Labor Wear for Fall

Carhartt recently released a video for Labor Day that good-naturedly highlights the rookie gaffes of apprentices, and you should watch it, because it’s wonderful. I’ve done at least three or four of these, and as embarrassing as it is, everyone stumbles when taking their first steps, and it’s good practice to laugh at yourself, if not then, at least in retrospect. 

I like to think it’s in honor of those who suffered for those benefits we sometimes take for granted that workwear has become such an ingrained part of everyday clothing.  From denim to duck cloth, one can hardly walk down a street anywhere in the industrialized world without seeing something that references the hard-wearing togs of the common laborer.  Many of the upcoming fall/winter collections include a sweeping variety to choose from, so if you don’t feel like going all-out with hickory-striped coveralls and hi-viz, you’ve got plenty of other options.  Here are my favorites for the early season.

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Chore Coat: the one jacket you’ll be bringing into summer

Even though summer is looked forward to by many menswear enthusiasts (who doesn’t enjoy cotton suits and linen trousers?), I always find myself a little disappointed every time the weather starts to heat up. The main appeal of menswear for me was always the ability to layer, which I heartily enjoy with sweaters, coats, and even “casual outerwear”.  This past fall/winter, I was able to put on vintage leathers and varsity jackets in order to go for a more “rugged” casual look, which isn’t always something you can do in the warmer months, where men opt for something a bit cleaner and “vacation” oriented. However, I think the cotton chore coat helps bridge that gap.

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).

chore coats blue workwear casual tailoredThe 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.

Rogue Collective Men’s Shop Coat – $178

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.

Invisible Acts Workwear Jacket Review

Although this review is unfortunately a bit late for our Fashion Revolution feature, I was still very happy to have the chance to discuss the venture that is the Invisible Acts workwear jacket, which is a one-off (for now) project from Nina Aganovich and Brooke Taylor, the duo responsible for the brand Aganovich. As opposed to a runway garment, Invisible Acts is the name for a Kickstarter-led production run of a high-quality, “Ethical” chore jacket (as Invisible Acts terms it), which “[Embraces] the slow fashion/co-op movement to tackle issues of quality, ethics and sustainability” in the fashion world. the resulting chore jacket is made entirely of organic, non-GM cotton woven in Italy on narrow shuttle loom machines (which should be familiar to fans of selvage denim), which is then constructed at a co-op factory in France.

It’s no secret that the world of fashion – and of fast fashion in particular – is the scene of some pretty damning abuses of both the environment and of human rights. That’s why, in addition to considering what you buy and why you’re buying it, I think it’s important to draw some attention to projects that are making an attempt to better the system. Of course, I think that it’s easy to be (understandably) dismissive of projects such as these, which have popped up occasionally in the world of fashion and menswear as attention- and marketing-grabs void of any real intent or meaning. Many companies have marketed new ‘lines’ of organic or fair-trade goods, which leaves more skeptical consumers wondering what’s happening with the rest of the main product. It’s a good question, and one worth asking. However, in this case Aganovich – a small design studio attempting, as we speak, to make the push into the couture schedule – are both nimble and hands-on enough that I thought the idea was worth another look.

It’s not surprising that initiatives such as these tend to come from smaller, more mobile companies – Aganovich, in this case, is intimately familiar with the labor-hours required for garment production in the way that a massive fast fashion chain simply cannot be. The company, and by extension the customer, is simply too far removed from the product. It’s equally unsurprising that there’s joy to be had from participating in what is, essentially, a GMTO project (a process with which I’m sure many Styleforum members will be familiar). I’ve never minded the idea, because it forces you to slow down and consider whether the product is ordering is actually one you want (need, in the world of clothing, being a relative term) and whether you’re willing to wait for it – overconsumption being, of course, one of the issues of which we as consumers both responsible and otherwise are now more aware.

You can read more about what and who, exactly, is behind the Invisible Acts project on their website, but the gist of it is that sustainable fabric and sustainable production result in a garment that’s both desirable and ethically responsible. Unfortunately, due to some hardware and scheduling issues, I wasn’t able to get my own photos ready in time for this article, and have used Invisible Acts’ proprietary photos instead. However, I find them accurate in their depiction of the product. 

The Jacket

The Invisible Acts jacket is based on a traditional French bleu de travail, although the pattern is mercifully more modern and the product is notably cleaner in finish than what you’d find from both vintage and (most) contemporary version of similar pieces. It’s available for both men and women, and instead of being a purely unisex piece there are some minor pattern adjustments between the two models. All of the seams are well-finished, the reinforced buttons well-attached, and the details well-thought-out: pockets are reinforced, an oft-overlooked interior pocket is present, there’s nothing about it that to me (who has owned and seen countless chore jackets) screams of wasted opportunity or wasted material. It’s also very much not a fashion product, which is particularly notable due to fashion’s current (and ongoing) obsession with workwear silhouettes and styles. It is, conversely, a decidedly functional – though well-designed – jacket. As Brooke Taylor, one of the duo behind the project says:

“As a design house, we could have added a few twirls, some conceptual weirdness – tried to make the jacket more ‘hip,’ to render a fashion interpretation of a workwear garment. We talked long and hard about this and decided ‘No, the starting point has to be simple solid and straightforward,’ it has to pass muster at being what it actually is.”

I’m always intrigued by declarations such as this, and in this case what the jacket actually is, is a very competent and surprisingly effective garment. The cotton drill used for the jacket is a 520g/m weight, which means it’s quite heavy but not oppressively so. For example, a good friend of mine who spends most of his free time in his basement machine shop in front of lathes and CNC machines was very impressed by the weight and mobility when he tried it on, and said that he’d be happy to wear it every day while working. If you’re attempting to make a manufacturer’s jacket, it’s a good thing if an actual manufacturer is happy to endorse it.

I have seen and owned many chore jackets, and most of them – including some of my favorites – don’t pass that test. In this case, the only deviation from a rigorous lack of extraneous detail is the visible selvage line that runs down the center seam of the jacket. It’s a detail I’m neither attracted to nor repulsed by, and somehow it feels unforced despite the ongoing preponderance of selvage-detailed-everything in the denim world.

The heft of the fabric also means that the garment will require some time to break in. I’ve only been wearing mine for a week or so, but it hasn’t shown much sign of softening yet – which is also just fine with me, as I’ve always enjoyed the process of wearing clothing into shape. Another plus is that the jacket is pre-washed, so you don’t have to worry about compensating for shrinkage. It’s also almost a mercy that the jacket isn’t made in indigo, since just about every other chore jacket these days is – the color on the grey model I received is very nice, and the coal black looks equally good. I should note that, according to Invisible Acts, the white model is a slightly lighter weight (250g/m) than the other two fabrics, if you’re after a jacket that drapes more easily out of the box.

I also happen to think that the jacket looks pretty damn good. The pattern is more flattering than it would be from a repro or purely workwear-focused company, and as already mentioned the details are well-considered. Fit-wise, a manufacturer’s bleu de travail was designed to sit close to the body, so that fabric did not catch in moving machinery. The Invisible Acts jacket is not tight, but rather slim and slightly boxy without much waist suppression. If you’re familiar with workwear, it will fit familiarly. 

It fits well, and it’s also a handsome piece, but it’s a two-and-a-half season garment that won’t see much use over the summer or in the depths of winter, unlike other options that might be made from linen blends or lined with sherpa fleece. That said, there’s plenty of room even in your proper size to layer, and you also have some leeway in terms of sizing – you can size up for a boxier fit, or down for a trimmer cut. In effect, it’s an obviously well-designed piece that’s not cutting corners for the sake of a marketing opportunity. Invisible Acts is also not a reproduction of a vintage blue de travail, so you should not expect it to be – it’s a modernized take on the same, which I think has its own charms.

Image via @Invisibleacts on Instagram

I could personally do without the iconography – the oversized brand logo on the interior of the jacket is the combination of a raised fist and a factory – which is also available on buttons that you can purchase separately. I’ve nothing against it per se, but it smacks a little bit of an undergraduate’s first reading of Marx. So does some of the campaign imagery, which I think is slightly misleading, and perhaps to the projects’ detriment. This is a very versatile garment, that I’ve been wearing both with wider twill trousers and with slim Japanese denim. Thanks to the color and inspiration (a chore jacket, rather than a Type 1 or 3 jacket), it doesn’t feel like wearing a denim tuxedo – it’s a garment that would be at home with either ripstop fatigues or faded jeans.

On the other hand, the more forgiving side of me – and, perhaps, the part that still remembers what it’s like to read Marx as an undergrad – thinks it’s just fine to let the imagination run a little bit, the way Aganovich obviously does when crafting its runway collections. After all, part of fashion’s charm is to take us to places we might not go, and part of the magic is that garments can become more than the sum of their parts.

Final Thoughts

The Invisible Acts jacket in Slate grey

At approximately 200$ (the Kickstarter price – the predicted future retail price is 518EUR), the Invisible Acts jacket falls within the same price range as some of the more affordable workwear and repro brands (think Sugar Cane or Rogue Territory), while the retail price would see it in line with a brand such as Mr. Freedom or Iron Heart), although it’s obviously dissimilar in looks. To me, that’s more than fair, and not out of line with what I’d expect. The jacket is available in Coal (black), Slate (grey), and Snow (white), and if you are interested in one, take note because the Kickstarter campaign ends this Sunday, June 4th, after which point the early backer price disappears.

As for the jacket itself, I’m a fan. It is, admittedly, not pushing any boundaries – although that was not the intention. Instead, it’s a quality version of a garment that most of us have or will have owned at least once. I’ll be interested to see if Invisible Acts goes anywhere after this Kickstarter, and Mr. Taylor says that, now that the project “Has established a base…it can go in all sorts of directions.” I don’t know if there’s room for a high fashion brand’s experiments in ethical workwear, but I suppose the market will let us know. At the very least I can say that there’s room in my closet for more projects such as this.

As is always the case with clothing, the question of whether or not you should buy the garment comes down to whether or not you yourself like it. For me, a person who likes chore jackets but has no real desire to wear denim jackets or look like a 20th century rail worker, it’s one of the relatively few options that’s both aesthetically appealing and, well, functional. And importantly, the fact that this is an ethically-made jacket doesn’t take away from either its form or its function – you’re not sacrificing quality or design by purchasing a garment made this way, and it shouldn’t be a surprise to hear that instead, you’re gaining from it.

None of us are perfect. That’s something that Mr. Taylor is quick to point out: “Anyone that says they can get it all perfect is lying. Because no matter how ethical your garment may be, you’re going to deliver it burning jet fuel. As a former deckhand I have a dream of one day delivering by sailboat, but…well, I’m sure our customers would be overjoyed.” Even so, Mr. Taylor is also happy to declare that the project itself has been an educational experience, and that he hopes that by “Asking the questions, keeping up the conversation, challenging [our]selves, that it influences others to do the same.” We’ve seen, the past few years alone, a massive shift in awareness towards ethical manufacturing, and while it’s always difficult to get consumers to think beyond the pocketbook – and to keep that momentum going – and projects such as these are perhaps more important than any of us think.

For both Aganovich the brand as well as readers of Styleforum, we’re somewhat – somewhat – insulated from these concerns. However, during Fashion Revolution week we suggested that you ask both yourself and your favorite brands: “Who made my clothes?” In this case, it’s nice to know that the answer won’t keep you up at night.

This is not sponsored content. To read Styleforum’s review policy, please click here.

Introducing: 1st PAT-RN

There is quite a bit of “workwear” shown at Pitti Uomo, and I use the scare quotes for a reason. I’m not usually one to complain about a lack of functionality in clothing, but it’s difficult not to think that most of what is presented as workwear is a joke: flimsy, trend-driven, and beyond that, boring and unflattering. Not so with 1ST PAT-RN, the project of  Cristiano Berto and Sylvia Piccin. This is a brand that combines elements of workwear, trad-wear, and ivy-style to offer what I’d describe as nostalgic explorer-wear.

1st pat-rn styleforum

Cristiano and Sylvia

Before you balk at that description, the clothing isn’t costumey in the vein of Haversack or even hardcore in the way of Nigel Cabourn. Nonetheless, it does evoke some of the same feelings of the gentleman (or gentlewoman, as there are women’s pieces as well) traveler, with a regular selection of blazers and chore jackets set atop tapered chinos and denim.

There are two aspects that set 1ST PAT-RN apart: meticulous fabric choice, and smart, largely modern (if vintage-inspired) cuts. The combination results in clothing that is both pleasant to wear and very wearable, with a narrow but fulfilling range of styles. The pieces that most grabbed my interest during our visit were a pair of lovely straight-legged 4-pocket trousers in an indigo twill, and the very handsome chore jackets – in particular, a model in deutschleder that was made specially for Manufactum Magazin (which I hope makes its way into the main collection).

Fans of layering will rejoice, as there are enough interesting mid-layers (vests, knits and the like) to provide a good backbone to the very strong basics; as will those of us who are always looking for an escape from slim jeans and trousers – you’ll find both straight legs and pleats here, which look very nice when presented with chunky footwear. 1ST PAT-RN has also worked with Timex to release a handful of special dials and straps, which makes a great deal of sense when you’ve seen the clothes. They’re similar in style – 1ST PAT-RN is deceptively complex, well thought-out, and utilitarian – but with an enduring attractiveness that’s both compelling and hard to ignore, no matter your personal style.

See photos from Pitti, as well as images from the S/S2017 lookbook, in the slideshow below

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