The History of The Work Jacket – Tenue de Nîmes

For over 100 years the work jacket has been a workwear staple on both sides of the Atlantic. A typical work jacket, or chore jacket, would be described as a heavy material garment with a wide fit that features large hip and breast pockets. Nowadays, there are many variations, but, one thing that all work jackets do have in common is that they are trustworthy and will be able to handle anything that is thrown at them. For exactly this reason, they have been loved by blue-collar workers, and people from all walks of life, for decades upon decades. Since we also love the work jacket, although not quite for over 100 years, we would like to share its history with you.

The first version of the work jacket dates back to the 18th century in France, albeit more similar to an overshirt than a coat (we wrote a blog on this garment which you can find here). Railway workers were issued bright blue work shirts that were nicknamed ‘blue de travail’, which means blue work. The purpose of both garments was the same - protect their owner from harsh conditions and offer practical on-body storage for tools. Also in looks, both share similarities - sturdy fabrics, multiple pockets and button closure. Despite all these similarities, we do believe the inception of the work jacket was during a different age and in a different nation.

Image through, French workers in their blue de travail uniform

In 1923 came the inception of what we would consider the first real work jacket, or chore coat, produced by the infamous, Detroit-based workwear brand Carhartt. In 1923 the brand released a tweaked version of the aforementioned ‘blue de travail’. The outcome was a sturdy, denim jacket with extra lining against the cold and riveted pockets offering more durability. Despite this garment being the equivalent of a tank, the brand still saw room for improvement. Not much later Carhartt would tweak the jacket even more and release their now-iconic duck brown canvas iteration of the chore coat which they dubbed ‘the coat’. Very confident to say the least. ‘The coat’ became an instant success due to its incorporation of a water-repelling element into the canvas. So much so, that not a lot has changed in design since then. Although the first denim version has a special place in our hearts, we can see why the new version became the coat of choice for people all over the States.

Tupac wearing a version of the work jacket in the 90s. 

Over the past few decades, many brands have made work jackets, some staying to the original design and some giving their interpretation of it. Since the 90s, with the emergence of streetwear, and especially over de past 10 years, the work jacket has made a massive comeback. Since Tenue.’s core foundation lies in the production of classic workwear garments, it was just a matter of time before they would produce a work jacket. The Ryan is a sturdy-as-can-be jacket that is made from a GOTS-certified organic heavy-weight cotton twill fabric, produced in Portugal. Staying true to the original design, the Ryan features a roomy fit, large chest and waist pockets, and a branded hardware button closure. Why don’t you find out for yourself and check out the Ryan here.