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Words by Mr Mansel Fletcher

Velvet has long had regal associations - in 14th-century England, King Richard II asked that he be buried in the stuff - but its more interesting, bad boy reputation can be traced back to Lord Byron. Painter Mr Richard Westall famously depicted the 19th-century poet wearing burgundy-coloured velvet, and, with the party season upon us, we take an endorsement from one of history's most notorious lovers pretty seriously.

We're not alone in our admiration for soft, tufted cotton, as almost all the designer brands are offering velvet jackets this season. The fabric has long had a louche image, redolent of relaxing with a glass of brandy and a cigar after a formal dinner, or Bond-esque nights out in expensive clubs. It's an image that's been refreshed this season, in that the new velvet jackets come with slim cuts, shorter bodies and softer construction.

However, if the shapes have been refined the classic colours are un-improvable, which is why Acne and Dolce & Gabbana have jackets in a shade of burgundy of which Lord Byron himself would have approved, while bottle green, burnt orange and chocolate brown line up alongside more sober black and blue. Although black and navy blue are the easiest colours to wear there's a strong logic to going for bolder hues, in that as most men already own a navy blue suit, and a black dinner jacket, this is an opportunity to expand the sartorial repertoire.

Whatever colour you go for, a velvet jacket is extremely versatile. Dressed down with jeans and a T-shirt it's right for a weekend lunch, or a casual day in the office, while, at the other end of the spectrum, it can substitute for a tuxedo over a crisp white shirt, black bow tie and tux trousers. No wonder men in search of a good time have been wearing velvet jackets since the days when Lord Byron was scandalising Europe with his bad behaviour.

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