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The mess jacket is a type of formal jacket that ends at the waist. It features either a non-fastening double breast cut or a single-breasted version that fastens.[1] The jackets have shawl or peak lapels. Used in military mess dress, during the 1930s it became a popular alternative to the white dinner jacket in hot and tropical weather for black tie occasions. It also was prominently used, in single-breasted form, as part of the uniform for underclassmen at Eton College, leading to the alternate name Eton jacket.[1] Its origin was aspencer, a tail-less adaptation of the tailcoat worn by both men and women during the Regency period.


The waist-length style of jacket first appeared in the 1790s when George Spencer, 2nd Earl Spencer removed the tails from his tailcoat.[1] Spencer, it was thought, singed the tails of his tailcoat while standing beside a fire and then cut off the ends, unwittingly starting a new fashion.[2] Other stories say Spencer—frustrated by his tails catching on brambles—tore the tails off his coat when hunting one day.[3] In the early 1800s, Eton College adopted it for first year students' uniforms; it was referred to as an Eton jacket.[4][5] Civilians first adopted a white mess jacket in 1933 to wear in the hot and tropical weather of Palm Beach.[1]

The mess jacket soon fell out of fashion for two main reasons.

Today, the jacket continues to be used as part of military mess dress.

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