The canvas chore coat – and buying vintage online

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I increasingly find that for the kind of casual outerwear I wear at the weekend (for taking the kids to the park, and similarly hard-wearing activities) I always prefer vintage. 

There are exceptions, of course. A Bryceland’s white chore coat, for example, bought because I love the design and know how well executed something from Ethan is. 

But nigh-on everything else is vintage, largely because of the way the pieces have worn in and aged. They look so much more attractive than anything new. 

The tough materials will have faded and softened. There will be little nicks and scratches, and even home repairs - which I love for the care they show someone else took with the clothing.

Now I think about it, a lot of the casual outerwear I’ve featured over the years has been like this  - particularly shorter jackets. There’s my M65, my black horsehide, the jungle jacket and the old kendogi (though the latter is a bit delicate for kid-herding). Reminders of all those below. 

Today’s piece is a chore coat I recently got from Broadway & Sons, which I love and is interesting to discuss because the style has become fashionable recently. 

As with all fashions, I start from a position of scepticism. But I still try to stay open-minded - if you’re really interested in clothing, I think it’s worth striving to remain so. 

It’s refreshing and often instructive to watch a trend evolve, to see where it goes and ponder whether, at any point, it could work with how you dress. Being closed-minded is so cold and dull. 

Carhartt’s brown-duck jackets and double-knee trousers started to become trendy a couple of years ago. It made sense - they fitted with the nineties revival, the popularity of looser fits, and with both workwear and skatewear. 

When I visited Le Vif in Paris earlier this year, Arthur showed Alex and I a few double-knee trousers (be aware - new/old ones are so coarse they’ll take the hair off your legs) and said Carhartt was suddenly incredibly popular.

I’ve always liked the way duck canvas ages, particularly the fading you get from sun exposure, which manages to be both subtler and more extreme than on an old bleu de travail or similar cotton. 

On the one hand it’s extreme because the colour fades a lot, from mid-brown to a more recognisable straw colour. The original remains beneath things like pocket flaps, as in the image above, so you can always see how far it has come.

Yet at the same time, this creates subtle effects on the outside of the coat. This isn’t easy to see, but in the image below the shoulders of my jacket are lighter than the body, gradating slowly down onto the chest. 

Also from a style point of view, the nice thing about this canvas is it’s a different colour option for casual clothing, yet remains very versatile. Similar in that respect to denim, or the green of military fatigues. 

Indeed you could have both denim jeans and a denim chore, duck trousers and a chore, and green fatigues and a field jacket, and rotate combinations of them to your heart’s content. Add a white and blue T-shirt, and you have an instant capsule wardrobe.

So, I had these thoughts as I watched the trend emerge and evolve. One thing I will freely admit is that I’m a snob to the extent of not wanting to wear the same thing as everyone else - so a new Carhartt jacket was out of the question (although I understand the modern quality is still good, in the unwashed, original weight). 

What I really wanted was a vintage one. It would have all the character described lovingly above, and because it could be a model that was no longer available, would solve the snob situation. 

Unfortunately most of the vintage duck jackets I found were hunting varieties - a separate category really, and while more unusual than a chore, too short and wide for my style. You have to be a bigger man, like layering, and probably wear your high-waisted trousers for those to work.

Eventually, I found a likely model at Broadway. My usual approach is to check in on sites like that every month, by the way, or when I get an email announcing a new drop that looks interesting. 

I keep measurements of jackets, shirts and trousers that I already own, so I can quickly see whether a new vintage piece is my size. With jackets, for example, I know that my M65 is 22.5 inches pit to pit, and that’s the minimum I need. Up to maximum of 24. 

I also know I need a back length that is at least 30 inches (the field jacket is 30.5), although this is also a question of style. Those hunting jackets are styled to be shorter, and would be huge if they had that back length. 

 

I’ve been shopping vintage for long enough now to know that my success rate is rarely more than 50%. There are just too many variables - fit, material, condition - to be consistently higher. It does vary between stores, and you can be narrower in what you buy and try, but then you also miss out on pieces that it was hard to get a sense of online. 

With this Broadway order, I bought five things and returned three, keeping this chore and an old Italian airforce sweater, but returning trainers, a shirt and a red hunting jacket. 

Broadway leans a bit more towards the thrift end of vintage compared to other stores. This is great for pricing, but I find also means the condition and style can be more patchy. 

Also, I should make clear that this is only the second time I’ve ever bought from them - I don’t buy five pieces a month! But once you’re ordering one or two things, you might as well add in the others you’ve been looking at for a while too, just in case. The shipping doesn’t change.

