Inspired by Japanese web shops, I’m stripping off my socks and yanking up my pants. Loafers, clogs, or mocs, it doesn’t matter. Put those Anonymousism socks away for winter 2018 and start showing some ankle. Add khaki and a slim fitting Danton windproof jacket for full French factory worker flair.
Inspired by Bill Cunningham, I have been collecting images french work jackets (aka “bleu de travail”). Cunningham made this style of garment his personal uniform and I was inspired to wear one for the next month in memory of his amazing life and creative work. Most of the current, commercial offerings (Le Laborer, Old Town, Vetra, and Arpenteur are too large for me) so I was hoping to shop from the past for something with a better fit. On eBay, I found a terrific vintage version by Le Remouleur w/really exemplary patchwork repairs and artful spotting. The listing indicates that the jacket is from the 1930s which seems to be the golden era of french workwear (lots of corduroy and moleskin). I don’t know too much about the label (anyone?) but would love to find out more. Here is a similar example sported by one of my favorite Archival customers at Inspiration LA.
While I prefer to shop from the past, one of my favorite modern brands is Arpenteur. Based out of Lyon, France, Arpenteur makes simply styled, sturdy, heritage inspired clothing in wools and cottons. While the Arpenteur line is rooted in traditional French workwear, the cuts are slim and the overall look is very clean and contemporary. The basic line includes work jackets, knits and trousers. I was lucky enough to meet with the founders of Arpenteur at the recent (capsule) show in New York. I was impressed by the brand’s attention to detail from their selection of regional fabrics to their unique, Herge inspired logo work. Here are some snaps from the show.
I’m always on the hunt for the perfect chore coat. It’s a style that’s warm, but not heavy, and it looks great. Since I wear chore coats in lieu of a blazer, I prefer French “bleu de travails” over heavy, outdoorsy canvas duck work jackets. Here are my basic requirements for the style: it should be unlined, with 3-4 generously sized patch pockets, button closures, spread collar and a boxy fit. When done well, the chore coat showcases fabrics, best quality notions, historic design details, and good tailoring. Chore coat fans can find examples in any price range from the hickory striped Pointer coat ($75.00) to the Univeral Works Harris Tweed Bakers jacket ($625.00). Universal Works, in the best tradition of chore coat design, offers their signature, made in UK Bakers jacket in a range of fabrics. Lark in Vancouver sells a version in tweed while Hickorees offers the same style in “fishbone twill” and red waxed cotton. Contrast stitching, watch fob button holes, discrete insert pockets, a center vent and tailored fit elevate this jacket far beyond its humble origins.
Editor’s note: it’s never too early to start planning your Fall wardrobe. I’m already mentally packing up the linens and breaking the corduroy. London blogger Jim Green of Modern Day Hunting writes about his obsession with British workwear company, Old Town Clothing. If you’re inspired by Jim’s report to order something from OTC, start the process now as it takes 4-6 weeks to complete.
After recently hearing me waxing lyrical about my favourite clothes maker – OldTown, Archival Clothing have kindly asked me to give a customer review of some of their items. Living in London UK it is of course easier for me to travel up to their Norfolk showroom to get items fitted and made for me. So hopefully this might help you make a decision on giving them a try if you are not UK based.
I first heard about OldTownin 2009 via some random person on the street asking me if the French workwear jacket I had on was from OldTown, it wasn’t, but later that night I decided to google them to find out more. After finding them it felt like it was my lucky day, a place where I could buy all the clothes I had imagined I would like but simply had no idea where to source them from.
I spent many hours perusing the site but simply couldn’t decide what to get – my main concern was sizing. They make their clothes to order so not quite like buying from a shop normally although they do cater for returns. So after much deliberation I plumped for a safe bet and ordered a straight edge waistcoat (vest to you US folks) in engineer’s navy stout cotton twill. Size wise I was unsure, I am usually a 38 so stuck to that. All of OldTown‘s items are made to order, you choose the size and fabric, pay either via the phone or the online ordering form. For overseas you will need to email first to discuss shipping etc. Their turnaround time for garment delivery is approximately 4-6 weeks. For me half the charm of buying from them is the wait.
Four weeks later the waistcoat arrived, it fitted great, the waistcoats are slightly fitted so if you want a looser fit go up a size maybe. I was now officially hooked. I managed to plan in a trip up to the showroom a few months later with a rough idea of what I was after, upon arrival and seeing all the clothes on display I immediately got flummoxed…too many nice things. Their items are all pretty much spot on size-wise. I have quite a few pieces from them now and have been ordering a few times a year for spring and winter bits. Instead of giving an extensive list here’s a few items that are worth considering and I will try to give enough info for if you wanted to order from overseas without trying on first.
Overall Jacket – This is a sure fire winner and possibly my favourite garment from them. The fit is fairly boxy but not in a big baggy way, it looks good. I would safely say you can feel confident that your own normal jacket size is going to fit, but please discuss it with the ever helpful Marie either via phone or email if you have concerns. They don’t do different sleeve lengths unless you go to the showroom specifically and get measured, mine measures 24.5 inches from the top of the shoulder to the cuff, I didn’t have the sleeves adjusted that’s how they came. However bear in mind my jacket has been washed once, I have had it for a few years now so take my arm measurement as a very rough indication of size. I would say you could safely order your normal jacket size with no sleeve adjustment and the fit would be good, this one is in grey stout twill. For the other jackets in their range the same rule applies but do bear in mind that some are more fitted than others. I own two Stanley jackets in 38 also, they are a slimmer fit but still fit me well.
Jim’s Dreadnoughts collection
Dreadnoughts – These are great trousers, the first pair I got was in the tan corduroy, I liked them so much that I ordered a pair in biscuit twill about a month later. I just recently got some summer lightweight 10oz denim ones as well. Waist size wise they are spot on. they all come as a standard 32 inch leg. If you are worried about leg length then get them as they are and have them tailored yourself so that the fit is right, I wear turn ups on the cotton ones so it’s not a problem. They are super comfy and sit fairly high up on the waist. All the OldTown stuff improves with age, these are no exception. They also have a rather novel fastening which I now prefer to the normal button fly. Shape wise they are quite loose down the leg but fitted around the waist. I also own some high rise, all their trousers are exact on their waist sizes so order with confidence.
If you can ever fit in a visit to the UK and to OldTown I recommend it highly, just ensure you know exactly what you want before you get there or else you will come out with twice as many items as you intended! Do factor in some extra time to wander around the town of Holt and also the surrounding area and coastline, it’s a lovely place.
I’m always shopping for a jacket to complete my archival uniform. My preferred jacket possesses indoor-outdoor utility. It needs to be unlined w/open patch pockets and a high buttoning neck. Chore coats, forestry cloth cruisers and and engineer’s jackets work OK from Fall through Winter. But in Spring/Summer, I want something made from a summerweight fabric like cotton poplin or linen. Last year, I experimented with Safari jackets but could not pull off the belted waist and epaulets (epaulets should just disappear for a decade).
This Spring, I’m testing a Mister Freedom Biribi linen jacket. Based on French military work garb, the Biribi is constructed of new old stock French linens and vintage hardware and trims. The Biribi is one of the few work jacket styles that are being marketed to both men and women; it comes in sizes down to a slim 34. If you are interested in the jacket, email the helpful folks at Mister Freedom to check on availability.