French work jacket
Shopping From Japan

Shopping from Japan: French Work Jackets

French Work Jacket–Dead Stock (Explorer Import Select Shop)

Workwear clothing shop, Charleville-Mezieres, France
Gilles Berthoud mechanic, Pierrot, in his blue work coat

Welding a rack at Cycles Gilles Berthoud

I’ve been a longtime admirer of the restylized, Kempel-brand blue work jackets sold by the Japanese web shop, Explorer. This style of jacket has a tailored yet unstructured look w/a button-up front and three or four open pockets (Jacquie Bonner revision: all jackets should have at least three external pockets). Unlike American work clothing, it lacks zippers, pleats or fussy design details which might limit its use for everyday (non-work) wear. Several years ago, the Explorer shop sold a Harris tweed version of the Kempel jacket which could have doubled as a snazzy dress jacket. I’m still searching my image archives for a photograph of that jacket model.

In France, I tried to buy my own blue work jacket. I couldn’t locate the Kempel brand and what I ended up purchasing was made out of cheap cotton and had a bad, boxy fit. In the end, I repurposed the jacket as a lab coat for processing film.

In the theatrical treatment of my workplace, everyone would wear blue Kempel work coats over snappy tweed blazers, plus fours and cordovan loafers (or tweed Kempel work jackets over khaki suits and Crockett and Jones Coniston boots).

Bill Laine of Wallingford Bicycle Parts was kind enough to permit me to reprint a few photos of Pierrot, top mechanic at (bicycle frame and bagmaker) Gilles Berthoud, wearing his own blue coat in situ. A full image set of Bill’s visit to Gilles Berthoud can be viewed here.

8 thoughts on “Shopping from Japan: French Work Jackets”

  1. another neat post, Mister Freedom, (being a french gent himself) has great deadstock and used french work jackets/smocks at reasonable prices in LA, along with everything else one could desire to wear…

  2. The jacket style is a French staple but you’re right, it looks like Kempel is German (explaining the poor Kempel selection at my French workwear store). Thanks for the link.

  3. generally has quite a few of these, and even though it’s fairly difficult to work out the sizing of them, they can generally be had for under 10€. search for ‘veste de travail’, and be prepared to have to contact the seller to arrange delivery outside of france as most don’t offer it to begin with.

  4. I’ve wanted a french work jacket since oh…some time in the last century, when I first through it’d be cool to have a web site to sell workwear from all over the world. Imagine!

    My recollection is that there are some great images of French work jackets (actually at work) in the cookbook “Pork and Sons”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *