What You Can Really Afford: Actual Workwear, Part II
True workwear–as in clothes designed and worn to perform labor, from denim jeans to chore coats, and so forth–is some of the most interesting, influential, and best value clothing in the world. And it can be incorporated into a casual, off duty wardrobe without looking like a herb. Last week Derek talked about building an interesting wardrobe on workwear elements and I listed a few of my favorite workwear sources, including Carhartt and Le Labourer. Today I’m adding a few more to the list. Also, check out Derek’s recent post on Stan Ray for another source for affordable, independent, cool clothing.
Pointer Brand / LC King
Pointer Brand hits a real sweet spot between workwear affordability and concessions to the more modern fits most guys are looking for (they even have a “street wear” section on their website). A small-ish company, based in Tennessee, Pointer makes work gear in the same vein as Carhartt but still in the United States to a pretty high quality standard for traditional workwear. Chore coats, 5 pocket jeans, and accessories like aprons are their specialty (not endorsing casual work apron wear, just saying). And yes, Kanye wore it. I like their chore coats, which they even offer in shawl collar style, and the fact that they make a lot of stuff in duck, herringbone, hickory stripe, and woodland camo.
Most of this list has been organized by brand rather than item–a lot of these brands have a lot of personality and while both Dickies and Ben Davis make work pants, they’re not the same. Donkey jackets are a great example of workwear adapted outside of the intended setting but I don’t have a go-to brand. They’re a British working class style, about as plain as a work coat can be (in that way, similar to Le Laboureur’s coats)–about the length of a chore coat (maybe longer) but wool, button front, open waist pockets, shirt style collar; differentiated mainly by a protective yoke across the back and over the shoulders. That yoke is sometimes leather, sometimes vinyl (cheaper, more water resistant). Real work jackets would sometimes have the name of the municipality or coal mine printed on the yoke. Like many styles of the British working class, donkey jackets have some mild mod/skinhead associations–just something to be aware of. They can be had for cheap on places like ebay, vintage or new (sometimes made for the mod/scooter enthusiast community), and designer versions have popped up recently from everyone from Nigel Cabourn and Margaret Howell, to J. Crew’s Wallace and Barnes, to Supreme and Burberry.
Rufflander/William Lennon Boots
These sort of stretch the definition of affordability, but interesting boots outside of the standards like Red Wing and Chippewa aren’t common, and nice boots, made in England, for <200GBP are truly rare. William Lennon is the kind of century-old, small maker that hipster dreams are made of, although they don’t seem to have caught on quite like other niche bootmakers, possibly because they’re even more niche than most. They still make and sell safety and work boots, and their heritage styles are modeled after shepherd’s boots and old hiking boots, and use a Blake style construction. Many have sprung toes (more upturned than most modern shoes) and hobnail soles. As in, nail heads sticking out of the sole for traction. Not hardwood floor friendly. But they also offer Vibram and commando style soles more typical of boots you’d wear casually. I don’t have direct experience with William Lennon but the best advice seems to be to contact them directly with sizing/customization/pricing inquiries.
I know there’s a lot more solid, cheap, work-oriented wear out there–if you have other suggestions, please share them!