To anyone that’s used to shopping from a regular shop on a high street, this could all seem a big fuss. But often it’s the only way to find good vintage. And, it has the advantage that if something’s hard to find, other people are unlikely to have it. 

Plus, if you’ve been shopping for menswear for a few years, chances are there’s nothing you really need. You can easily wait and chase down that perfect piece. Indeed, it might be helpful given your consumerist tendencies to put some barriers in your way. 

 

I don’t have much interest in buying vintage smart clothing, particularly tailoring. 

The materials aren’t the same - fine suitings and shirtings are not designed to be worn heavily over long periods, and look the better for it. Heavy outerwear, such as a tweed raglan coat, is probably the only area that could be interesting. 

Casual outerwear, however, always looks great. Every time I see a cotton chore jacket in a store now, I just wish it was 40 years old and had been worn every day of that time. It is a matter of - as we so often say - how great things age. 

The jacket is from Big Ben, the workwear label under Wrangler that dates back to the 1920s. It was made in the US, probably in the early 70s. It is marked as a size 42, but fits me well over a sweatshirt, as here. 

The jacket cost €95 from Broadway & Sons. Despite my winding journey to this one, they’re not always hard to find and often not expensive. Usually getting the size you want is the issue. Worth making that list of measurements.

The red sweatshirt is a vintage Champion, bought at Le Vif. The quality is not the same as, for example, a Real McCoy’s one and I wouldn’t necessarily buy it again, but I do like the fit and colour. The jeans are my vintage Levi’s. Out of shot are suede boots. 

Photography: James Holborow

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Peter Hall

I do love a good canvas jacket. I seem to recall Belstaff made a thick cotton jacket(in their four pocket,belted style) in a lovely light brown. Has this jacket padding in the shoulders or it is just the style?

Stephen

Hi Peter. They don’t do them every season. I managed to get a field master (drawstring not belt) version a couple of years back. Good for the summer as an alternative to a safari jacket. Unfortunately they seem to do the technical materials a lot at the moment, but hopefully revisit canvas in a future season.

Peter Hall

Hi Stephen. I’ve done a little digging and the model was the Weymouth. It’s more chore coat than waxed/motorbike jacket,but still has the four pockets, which might be a little crowded.

Peter

Compelling argument for vintage casual wear. Where might you look if you were after something in the chore coat kind of area, but wanted to be able to wear it with tailored cotton trousers, Oxford cloth shirts, and loafers? I’m in a casual working environment where tailored trouser + tailored jacket feels a bit much, but I can happily wear a tailored jacket and jeans, or a more casual jacket with tailored trousers. Just trying to find that right piece though that can dress down a slightly smarter ensemble as well as dress up jeans and boots

Darren

Not vintage but Drake’s was the first place that came to mind.

Chancellor

I think Peter’s suggested outfit might work as high-low dressing.

Peter Hall

Iron Heart have a khaki corduroy ,Peter
https://www.ironheart.co.uk/jackets/ihj-69-kha.html

m

You could also take a look at Armoury’s City Hunter 2 and 3 Pocket Blouson, those are bit smarter options, more appropriate for office.

Gary Mitchell

Even wearing an old faded canvas chore jacket myself today…

P.A.

I find myself drawn more and more towards vintage pieces these days. The struggle is to find the right balance between curated and expensive (LeVif !) and thrift and cheap. Furthermore, the vintage online retail is very inconsistent.
Do you plan on releasing a list of the good vintage online shops based on your experience ? Your article on Brut Clothing comes to mind.
Cheers

P.A.

I guess I’m more like your friends, then! I also feel like it is not so much about how much time you spend rather than the uncertainty you get with vintage.
For example, I’ve tried looking for a vintage pair of 501, not necessarily vintage, but the size of the waist, the rise, the lenght is so random that it is impossible not to try a pair before buying it.
I must have tried close to 50 pairs and not one was fitting remotely OK, ranging from a 30 to 36 waist.
Outerwear is definitely easier to choose from.

Andrew

I unfortunately didn’t have a great experience with Broadway & Sons. Rather than shipping my order to my home address, they had it shipped to a UPS drop-off point without telling me. They claim that their T&Cs say they sometimes do that, but it certainly wasn’t communicated transparently. The package arrived at the drop off point just before I left on a business trip, and by the time I returned home and tried to collect the package it had been returned to sender. I definitely won’t be shopping with Broadway & Sons again.

Matt L

As a larger man I find vintage shopping to be frustrating. I’ve desperately wanted a military coloured field/jungle jacket for years at this point, preferably vintage. But as I’m too large for military service, it stands to reason that no military jackets have ever been made in my size!

Darren

I agree with this, like you I’ve been looking for a vintage jungle jacket for some time but my size just never comes up.

JH

As a resident of a city with few if any good vintage stores, online is often the only option and it also opens up international stores, which is great.

More generally, the importance of accurate and detailed sizing information seems to overlooked by some retailers with an online presence – whether they’re selling vintage or new. Waist and inseam often isn’t enough when buying trousers. Thigh and rise are also vital (and much less easy to alter significantly). Waist is a really useful measurement on shirts or tops, but not always included.

Some retailers provide a wealth of useful information (Casatlantic springs to mind), but others are less good. I appreciate taking more measurements takes time, but surely it’s not as costly and time-consuming as dealing with potential lost sales or the additional returns created by a lack of sizing information.

JO

I have found that vintage sellers are pretty good at providing sizing information, even at the lower end. Service that they have is of course good, but that is mostly relevant only at the brick and mortar. What really sets the higher-end shops apart, for me, is that pretty much everything is worth buying.

I am, however, equally baffled as JH at the lack of information given by retailers that sell new clothes. Since much of the trade has gone online, it can be quite costly to not do that, as JH points out.

The fact that it’s probably bad business aside, there are at least two reasons that make that especially hard to understand. First, measuring surely isn’t too costly if you measure once for every ten or hundred pieces sold. Second, you shouldn’t even need to measure because the measurements should be available long before the item hits the stores (or even before they go into production). If they’re privately designed, the seller owns them to begin with. If not, they should get the measurements from the brand they’re representing.

On a side note, it would be very interesting to learn why some companies don’t share the measurements. I’m pretty sure someone like Ralph Lauren or Hugo Boss, with their marketing budgets, can’t hide behind the cost. Since this seems to be a problem with the bigger brands, I can’t help but to think there’s something they’d rather not share publicly.

Sam

There are some pretty boring but fussy issues to getting measurements online for new products. For my company, and one which I think is quite common, the main challenge is just a systemic one of somebody taking the measurements at the right time, and getting the data to the people that are putting the products on the website at the right time (generally a completely different team).
It’s difficult to do at scale especially – we typically launch a couple of thousand products a week, so what seems like an easy win could be multiple full-time jobs of taking and recording measurements. Agreed that it’s worth doing, but certainly can be tricky.
The above will often be done in concert with other activities, like when the products are moving through the photo studio. It’s not unusual for a product’s exact spec to change around that time, so measurements can vary from the final product.
For a small company where the overall launch volume is small (or the actual stock levels are much smaller, potentially just one-off products) it’s probably more doable – I guess at that stage it’s just the effort of collating and presenting measurements for a product that only has one unit of stock behind it. It’s all going into the overheads.
Lastly, for many brands we simply don’t have a lot of confidence in the consistency of their measurements. There are certain well-known jeans makers who are a running joke for the variance you can get in actual waist measurements between two apparently 34″ jeans, but many makers are the same. By giving that data, customers tend to expect they will be exact for the product they receive.

Gabriele

Hi Simon, off topic again: do you happen to have any updates on the madras cloth? Thanks a lot!

Gabriele

Got it! Yes I imagine how annoying that can be for you. I was looking forward to that!

Gary Mitchell

This oft heard complaint of the price of vintage, or the price of anything, is a confusing one. Price is relative, you do not pay for old or new, you pay for something you want and then it comes down to a simple question; ‘how much are you happy to pay’? If they ask too much then don’t buy it. Other than being the same as everyone and therefor happier paying less, I have always preferred a well curated shop with higher prices than a cheap shop stacked to the ceiling with anything and everything. The cheap shop may well have cheaper bargains but I value my time too much to waste it looking through too much rubbish to find a a holy grail. Each to his own of course. As for endless measurements; I have to shop remotely most of the time and time spent on accurate measuring and asking questions is rarely wasted because it avoids the pain of returns/refunds/taxes and personal angst.

Gabriele

I think the length is an important point that often gets overlooked. For example, yours in the pictures looks good to me for this style. On the other hand, that’s the one complaint I have on Drake’s chores: mine comes in at 70 cm for a 40, which is less than ideal, and as a results looks a bit too boxy.

Tony Wilder

Simon, check out L.C. King outerwear. A great variety of duck and denim jackets, 5 pocket jeans, and other items. I’ve found vintage on eBay.

The company started in 1913, is family owned and operated today by the founder’s great grandson. Great products made in the USA in Bristol, TN.

Robert

I can vouch for L.C. King. Bought a couple work shirts which wash up nicely. A heritage brand sourcing fabric from stateside mills. Small batches. Low glam factor. Definitely workwear. Nice selection of chore jackets if you stateside guys can’t source at the local thrift shop. Price point within reach. Very few US clothing manufacturers remain so take a chance and throw them some love.

Flaubertine

Another vote for L.C. King here – I’ve had one of their Pointer Brand shawl-collared chore jackets for nearly a decade and it still looks great.

Eric Michel

I do not buy vintage because I AM vintage, and as I have always tried to buy the best quality I could afford over time, starting in the 80’s, I am still wearing clothes I bought decades ago…

SteveB

👍

Ck

Cracking article Simon, wicked jacket as well, looks great on you. Always been a fan of duck canvas and this is an amazing example.

I have a question, do you reckon an element of the appeal of vintage outerwear stems from the fact that, the older the jacket gets, the more it starts to take on ‘artefact’ status? Perhaps not the best way to phrase it, but I think you know what I mean. You’ll possibly recall, I said something similar about your vintage black horse hide, before you wrote that article and I kept seeing it in the backdrop of your videos. So mysterious, so much character.

I too have started suffering from the same dilemma recently when I see a nice jacket, particularly leather ones, immediately wishing it was 30 years old and worn everyday of those years. Do you reckon it’s worth it to just bite the bullet and buy new sometimes if the fit + quality is spot on? You know it’ll look amazing eventually, patience is the tricky bit. I love vintage, but it is a skill, my success rate being 0%.

Ck

Truth be told I just haven’t dedicated enough time to isolating specific pieces I think. It’s mostly been a case of trying something on for the fun of it when I happen to be in a vintage store (rare occasion), but the fit or something just isn’t right. I think if I said to myself “right, I’m going to buy a vintage M65 and I don’t care how long it takes to find the right one” I might get somewhere.

I’ve been doing A LOT of clearing lately and haven’t been buying much at all, so a jacket like that from new would be getting wear everyday probably, given my lifestyle (tech, work remotely), so hence I’m willing to pay up for the right one when I find it.

Peter Hall

It might be worth casting your expect eye over the online sites, Simon. For example Vinted or Thrifted. Plenty of pitfalls for the unwary, but,if you avoid the rather flexible usage of ‘Vintage’ there are certainly a few gems.

Ben

I’ve lived for a long time in the State where Carhartt is based and am so impressed by the company’s ability to penetrate all fashion castes. I can’t think of any other brand that I see on road crews and high end apparel blogs on the same day. And I can’t imagine another brand featured on here most of whose employees could care less about clothing.

Joe

Is there a classic unlined chore coat from carhartt?

Peter Hall

Carhartt WIP do. The Manchester store certainly had them last year.

Tore

Simon, what size did you take in the Bryceland’s white chore coat? How do you find the sizing? Have you experienced any shrinkage (if you’ve washed it)? Thanks!

Andrew

Hi Simon, I couldn’t agree with you more on the appeal of vintage outerwear for the weekend. The most strenuous thing I do over the weekend now is playing with my young son in the park and walking my dog in the woods. I have a vintage Barbour Northumbria for the winter and an old M65 for the rest of the year that in my opinion work and look far better for these activities than all the colourful synthetic sports outwear people wear these days. And they will probably last longer as well.

Georgios

Great article simon and i love when you do a casual article that common people can wear often and look good in it. I also mentionen that the last year i wear more and more vintage pieces. For example this week i found in a greek vintage store a pair of cream jeans trousers that look ectremely good with tailoring too and costed 35 euro. For chore coats i think the most i have seen where in amsterdam but many of them at this difficult light blue. I d like to ask something, im looking for a long time to find a zip up casual boot. I know you are not a fan of those but have you seen anything nice around ?

Georgios

I tried once in Barcelona at a used shoe store a zipped boot and it looked way better that i thought but was not my size.. since then i havent found anything that i liked.. which brands would you suggest for chelsea boots ? Id like something for casual wear

Felix

Carmina makes a decent looking side zip boot: https://www.carminashoemaker.com/zip-boots-brown-suede-80688

Georgios

Aw thanx ill try them for sure, that really helped

Rik

The jacket looks very nice Simon. What is duck canvas? Is it a heavy cotton?

