Fig. 1 – When workwear goes wrong.

Lord knows what Ben Davis was thinking when they licensed out their heritage to some chancers to create apparel like the crapola above, chasing the ill-timed streetwear dollar just when the tides were completely turning. It was scary when they briefly lost their union-made status – that tee beggars belief.

Despite the current preoccupation with all things rugged and utlitarian, as the plaid-ubiquity gave way to to total coverage, with the populous set to look like the world’s weediest workforce, the chore coat is still a staple creation. Blanket-lined duck twill (word to Grand Imperial Diamond Shell) or canvas seems to be an easier variation to pull off than looser waist-length denim versions, but I’ve maintained a preoccupation with prison films since seeing ‘Brubaker’ as a child, launching an interest in the simple yard and chaingang attire – echoed here, in a nice post surrounding Newman’s iconic chore coated ‘Cool Hand Luke’ look…most who don one probably look in the mirror and misguidedly believe themselves to be the reincarnation of the titular anti-establishment hero. We can but dream.

Knee-length work and shop coat pieces are an even tougher one to sport, but to those who can, I salute you. It’s not all about Americana either – Barnzley and his Jago crew are tinkering with pieces like the good old British Milkman and Ice Cream man’s jacket.

Then there’s some (personal) confusion as to the exact difference between a chore coat, barn coats, railroad jackets etc. etc. Plus the plethora of utility jackets and US army denim fatigues can make me dizzy, when it comes to differentiating exactly what constitutes ‘chore’ design. For a long time I associated a leather or cord collar as the qualifier for chore status, but I’m stupid like that.


Pinched from the excellent Workers site.

Obviously superb Japanese brands like Pherrow’s, Workers (who maintain one of the greatest sites out there) and Post Overalls are dropping spot-on railroad replicas at a price, and Pointer (who, like Post O’Alls have collaborated with Comme Des Garcons), Carhartt and Dickies (who I think, like Carhartt USA, offer a mix of US-made and bits made further afield) keep on churning out hardwearing pieces with the US-made tag, but there’s some other interesting small-scale manufacturers out there, whose focus is one of quality and a low pricepoint.

Indianapolis-based  Fireman’s Chore make a 15oz coat designed with fire services in mind by firefighters. Their pitch on the site points to some inter-station jacket politics,

“We’re not Police Officers so why do we wear police jackets?  Fire Departments across the US spend $100′s of dollars per jacket that most of us dont even wear.  We think it’s time for a more practical firefighters work jacket!  Next time your department is shopping  for jackets, show them one of our’s!”

They also model all their jackets using a female aquaintance to up the appeal.

Many years ago, in the sadly defunct Phat magazine (more on that at a later date), I read a piece on shirts made by prison inmates for retail, themed on prison attire. It must perplex those working hard, locked away as to why anyone on earth would want to emulate their prison-issue outfits, but Prison Blues Clothing, made by inmates at the Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution, Pendleton, Oregon, beyond the touristy tees and sweats, make a 14.74oz ‘Yard Coat’ that looks particularly durable, as well as some decent hickory shirts. Just in case you were concerned about slave labour -

“The inmates who work in the Prison Blues factory do so at their own request. No one is forced to work in the plant and the workers are paid the prevailing industry wage for the job they do. After deductions for taxes, bed and board and victim restitution, workers keep around 20% of the earnings, which can be sent to relatives or saved to provide a “nest egg” for their release. There is currently a three year waiting list for workers to get on the programme. Workers on the programme learn basic skills and a work ethic that they will take with them when they released back in to society. Research has shown that inmates who have worked on the programme are 50% less likely to re-offend than the USA average.”


There’s some great discussion on the subject matter as well as a ton of imagery here, and you could do a lot worse than check out www.referencelibrary.blogspot.com for some superb photos and information.