Incorporating classic workwear into one's wardrobe needn't be a chore.
Some clothes possess an almost miraculous ability to make the most uninspiring of tasks that little bit more manageable – enjoyable, even. The warmth of a comfy cardigan can fortify you against the draining idea of sitting through a long haul flight, and knotting a brightly coloured tie before you head out the door in the morning can help to summon the courage to take on a grey day.
The chore jacket is perhaps the genesis of this idea: the preserve of honest working men for the best part of two centuries. Today, of course, the likelihood that you’ll wear one to slog away in a factory or a forge is small, but it is nonetheless one of those garments that brings with it a reassuring sense of solidity.
I remember the first time I tried one – a few years ago now, when I still took the view that there was no occasion in life when I should wear anything other than a three-piece suit and tie. I stood there, quaking in my semi-brogues, a little nervous about the idea of testing out something quite so different. Regardless, it hung there on the rail calling my name, and once I’d pulled it on, the combination of plush corduroy and simple design was both heartening and comforting. It’s tricky to find a coat for those ‘in-between’ moments in life, when the day’s agenda requires neither formal nor casual clothing, and a chore jacket – carefully chosen – slips into this niche perfectly.
Moreover, the chore jacket comes into its own during this time of year. As the light takes on a soft, almost timid quality, and the trees turn from parched pale green to amber, the embrace of a rugged cotton jacket is in itself encouraging: a boost to the system with which to ease into fall. Armour to take on changeable weather.
There’s one other thing, too. As the days shorten, a work jacket that’s bright and bold is an antidote to the drabness of autumn. I wore a brightly coloured work jacket to the Christmas drinks party where I met my girlfriend two years ago, similar in shade to the orange number you’ll see here, and she later revealed that she was smitten by my optimistic choice. Confidence, as they say, really is king.
There’s a generosity of spirit underpinning the selection of chore jackets this season. Whether garment-dyed Italian cotton, heavy pinstriped linen or Japanese selvedge needlecord, they are cut in cloths that are destined to improve with age. They benefit from a boxy fit that’s true to their 19th-century ancestors (these are emphatically not slimmed down for today) and they are finished with stand-and-fall collars that practically beg to be ‘popped’. Even better, the corduroy variants can be dressed with five-pocket chinos to match, making up a ‘chore suit’ of sorts, for those who want to wear something that is both practical and creative.
And that’s the point. Once, the chore jacket was a maligned, functional garment – synonymous with monotonous work and toil. Today, it’s an easy form of self-expression: a relaxed way to wear colour and to reflect the changing of the seasons in your own day-to-day wardrobe.
Whether burnt orange, soft red, bottle green, navy or tobacco, I can think of few jackets more satisfying to wear now that winter is rolling in.