Welcome back to the Gentleman’s Gazette! Today’s video is all about hip flask and coat flask. We discuss the history the do’s and don’ts, what to pay attention to, the different materials and anything else you want to know about this classic gentlemanly accessory. First let’s start with a history of the hip flask. Before the modern era consuming alcohol was almost a health measure because it could disinfect and help to deal with not so clean water. Some say it all started in the Kalahari Desert in South Africa 60,000 years ago where people would use ostrich egg shells to use as a canteen. Earthenware containers evolved around 2,000 BC and they were eventually replaced with glass and metal flasks. For approximately 500 AD to the Middle Ages, Christian pilgrims would use flasks to bring home oil or other sacred substances. The flask as you know today is a modern beverage bottle and some pinpoint its origins to the 18th century England. The rounded edges of the flask were brought into a curved form that matched the contours of the body in order to conceal it more than just a square container on your chest or your hip.
In the US, prohibition made alcohol illegal from 1920 to 1933 but nevertheless people continued drinking. Of course it was better not to do so in public and a hip flask was really helpful to conceal your alcohol consumption. Interestingly people who carried hip flasks during Prohibition were called hipsters. Today we still have that word but it has an entirely different meaning. Other terms used for people carrying flasks were vile villain, gentleman from Kentucky or someone suffering from hip disease.
Flasks weren’t just limited to the hip or the coat pocket but they were also worn by ladies in their garters or by men in their boots which is where the name bootlegging comes from. Some states thought they were smart. They made it unlawful to sell flasks or cocktail shakers but ultimately it didn’t work out. Today, a flask is primarily used to just carry one’s own hard liquor if you know that you can’t find it at the place where you’re going to. So why is it called a hip flask or coat flask? It’s because it was carried in the hip pocket of trousers or in the coat pocket of a sport coat, suit or blazer. Carrying your flask in your trousers is much more obvious and it also makes it more prone to breaking. On the other hand, if you have a flask that’s curved and shaped to match the contours of your body and you combine it with a heavier jacket or suit you can hardly spot it at all.
Flasks are great gifts because you can have them engraved with little mementos, initials, maybe important events or other things that remind you of something. In terms of materials, most flasks coming out are pewter, glass, sterling silver or stainless steel. Sometimes you can also find something that is leather encased but on the inside you’ll always either have glass or steel. The first material used for flasks was glass because of its neutral effect on flavors and aromas. Obviously it breaks very easily so if you’re done drinking the contents of your flask you’re much more likely to break it and even hurt yourself. Because of that pewter flasks were introduced which is a mix of tin, silver, lead, copper and other elements. While pewter ages very nicely and develops a sophisticated patina and is not prone to breakage, the issue is that it has negative impacts on the flavors and the aromas. In fact it’s so bad that it’s not allowed to be used as a flask anymore. Alternatively sterling silver was used for flasks and today these older Victorian flasks are prized possessions and you can find collectors paying top dollar for them.
As a consequence stainless steel became a lot more popular for flasks because it’s relatively lightweight. It doesn’t have off flavors if you don’t keep your liquors in there for more than three days. It won’t break and it’s just something that can be covered in leather for example or other items. Sometimes you also find them glass lined or somewhat insulated so you drop them the glass won’t shatter on the inside but those are more expensive more sophisticated flasks. Stainless steel can also easily be washed with dishwashing liquid and it’s easy to maintain. Some flasks even come with a small funnel which help you not to waste any of your precious liquor. In terms of size, a standard flask contains about 8 ounces or 240 milliliters. You can also find much smaller ones but obviously they won’t contain more than a shot.
An 8 ounce container, you get about 4 to 5 decent-sized shots. So what should you fill in your flask? Honestly, the best thing is hard liquors – Whiskey, bourbon, rum, vodka, brandy, Armagnac. You name it, anything that’s a hard liquor is perfect for a flask. That being said flavored alcohols are not ideal in metal flasks because the flavor can change. I’d also stay clear of beer, wine, sparkling wine or anything else with a low proof content except maybe port wine because that works well with a cigar and it’s not something you often find if you’re out and about. Some even say the best companion for a hip flask in one side of your pocket is a cigar case on the other side so everything looks symmetrical. For a stainless steel flask I suggest not to leave it in there for more than 7 days. Some people say they can discern some off flavors after three days. If that’s you the shorter you leave it in there, the better.
If you store it in a glass flask technically you can leave it in there indefinitely but I’d still make an effort to consume it or fill it back into the bottle it came from. Alright what are the flasks do’s and don’ts? First of all, do understand that even though prohibition is long gone certain states still have laws that prohibit you from carrying containers of alcohol in public except maybe for the trunk of a car so it pays to read up on your state law so you don’t break it. Don’t attempt to bring a filled flask on an airplane because the TSA won’t let you. Do carry to a wedding party maybe private places or any kind of event where you are absolutely certain that it will be acceptable to drink from your flask. Don’t just carry a flash purely to get drunk because that’s not gentlemanly.
Also don’t take a flask to restaurants bars or theaters with the intent to save money on buying their drinks because that’s just cheap and rude and those are both things the gentlemen should not be. When you are in company make sure you do offer your friends a round, a sip from your flask. After all it’s hard liquor and its use as a disinfectant so you don’t have to worry about anything. Also don’t bring a flask to funerals or occasions where flasks would be simply inappropriate.
Do prepare to definitely get some judgment from people but at the end of the day if you enjoy it and you own it, that’s all that matters. I also stress, you don’t buy kitschy shaped flasks in the shape of a Nintendo NES, a banana or maybe an umbrella. Stick to the classic shapes that are hard to see on your body. Most importantly don’t carry more liquor in your flask that you can consume without embarrassing yourself. Do plan a safe ride home and don’t make carrying a flask a habit or a personal hallmark because that would be over the top. Leave it for special occasions where it’s appropriate. That being said personally I’m not a huge drinker and I never feel the need for a flask. That aside it also changes the seal of my jacket and I never feel like I just can’t wait until I’m back home or maybe at the party where liquor is served anyways. At the end of the day it is a nice accessory and if you want to have your favorite spirit with you at all times, go for it.
In today’s video, I am wearing a summery combination consisting of a fresco jacket in grey which is part of a suit. In this case I’m combining it with a pair of seersucker trousers, a white cuff link shirt, a knit tie from Fort Belvedere in a mottled blue and dark blue which you can find in our shop here, just like the pocket square and the boutonniere. I am carrying my flask in my right coat pocket because in my left one I have the pocket square and so it kind of evens it out. My shoes are burgundy double monk straps with silver buckles and I picked up the same colors in my leather belt. To tie it all together I opted for a pair of grey socks that pick up the grey color of the jacket but at the same time it contrast with the shoes as well as with the pants.
To learn more about how to combine shoes, jackets and pants, please check out this in-depth guide here. And make sure to get your free ebook about it. If you enjoyed this video give us a thumbs up, subscribe to the channel so other videos like this, about spirits or gentlemanly things, come right your inbox..