The chore jacket, work jacket, utility coat – whatever you’d care to call it – is in. All manner of designers and small-scale artisans are offering one this autumn. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because the chore jacket has been around for a good few seasons now, or maybe it’s because it’s so darn easy to wear.
Its origins are simple enough. It became the go-to coat for French railway workers and labourers from the late 1800s into the 20th century. Its French name, bleu de travail, translates as ‘blue work’ as it was traditionally dyed indigo (as indigo was cheap and in plentiful supply).
While French workwear brands have always had a strong line in work jackets for this reason (take a look at Le Mont St Michel and Arpenteur), finally, us Brits are starting to catch up.
Universal Works’ new season collection features a number of coordinating work jackets and chinos in ripstop cotton and washed corduroy. E Tautz has a couple of ‘millworker jackets’ coming in this autumn, as do Albam and Drake’s. The latter is offering six different designs inspired by the traditional bleu de travail with a boxy fit and patch pockets. Some are cut in cotton canvas and garment-dyed, others in Japanese selvedge corduroy. Even better, the corduroy options are available with matching five-pocket chinos to create a two-piece suit of sorts.
Drake's corduroy chore jacket
Albam work jacket
Are we entering the age of the ‘chore suit’? In some circles, perhaps. There’s something very cool about the idea of wearing a coordinating work jacket and slacks into a creative office; it’s a put-together look but still casual – never an easy thing to pull off. That said, it’s not a look that’s likely to catch on outside of the edgier parts of London.
This, I think, is a shame. While the idea of your accountant turning up to meet you in a blue de travail might sound out-of-sorts, it’s more appealing (in my view) than him turning up in a grey business suit that looks dull, doesn’t fit and has been flogged to death on the Tube for the past five years. The biggest gripe of my career to date is just how difficult it has been to talk men into investing in really good quality tailoring, and if the alternative is a relaxed chore suit considerably less crusty, I’m fine with that.
Of course, there are probably some individuals out there who think the chore suit is sacrilege. Well, it’s not. It’s progress. The quicker London transitions from a city of corporate offices filled with chalkstriped lounge suits to something more approachable, the better. Not least because if the conventional suit ceases to be a uniform for work, more men will be likely to enjoy wearing one for pleasure. If the rise of the chore suit helps the lounge suit to return as something exciting and elegant to wear when you want to dress up, that’s a win-win.
So, are we heading for a world where stock-exchange trading floors are clad in men wearing indigo-dyed work jackets, Breton T-shirts and berets? Let’s hope so.
Aleks Cvetkovic is our style writer and a noted tailoring campaigner