I met Chris in person during the Young Anarchist class at the Marc Adams School of Woodworking in 2015. Most of the week was spent in sharpening donated tools, hammering cut nails and trying not to drink too many of the Old Rasputins that a fellow student kept buying by the case. But at some point, Chris and I walked into the shop wearing matching blue French chore coats. After the requisite double-take, we geeked out for a while about the utility of these garments.
This guy liked to kill snakes.
Chris and I like chore coats for a few reasons. They’re simple, affordable, comfortable and practical. It’s a light jacket or a heavy shirt, making it great for wearing in all but the hottest weather. They’re made in sturdy, straightforward natural materials. They look about the same they did 100 years ago. All this adds up to the clothing equivalent of the Furniture of Necessity.
This kind of coat has been found throughout Europe for the past 200 years, with lots of tweaks and variation in different times and places. But the basics are the same: square hem, three outside patch pockets, one inside pocket with a logo, a point collar and heavy fabric. The color means a great deal: A French compagnon friend told me that painters and masons wore white, farmers and general laborers (and Bill Cunningham) wore blue, and carpenters – after becoming journeymen – wore black. Yes, I’m sure that there were lots of variations on that, but it seems like the woodworkers always wore black.
When Chris mentioned interest in making a Lost Art Press version, I just about fell over. Hell yeah! I wanted to keep it simple, avoiding the pitfall of “new twists on a classic,” which usually means taking a classic and making it dated. I wasn’t about to add an iPhone pocket, a hammer loop, or make the whole thing out of Cordura – nothing against those features, but you can get that stuff elsewhere. We needed good fabric more than anything else, and so I called my source for the best Japanese fabrics. She found a gorgeous double-woven cotton sateen from a mill in Osaka, and comparing it to the old French stuff, I think ours comes out on top. It’s thick, sturdy and comfortable, and it’ll contour to its wearer over the long years of its life.
The only other tweak I made was to add a double layer of fabric to the bottom of the front pockets – that’ll help reinforce against the handfuls of Clouterie Rivierre nails that get tossed in there. You see this on some of the nicer vintage jackets, but it’s not common. Similar reinforcements used to be put on the back pockets of blue jeans, which is the origin of the decorative stitch lines on the back of your 501s.
We’re proud to be working with Dehen Jacket, a garment factory in Portland, Ore. They’ve been around for almost 100 years, and have their own line of incredible outwear (as well as a roaring business in cheerleading uniforms). They’re not cheap, but the quality is impeccable and their sewers are paid well. To get a lower sewing price in the USA, we’d have to cut worker pay or garment quality. Not gonna happen.
There’s the background. The fabric has made it to the U.S. from Japan. The tags are done. The buttons are on their way. We’ll have a pre-sale going up soon. Complaints about pricing and sizing can be directed to our customer service line.