Arpenteur offers up a new take on an overlooked classic.
When considering the most common touchstones of modern menswear, fishermen and artists must surely rank amongst the most influential. The rugged, weather-worn garb of fishermen and sailors has provided the inspiration for many of menswear’s most enduring staples, from cable knit jumpers to Breton stripes. Meanwhile, the studio clothes of countless painters continue to filter into today’s fashions, with their irresistible combination of practicality and a slightly louche air. With this in mind it is surprising that the humble smock does not have more of a presence in the pantheon of menswear, favoured as it is by seafarers and artists alike.
Constructed in the simplest way possible, the smock is a perfect example of what happens when form follows function. It’s designed to offer a buffer against wind and rain (or paint, as it may be), protecting the clothes underneath. Usually worn a little oversized, and furnished with ample pocket space, the smock deserves the status of, say, an M-65 jacket – a piece of clothing which was created with a functional purpose, and has since come to be appreciated for its pure (and unintentional) aesthetic qualities, becoming ubiquituous as a result. The smock has perhaps suffered in this regard, mainly due to an absence of easy categorisation. An M-65 jacket (to continue that comparison), or a French bleu de travail coat needs very little consideration to be worked into almost any outfit, whereas a smock may require a little more thought – is it a shirt or a jacket? What should be worn under it – or over it for that matter? Does it pair with denim or chinos? However, that is the beauty of a smock. Beginning life as the simplest and most utilitarian of garments, it can be worn however the wearer chooses, so be bold: there really is no wrong way to approach the smock.
Arpenteur’s iteration is an example of what the Lyonnaise brand does so well. That is, taking a piece of classic French workwear, and refining it ever so slightly. Their version is a slimmer cut than the traditional designs, and features a neat button pocket on the chest. The rich linen is a relaxed, summery alternative to tough drill cotton, making it a little less 'North Sea trawler' and a little more 'Italian Riviera'. Wear yours on top of an oxford shirt or a linen popover, or simply worn on its own on those hotter days. Pair it with a light, patterned scarf if you're leaning more towards ‘artist’, or a jaunty bandana if you’d rather channel your inner fisherman.