Shopping Challenge: Norfolk Jacket

This post was written by Lindy Shopper.

Last month I put out the call for a shopping challenge, asking Lindy Shopper readers to send me on a mission for your heart’s desire, the garment you have been unable to find and add to your wardrobe. My first response was from Rich Werden, a fellow dancer and vintage clothing enthusiast who I met last year at All Balboa Weekend. One of his challenges (email subject line: “You want a challenge!?!?”) was to find a Norfolk jacket, or as Rich more aptly put it:

“The Coup de grace is a belt-back sport jacket that would actually fit me. The naming of this style is difficult: sometimes these jackets are called Action-Backs, Norfolk, or Bi-Swing jackets. The style was popular in heavy wools n’ tweed as an outdoorsman thing for going sport shooting in England, but of course, being a dancer, I wouldn’t want anything so heavy. Really, Nick Williams has an excellent white one that I have been jealous of for years! I can’t even find a place that would do one bespoke!”

Out of my element and, perhaps, out of my league, I set forth my online quest for this belt-back jacket. My first stop was eBay, to look for the right key words for my eBay searches, as the plan was to look online, but also have searches sent to me daily using the key words Rich gave me for this particular jacket. The term “Norfolk jacket” yielded the most results, almost all of them in tweed.

One of the jackets caught my eye, as it was in a lighter color and sans tweed, so I clicked through to view the auction description. The auction was for a vintage 1970’s Norfolk jacket, offered for sale by Bookster, a British company that sells vintage menswear, but also has their own retail web site for custom menswear – “Home of The Bookster Range, Craft Tailored in England from the Finest British Tweed, Wool and Linen Cloths at Accessible Prices.”

A promising start. I honed in on the word “linen” – yes, here’s a dancer-friendly fabric!

Bookster's Half-Norfolk Jacket

Not only does Bookster offer a “Half Norfolk Belt Feature” (among other lovely bespoke options), but they also offer their jackets in nine different colors of Irish Linen, including two stripes (you’ll have to scroll to the bottom for the linens).

I messaged Rich with the link, hoping that this was even close to what he wanted. Rich agreed that the linens would be the way to go. 🙂

The price is where things get squirrely. Everything is so customized and “bespoke,” down to the number of buttons, vents, regular v. comfort waistline, sleeve length, back length, pockets, shoulder pleats, yowza…I did a sample order, pretending to order a linen Norfolk jacket for my husband and the cost came out at around $550 U.S. This seems like a lot, but if this is THE piece you are missing and you will wear it until you are old and gray, I’d say it would be worth the investment. We do want to invest in some quality pieces, even though Lindy Shopper is always looking for a bargain. Or you could always settle for the disco-era Norfolk jacket they listed on eBay for $65.00.

As a side note, you can also order knickers from Bookster as part of your tweed or linen suit.

Matt Deckard's Action-Back

Rich upped the ante and found another website, Matt Deckard Apparel based in Los Angeles, offering several versions of the action-back jacket from this side of the pond. The photographs on this site give you an excellent idea of how the pieces will look in an ensemble – such classy gents! Prices range from $800 to $1,500 for a bespoke suit, so maybe the Bookster jacket isn’t looking so bad as an investment.

I’d like to thank Rich for this wonderful foray into menswear – I hope this information will help some of you in your searches as well!

6 thoughts on “Shopping Challenge: Norfolk Jacket

  1. Beltbacks are indeed the Holy Grail for vintage shopping, especially in larger sizes. My husband and I have agreed that if our house is burning down, after we save the cats and photos, his white Palm Beach is the next thing to grab. (And now that so many photos are on Facebook, the PB might come before photos! 😉

    Matt Deckard’s wares are indeed nice, but so dear! Buying vintage jackets are nearly always less expensive than custom, but you do have to hunt for them and be willing to wait… The good news is, even if you buy something off the Bay that winds up not fitting, you can always easily find it a new home (sometimes at a profit!).

  2. I think they make equestrian hunt or dressage coats with that type of detailing. I tried to find pictures online of the backs of various styles to confirm my spotty memory, but wasn’t very successful finding pics of the coat backs. Granted, these coats can be nearly as expensive, but they are generally made in bulk, so prices are cheaper than custom. Plus, it adds more search terms to try.

  3. LS! You should have asked me, I’ve known about Matt Deckard Apparel for a few years now.

    Nice job finding Brookster. $550 for “bespoke” is actually very surprising. A custom order online is technically more along the lines of MTM (made to measure, which isn’t necessarily more or less better than bespoke). That said, that price is about right for MTM. The next step would be to find out about the quality of the linens they use. Good tailors will supply samples (for a fee).

  4. $550 for bespoke is a great price. HOWEVER, I wonder at the LW’s intention. No one in the early 20th century would have worn a Norfolk suit to a dance. Unless he is invited to (or hosts, in which case I’m dying for an invite) a fancy dress shooting event, what would be the purpose? Just collecting cool clothes for the sake of it? In which case, I’m down with that. I have a pretty sizable collection of garb which I can only wear occasionally.

    1. It would depend on the fabric really, the style itself would be fitting for the era. I’m sure the Palm Beach belt backs were more appropriate for sipping a cool cocktail under an umbrella than for hunting.

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