If it wasn’t for the denim jacket, the contemporary wardrobe would be a whole lot less interesting as it represents so much about culture and humanity. This is because it has undergone a profoundly transcendent journey from workwear to high fashion over more than a century of existence. For us at The Workers Club, it’s a core part of our brand and a key piece in the versatile wardrobe that we try to encourage our friends and customers to start building.
From its humble roots in the late 19th century as a go-to garment for noble, blue collar labourers chasing gold and renegade cowboys looking for trouble, the denim jacket later became a symbol of counterculture style and rebellion in the 50s. A decade later, it had a much different vibe thanks to the widespread hedonistic lifestyles of the western world. Barefooted and carefree, they wore denim jackets emblazoned with peace signs as they protested against events such as the Vietnam War. The denim jacket then underwent a drastic homogenisation and filtration into all areas of modern culture and the varying codes of dress that they prescribed to – rockers, greasers, punks, skins, skate, rappers and ravers.
Like its lower half relation, the denim jacket was first created by Levi Strauss circa 1880 and therefore was designed with the same utilitarian sensibility – rough and ready for whatever challenge was to be thrown at it. It was a proud Made in USA product that was for the honest, working class American, and so it didn’t take long for many other makers to start producing denim jackets, many in the same style as Levi’s three most popular iterations; Type I, Type II, and Type III, all of which are icons in their own right.
Following World War Two, denim’s popularity exploded as troopers started sporting their denim at home (yes, denim was a widely-used fabric during WW2) and suddenly it was no longer the reserve of the working class as middle America became enamoured with its many qualities. With the economic boom of the post-war period, which coincided with the emergence of television and cinema, it was soon seen being worn by the great and the good. Brando, Brynner and Newman on the silver screen. Lennon, Jagger and Elvis on the stage. The list goes on and on and each one with their unique brand of cool enriched the denim jacket’s appeal and strengthened its reputation and stature as this must-have garment.
For Adam, the denim jacket has long been an important garment in his wardrobe and lifestyle. “When I was a kid pretending to be a cowboy, I pictured myself wearing a distressed denim jacket with a big hat. Another memory that sticks out was seeing for the first time Dennis Hopper’s iconic look in The Last Movie and then seeing it on someone completely different such as George Harrison. I love The Rolling Stones and seeing how they paired denim jackets with button down shirts and sta-prest chinos, and even Blondie giving it her own slant,” he says.
While many brands replicate the iconic denim jackets of yesteryear – mainly the Type I, Type II, and Type III from Levis – Adam and Charlotte both favour the lesser-known Buckaroo jacket from Big Smith, which is a legacy denim brand from the post-war era. Heavily distressed and with many stories that it could no doubt tell, it’s an incredibly valued piece of vintage clothing that Adam has in his arsenal (which can be viewed in our store, and, depending on the style, some pieces can even be purchased).
“There are so many details that are perfect; the sleeves are a bit baggy and the jacket itself is a bit on the short side. I bought it in the early 2000’s whilst we were living in the US – I believe it was from a vintage dealer in Seattle,” recalls Adam.
With a single pleat either side of the placket, Adam’s prized possession features two chest pockets snap closure and two slanted-entry patch pockets on the hips, which underline its utilitarian nature. For a twist, the snaps have been replaced for specially-made brass buttons while the boxy and loose fit has been streamlined in favour of a more modern and flattering cut. Finally, we’ve used state-of-the-art Japanese denim which would no doubt easily trump the quality of our muse.
Woven in Okayama, the denim we use for our jackets (Indigo Rinse and Natural Rinse) weighs in at 13oz, which is the optimum weight for denim as it can be worn throughout the course of the year. Tailored using traditional techniques that ensure longevity, such as authentic chain stitching, it’s a piece that can be worn for years to come in many, many ways.
“You can put it with anything,” Adam says. “From doubling it up if you’re feeling daring, or using it as a tool for layering. For example, I always wear one beneath my Shell jacket in winter, and once inside it acts as a blazer if you have an Oxford shirt beneath. A denim jacket will always dress down a smart outfit, and I think that’s a really modern way of dressing.”
Whether you prefer the more classic Indigo Rinse, which will take on a unique patina through wear and tear, or the Natural Rinse, which is refreshing and striking, each one is built to last and opens up a whole new world of possibilities when it comes to dressing. With its rich heritage being combined with a new, modern way of life, it’s a must-have in our books, and we hope it will soon be in yours, too.