Shopping from Japan: French workwear jacket

Workwear clothing shop, Charleville-Mezieres, France

Top Gilles Berthoud mechanic, Pierrot, in his blue work coat

I’ve been a longtime admirer of the restylized, Kempel-brand blue French workwear jackets sold by the Japanese web shop, Explorer. This style of work jacket has a tailored yet unstructured look. Most models come with four open pockets (Jacquie Bonner revision: all jackets should have at least four pockets). Unlike American work clothing, it lacks zippers, pleats or fussy design details which would limit its function for everyday 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.

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

In the theatrical treatment of my workplace, everyone would wear little blue work coats over snappy tweed blazers, plus fours and cordovan loafers.

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

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