks. You can also try playing with combining dresses, jeans, trousers, or skirts with your structured blazer to create different outfits.

What is an Unstructured Blazer?

An unstructured, or soft-shouldered, blazer has little to no shoulder padding or inner canvassing. Other names for this type of jacket are unconstructed blazers or unstructured suits. This type of blazer creates a softer drape and relaxed silhouette. Here are the key features in a list:

No Shoulder Padding

Unstructured jackets or blazers have little or no shoulder padding. This allows a natural shoulder line and flexibility of movement. When going for an unstructured jacket or blazer, the shoulder seams should align properly with the slope of the shoulders. The Hoxton Hotel utilizes versatile, unisex sanded twill chore coats, known for their durability and fashion-forward aesthetics, suitable for front desk demands.​​

No Inner Canvassing

An uncanvassed, unstructured jacket should drape smoothly without bunching or creasing fabric when worn. Though the collar may lose stiffness over time and curl outwards without internal canvas support, test this by flipping the lapels. The Bradley offers a uniform collection that uses stretch chambray fabric and an unstructured navy blazer, creating a comfortable yet polished appearance with a palette of blues and whites​​. Meanwhile, The Old No. 77 Hotel's uniform features a modern, tailored charcoal chore coat giving a classic workwear style an elevated, approachable look.

Lightweight Fabrics

Lightweight fabrics breathe well for warm weather wear but can wrinkle more easily without structure. Look for a light tan, faded blue, or heathered grey linen/cotton blends to embrace the casual flair. The Hu. Hotel infuses informal relaxation with an unstructured navy stretch twill blazer over a banded-collar white Oxford shirt, offering a laid-back yet polished look​​.

Casual Styling

Unconstructed jackets soften any outfit from business casual to weekend wear when paired with dark wash jeans, neutral tees, and shoes like loafers or sneakers. Rolled-up sleeves, untucked button-downs and no tie capture a relaxed vibe. The Clayton Hotel's unstructured black blazer focuses on a simple aesthetic with a Stretch Gray Service Chambray shirt as the centerpiece, creating a cohesive look with the brand’s colors​​.

Stock Mfg. Co. offers an unstructured spruce blazer as part of their modern hotel uniform collection. This blazer is paired with a white service dress shirt and black stretch trousers, providing a professional yet memorable look that stands out, offering a timeless and sleek finish​.

Comparing the Pros and Cons

So which is better for staff uniforms — structured or unstructured? Here’s a quick comparison of the pros and cons:

Structured Blazer Pros:

  • Sophisticated, polished aesthetic
  • Maintains shape over time
  • Versatile styling

Structured Blazer Cons:

  • Less range of motion
  • Less breathable fabrics
  • More expensive to produce

Unstructured Blazer Pros:

  • Relaxed, approachable look
  • Flexible range of motion
  • Lightweight, breathable fabrics

Unstructured Blazer Cons:

  • Can appear rumpled
  • Loses shape over time
  • Less formal styling

Case Studies

Embracing Elegance: The Ritz-Carlton's Tailored Approach

The Ritz-Carlton hotels mandate crisp, tailored blazers for all staff to maintain an aura of sophistication and luxury. These structured garments feature padded shoulders, nipped waists, and polished buttons in keeping with the formal aesthetic of the five-star establishments. The timeless style exudes professionalism and competency.

Casual Chic: The Ace Hotel's Relaxed Style

Alternatively, The Ace Hotel staff sport relaxed, unstructured blazers that align with the trendy, artsy vibe of the chain. The soft, casual jackets with rolled sleeves reflect the unconventional attitude and youthful energy. Ditching stiffness and formality for a bit of edge resonates with its hip, creative target demographic.

Innovative Fusion: Hybrid Blazers at Boutique Bistros

Several upscale boutique bistros are experimenting with a hybrid approach, putting staff in partially structured blazers. These jackets combine professionally tailored elements like darts and smooth lines with a relaxed, comfortable fit. The look maintains approachability while nodding to the unique flair of the restaurant. Specific finishes, fabrics, or accents further align with the eatery's identity.

