The chore coat really isn’t anything new in men’s fashion. Under different names like the “engineer sack coat” or known globally as the “french chore coat”, this piece of simple outerwear has been always been a big part in workwear, during the 1900s-1950s as much as today.
Originally, chore coats were worn mainly by laborers and artisans alike, as a layer to protect the clothes from dirt or paint, featuring big pockets just begging to carry tools. The fit was loose and boxy, as it was conceived as a utility garment, not something that required drape or excessive tailoring. Blue was the most common color, but I’ve seen them in light browns, denim, and even grey; the variations are probably due to the fact that almost every country has their own version of this heritage piece of workwear. As a result, you can find a plethora of inspiration images, from Diego Rivera, the late Bill Cunningham, to almost any Japanese workwear enthusiast.
While it might be easier to work it in with a fall outfit (think flannels, a fair isle, and wool tie), I think that chore coats can have life in the spring and summer; it helps if you avoid the heavy moleskins or rigid duck canvas and instead go for cotton drill (that will break in more easily).
The traditional rich blue color ensures that it will go with pretty much anything, almost like a navy blazer, but you can definitely find some in olive or khaki. For an extremely casual look, the chore pairs well with a simple tee (or cotton crew neck sweater) and chinos. Some guys are hesitant about putting it with tailoring due to how casual and rugged it looks, however, whether you go with something vintage or brand-new, don’t think that the fit needs to be tailored in order to work with classic menswear. It’s a great shirt-jacket due to its ease (think of it as your go-to cardigan for summer) and works as a casual piece over a patterned shirt and pair of trousers. It’s honestly become a joke of sorts for my close friends, since I’m almost always wearing one after work. It definitely helps “dress down” a shirt and tie!
I will always appreciate the vintage chore coats, not just for the added “personality” but because you can usually find them at extremely affordable prices with the personality already mixed in. My first chore coat (I have two, blue and grey) was purchased at the Rose Bowl Flea Market and it has been my go-to since then. It’s a rich blue color with old plastic buttons and a roomy body that ends slightly past the waist. Like most pieces of vintage workwear, mine has a few holes and stains that add some character.
For those of you who don’t have time to peruse your local vintage store, here are some online recommendations. And if you’re not completely sold, here are some inspiration pictures.
Broadway and sons – $50+
Broadway & Sons is a Swedish vintage store that specializes in military and workwear pieces. Because they are a vintage dealer, nothing is ever the same; as a result, you can find different chore coats in different sizes and with different details. I prefer the classic blue with triple patch pockets, but you can always experiment with the olive ones (for a military look) or any of the more unique pieces. Even though they are vintage and can have some wear, these pieces are curated and seldom have any serious damage to make them unwearable.
Le Laboureur Chore Coats – $110
If you want an affordable way to try out a new chore coat, check out Le Laboureur. The design is pretty classic, featuring a short collar, 5 buttons, and 3 patch pockets. They also make the coat in different colors and fabrics, if you want the same design in something more suitable for fall/winter. It’s honestly pretty damn close to the vintage chore coat I own, just without the stains, tears, and holes!
Tellason Denim Chore Coat – $149
If you want to lean into the workwear look, I suggest looking at the Tellason denim coverall jacket. It’s a 14.5oz denim which can be tough to wear with summer tailoring but it still can be done for the more milder days; a break-in period can be expected too. A striped tee and trousers would be my choice if it was really hot. My pal Spencer tends to wear his with either linens or chinos, with a nice sport shirt or an unbuttoned oxford when he’s off work. The biggest draw to me is the cool slanted newspaper pocket on the left side that is perfect for sunglasses. They also make it in hefty 16.5 selvedge, for you trueblue workwear guys.
I got to see the Rogue Collective shop coat in person during the Gooch Collective events in LA. Available in colors other than blue, this MiUSA chore coat is a more minimal take on the classic garment. The collar has rounded edges and the buttons are quite large, making it almost like a cropped mac overcoat. As you can see on their website, the fit is actually quite slim; I actually found it to be slightly longer, which can be a plus if you want something that is more of a traditional jacket dimensions instead of a shirt-jacket. Another interesting design choice the rather high placement of the side pockets. It also lacks a breast pocket, adding to the cleaner look which can work better with tailored attire. It’s probably my favorite out of all the contemporary options.
Drake’s Chore Coats – $315
Drake’s has been killing it with their product diversity, moving far beyond just a tie brand. In keeping with their easy approach to tailoring, they’ve developed a line of overshirts in linen. These will probably serve the tailored guys much better, as the linen will mesh better with more traditional fabrics. Some of their models have pleated flap pockets, which actually makes them more like a safari jacket, but I think the effect is the same. In addition to the plain blues, I actually really like the navy pinstripe since it calls to mind the vintage striped canvas that old chore coats were made out of. The price for these are pretty high, but if you’ve got a handle on your style, it can be quite worth it. You can literally just hop on to the Drake’s instagram for ideas on how to wear it.