Tony Parrack

I have a Ralph Lauren that is somewhere between a chore and a hunting jacket, bought on a holiday 30 yrs ago in the Hamptons after their ‘season’ had finished after Labor Day, so it was dirt cheap (and $2 to the £). I didn’t know it was called duck canvas so thank you for that! It has no branding other than a tag label inside and has faded superbly just as you have described, from a dark buff in pockets to a pale cream on the shoulders. It could well outlast me, and it’s a favourite that I know my sons have had their eyes on over the years but they’ll have to wait.

Jack Williams

Hi Simon,
I have been buying men’s clothes for 60 years, so I have several pieces that are considered vintage: a Maine Guide shirt from LL Bean that I bought in 1957 when Bean’s was for working men – the shirt is thick wool, now faded but makes a great layer under a Filson tin cloth jacket from the 70’s. I have several leather jackets that are 40 or 50 years old – they have been relined and professionally patched. I have several items from Willis & Geiger – heavy denim shirts on which I have had the collars turned. I have had the sleeves turned on several smarter coats as well. These are all old items that have grown old with me. I find there becomes a line between vintage and “threadbare.” Vintage means there is still some residual value, threadbare means the item is just old. You are correct, tailored clothing seldom becomes “vintage” except for tweed jackets which can still be worn even if they lose their shape. I find your quest for vintage interesting, yet one that seems to short circuit the aging process of fine, well-made clothing. So I have a question: do you ever buy a casual or everyday jacket or other item of clothing new, that you know will last decades, in and out of style, with the intent of keeping it regardless – that your love of the workmanship, of the material, of the brand transcends your obsession with looking unique or different.

Jack Williams

Thom

In the US we have Army Surplus stores which are a great source of both new and old and new casual wear. I don’t know if you have anything similar in the UK.
A bit off-topic, but for a couple of decades I’ve worn beautiful and distinctive vintage watches, both solid gold and stainless steel. I’ve probably never paid more than $2,500 for any of them, and generally spend a lot less. I highly recommend the practice. The owner of Second Time Around in Beverly Hills where I’ve bought many of them and who I go to for service and repair work, tells me that most of his sales are now online.

José

Hi Simon, I am looking for a sweatshirt with a slighty shorter fit, any advices? Should I go vintage ? Broadway and sons has quite e few on their website… Or is there any brand that you recomend?

José

Thank you!

FatherStyle

Hi Simon,
I find this article to be particularly helpful for me, as I have never really gotten into vintage. Yes, I enjoy when my pieces are tattered and worn, but only when I have an emotional attachment to the wear/tear. I much prefer to look at a rip or a repair and remember that I got it from playing with my kids or something like that. Getting something vintage removes the fun out of getting something new and beating it up and watching it age over time. Like buying an orange that’s already been squeezed.
While it’s clear you thoroughly enjoy your vintage pieces, do you find you prefer your more “authentically” (for lack of a better term) worn pieces? 
-Richard

J. Vantaa

Hi Simon,

I seem to have a little bit of a polar opposite view to the vintage look.
I do enjoy the worn-in look, but I feel like I have to wear it in myself to not feel like a fraud of sorts, and for that peculiar snobbery I never can really be that enthusiastic as many now seem to be regarding vintage shopping.

And then there’s the second problem regarding the issue on the look; As me also having a bit of an excessive wardrobe, it’s quite unlikely to actually wear anything in to the extent of them having a worn appearance. Or when it get worn down it’s most likely just inferior quality andfor that reason I still can not be satisfied.

This is also why I’m not allowed inside the denimhead circles, as I am unable to produce “the sick fades” that seem to be required to fully appreciate denim and the subculture behind it (Except maybe Pure Blue Japans, which even I seem to have capability to wear enough).

Duck, funnily enough, seem to fade quite quickly and get those wrinkles and greases just after a wash or two, which is enjoyable. Unfortunately heavier ducks usually chafe, so I either have to man up or get them half-lined.

So I’m not sure if I had any point in this rant, but this particular subject had me venting a bit.

PS: Boxier fits do not always suit the bigger man, as a broad-shouldered and barrel-chested they make me look either A) Refrigerator’s cardboard box or B) Dick Tracy villain.

PSPS: It’s a bitch being this much of a snob!

Anonymous

What are your thoughts and opinions on the classic French chore coat? I believe they are made out of moleskin if my research is correct? I’ve had my eye on one for a couple weeks now, and am not sure if I should go for it. What do you think? I’m probably not a huge fan of the classic blue they typically come in, but I’m thinking of perhaps a navy version. What do you think?

Anonymous

Why do you like the typical blue they come in? Is it authenticity? Is it that the colour itself is particularly versatile? Is it just for something a bit different than the usual colours found in most men’s wardrobes? Any other reasons?