Tips for Choosing the Right Blazer

When deciding between structured and unstructured blazers, keep these tips in mind:

  • Consider your establishment's formality and aesthetic. Structured is more formal.
  • Prioritize comfort and mobility if staff are on their feet all day. Unstructured offers more flex.
  • Evaluate care. Structured blazers hold up better to repeat laundering.
  • Factor in costs. Structured blazers will cost more but maintain their look.
  • Assess versatility. Structured works for both formal and casual outfits.
  • Plan styling. Structured pairs well with slacks and ties. Unstructured work great with polos and jeans.

Sizing and Fit Tips

Measuring for Excellence: Ensuring the Perfect Fit

To ensure that blazers look their best, accurate sizing is crucial. Begin by measuring the fullest part of the chest, keeping the tape measure parallel to the ground. For structured blazers, consider the shoulder width and ensure that the seam sits precisely where the shoulder meets the arm. With unstructured blazers, you can allow for a more forgiving fit, focusing on a comfortable drape that follows the natural line of the body.

The Importance of Tailoring

Off-the-rack blazers will fit many staff members well, but tailoring can adjust the length of sleeves, the nipping of the waist, and the overall drape to individualize the fit. It's a worthwhile investment for a polished appearance.

Size Inclusivity

It's important to select a range of sizes and fits that accommodate all body types. Providing options for petite, tall, plus-size, and other body shapes ensures that every staff member feels comfortable and confident in their uniform.

Accessories and Complementary Pieces

Selecting the Right Accessories

The right accessories can elevate the look of a blazer and complete the uniform. For structured blazers, consider classic pieces like silk ties, cufflinks, or pocket squares accentuating the formality. For unstructured blazers, opt for more casual accessories like knitted ties or simple lapel pins.

Creating a Cohesive Look

Choosing the right trousers, skirts, or dresses to pair with blazers is essential. Structured blazers pair well with tailored trousers or pencil skirts for a sharp ensemble. Unstructured blazers go well with more relaxed chinos or A-line skirts. Consider the color palette and fabric texture to ensure a cohesive look throughout the staff uniform.

Seasonal Adaptations

Incorporate seasonal variations with accessories like scarves or hats that can be both functional and stylish. This not only keeps staff comfortable but also allows the uniform to adapt to different weather conditions while maintaining a cohesive brand image.

Create Uniformity With the Right Blazers

The blazers your staff wear make an impression on customers and impact performance. Structured blazers bring sophistication and polish to any hospitality uniform. For more casual environments, unstructured designs provide laid-back comfort. Consider the duties, activities, and formality of roles when making the best choice for your establishment. With the perfect blazers that balance style, function, and comfort, you’ll create professional uniformity for your staff.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some frequently asked questions related to blazers for staff wear that include the requested keywords:

What is the difference between a blazer and a sport coat?

A blazer is more structured with defined shoulders and lapels, made from thicker fabrics. A sport coat is an unstructured jacket with softer shoulders, often made of lighter fabrics.

Can a suit jacket be worn as a blazer?

Yes, a tailored jacket from a suit can work well as a blazer for staff uniforms. However, suit jackets are more structured and formal than a typical blazer.

Why is the lining important in a blazer?

The lining helps the blazer maintain its structure and tailored shape over time. No lining or a poor quality one can lead to the jacket losing its form more quickly.

What are unstructured shoulders or "soft shoulders"?

Unstructured shoulders have little or no padding, creating a relaxed shoulder line. This allows more range of motion but can appear less formal than structured padded shoulders.

What shirts pair well with unstructured blazers?

Light to medium-heavyweight button-down shirts, polos, knits, and t-shirts all work well with softly tailored jackets or unstructured blazers, creating a smart casual staff uniform.

Can women wear sport coats?

Yes. Well-fitting sport coats work nicely for women as a stylish but relaxed uniform option. Brands are making sport coats suited for women's figures, or tailoring can adjust the fit.

Why choose medium to heavyweight shirts under blazers?

Heavier shirt fabrics avoid showing every bump and line underneath blazers. Lighter shirts cling and wrinkle more noticeably. Sturdy shirting materials uphold a polished look.

Should staff avoid t-shirts under blazers?

T-shirts can look sloppy under structured blazers but are fine with unstructured ones. A collared shirt, polo, or knit shirt helps unfinished necklines and sleeves appear intentional.