WORKING MAN'S THREADS
By Will Morley, 29 April 2017
In the world of fashion, it isn’t just military clothing that's made the jump from practical necessity to sartorial choice. Other types of work uniform – both official and unofficial – have gradually seeped into our wardrobe rotation. If the heritage movement is drawn from upper-class traditions, the appropriation of workwear is more likely to come from salt-of-the-earth working-class roots. Here’s our pick of timeless work-influenced items that are always a pleasure, never a chore.
For those who don’t quite want to commit to a pair of creepers (or find them a little too Frankenstein’s monster), there’s always the postman shoe. Just as chunky, but a little more refined, it’s comparable to a Derby with a plain round toe, but adds just that extra bit of visual interest with the stacked sole. The name came after US postal workers appropriated the style for their uniform in the 50s. Not only did it comply with official attire guidelines, but the extra-thick sole remained comfy and durable on those endless treks around their delivery route.
French worker jacket
If you’ve heard of late, legendary street-style photographer Bill Cunningham, you’ll know he was usually pictured wearing his blue French worker jacket. Sometimes known as shop coats and usually constructed of cotton canvas in a boxy fit, these jackets were originally bright blue to be able to easily define the worker from the (white-wearing) boss in the late 1800s. An indigo worker jacket makes layering a breeze and is the perfect complement to a pair of grey wool trousers.
It’s strange to think of an item that’s now so familiar actually having such a subtly innovative design. Employed by various types of messenger for eons, the crossbody strap on this bag allows for a quick rummage and delivery, without having to take the bag off. The modern incarnation was devised by a New York-based sail maker in the 50s named Frank De Martini, who used rugged canvas cloth that quickly became a favourite of bike couriers and city workers. Spring for a leather version – it’ll last you a lifetime and look great with either business or laid-back getups.
Thanks to Peaky Blinders, there’s been a resurgence of interest in the newsboy cap. Slightly rounder than the standard flat cap, the newsboy usually consists of eight panels with a button on top. Despite it being attributed to the young lads who used to flog papers on the street, nearly every type of early 20th century manual worker would wear one (indeed, it's also known as the 'baker boy'). It’s a more sophisticated option than a baseball cap and it adds a touch of panache to casual outfits (as Brooklyn Beckham ably demonstrates).
Blinkered 80s fashion enthusiasts would have you believe everything was new wave, neon and shoulder pads, but for the general British public the decade was more likely to mean Fila track jackets on the terraces, granny-knitted jumpers and donkey jackets. Originally worn by working class labourers, skinheads and Dexy’s Midnight Runners, the donkey jacket is a short woollen coat, characterised by leather-embellished shoulders and deep patch pockets. Contemporary versions give a modern spin with a more fitted cut and offer a challenge to the ubiquitous pea coat.