We are all distinctive, ya? We are particular; we are singular, we are merrily unlike anybody else. But I was walking by way of North London the opposite day and crossed paths with a man in the actual same outfit. It was my very own fault – you merely cannot stroll around N16 in Blundstone boots, faded blue denim and a Carhartt overshirt and not anticipate to see yourself repeated hundreds, maybe hundreds of occasions. But still, it was a bitter capsule. Our eyes met; twin prides dented by the realisation that we didn’t select our outfits, society did. Slave drones in the workwear fetish matrix. Tears within the rain.
The Blundstones are fairly particular to North-East London, worn by designers with allotments, their toddlers, inauthentic thirty-somethings (me) and fashion-goths alike, but the overshirt is common. Wherever you go within the nation, you will discover males in button-fronted, pocketed overshirts going about their enterprise. Is there a garment that better encompasses menswear proper now? A piece of clothing more collectively approved?
You can find them at each price point and aesthetic, so it’s greater than a development. The chore jacket is sort of a pre-requisite to getting dressed.
Why? Why that sort of jacket? Why not a Harrington? It presents the same amount of warmth. Why not a denim jacket? It has similar blue-collar undertones. Why not the bomber? Men like Formula One, HIIT and Guy Ritchie dialogue, surely they like bomber jackets, too?
I can actually remember the place the trend started. In the mid-2010s, you weren’t anyone except you had a mid-blue French “painters’ jacket”. This was when the plaid, whisky-soaked machismo of the Lumbersexual was fading, and so they represented a more mental, erudite variation on the theme. Same allusions of handicraft, less beard oil. There had been entire stalls on Hackney’s Broadway Market dedicated to the French painter’s jacket, and so they sold like sizzling cakes gateau.
Beyond what they stated about you – that you had a Dachshund and most popular cold brew, actually – they have been straightforward to wear and stylistically malleable. You could put an overshirt atop a button-down and tie and seem like a preppy menswear guy, or over a chunky knit and look like a fisherman. They added a welcome layer of texture underneath a proper coat, and they had sufficient pockets for all your stuff, but not so many that you just looked like you would possibly have an Armageddon bunker in Norfolk.
Years later, these virtues preserve, but the authenticity of the overshirt has been weakened by its ubiquity. You can buy one at Primark, at Loro Piana, and everywhere in between. The varied brands of the H&M group are each pitched at very particular demographics, but all of them provide an overshirt of some sort. In truth, each Weekday and Arket have entire sections of the websites dedicated to overshirts. And then there are the likes of Uskees and Paynter, which produce only overshirts. (Based out of Hackney, the latter is pictured above, and makes limited “batches” which promote out in minutes when launched, simply 4 instances a yr.) And then of course there’s Carhartt, the Magic Radio of workwear. The Harry Kane of simple jackets.
“I sat in the park the other day for, I suppose, three hours, just on a bench, individuals watching,” remembers Luke Walker, founder of nice shirt model LEJ, “and it was amazing how many people have been carrying two-pocket overshirts, untucked, over knitwear, beneath a gilet… The great point is that it’s ‘masculine’. They’re designed to do work in, they’re tough, so it’s ‘easier’ to drag off. But I see everyone wearing them.”
Walker hits the nail on the pinnacle, I assume. The chore jacket/overshirt/shacket, whatever you need to call it, is suitably ‘manly’ without conveying any specific tropes of masculinity. It isn’t army surplus; it isn’t a trench coat, or a leather-based biker jacket, however it is sort of burly. You can imagine Keir Starmer’s advisors presenting him with a rail of overshirts earlier than a day speech at Bestival. The chore coat doesn’t say something, it’s just: “yes”.
But I assume we need the overshirt even more now than we did a decade ago. Sartorial home-bases (not to be confused with sartorial Homebase) are integral to menswear and the character of getting dressed generally, otherwise we’d be lost in a hellscape of choice. A white Common Projects Achilles on one foot, a Margiela Tabi mule on the opposite. We are eternally navigating new, tenuous trends, but trends can only exist as a substitute for the classics, I think – there’d be no need for Camden Hells without Stella Artois – And overshirts have made the transition from one to the opposite. A Jamie Vardy story of success. From a trend to a stalwart, a stalwart to a traditional, a basic to a legend. And, yeah… wow.