First appearing in the 1860s, the Norfolk jacket is a durable, loose fitting jacket designed to provide ease of movement to hunters and sportsmen. Deriving its name from the Duke of Norfolk, the jacket was reputedly created specifically for the Duke at his request. Other origin stories suggest that the Norfolk jacket was created for the Prince of Wales, but somehow became linked with the Duke of Norfolk. Regardless of its origins, the characteristics of the Norfolk jacket made it ideal for outdoor and sporting pursuits, specifically hunting. Constructed from rough woolen fabrics and buttoning to the collar, the jacket was extremely warm and durable. With a center back and two front pleats allowing for easy arm movements and large patch pockets providing extra storage, it was widely adopted as sportswear or casual day wear by gentlemen of leisure when vacationing in the country.
Paired with a cap, short knickerbockers, rough woolen stockings and sturdy short boots, the Norfolk jacket was suitable only for informal rural settings. Unlike an urban suit, Norfolk jackets weren't always paired with matching trousers. Though fashion plates indicate the existence of matched Norfolk suits, the jacket was also worn with knickerbockers cut from a different fabric. Color also marked the Norfolk jacket as a casual garment. Unlike urban suits, which were almost uniformly black during the late 19th century, Norfolk jackets were usually made from rustic woolen fabrics in earth tones of green or brown.
Because of their functionality, Norfolk jackets were adopted by sportsmen of all varieties. Always, however, they were associated with the well-to-do, who could afford specialized garb for leisure activities. This fashion plate from May 1901 features a golfer (right) clad in a Norfolk jacket and matching knickerbockers. Dating from roughly 40 years after the origination of the Norfolk jacket, this plate confirms the longevity of the style. The jacket pictured here features all the classic characteristics of the Norfolk jacket, including patch pockets, front box pleats and a self-belt. Notice his cravat pin, a pair of crossed golf clubs.