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Timeless chore jacket UK style works for all occasions

October 24, 2019

The chore jacket UK style never went out of fashion and has evolved from a utilitarian worker jacket to a cult classic that goes from day to night with ease.


Originally known as the bleu de travail jacket designed as a French worker jacket for engineers, railroad workers, royal mail workers and the like, this timeless chore jacket UK style is a now a classic look that works work daytime through night time with insouciant flair.

Bill Cunningham in his French work jacket at Fashion Week, photographed-by Jiyang Chen

Bill Cunningham in his French work jacket at Fashion Week, photographed-by Jiyang Chen

Backstory of the chore jacket UK style

The bleu de travail chore jacket has a long and interesting backstory, evolving in Europe as a work jacket with a distinctive fabrication and style, epitomized by blanket linings, patch pockets and vintage blue cotton.


  • Work jacket the French way:  Originating in the 1800s, the blue de travail work jacket was designed for heavy-duty hands-on work by engineers, railroad workers and others who got their hands dirty on the job.


The chore coats were called bleu de travail, which translates to “working blues” or “blue work”, since the primary wearers were blue collared workers.


  • Chore jacket UK style fabrications: The original work jacket or French style was fabricated out of cotton drill, sturdy blue cotton or a heavy cotton variation called moleskin, which was sheared down to a soft pile to give the fabric the look and touch of felt or chamois.


Moleskin chore coats were usually more expensive than the more basic twill or blue cotton varieties and hence more prized as a status symbol.


Because the chore jacket UK or French style was made of durable fabrications, it stood up to all kinds of weather conditions, as well as the demands of the hands-on jobs of those who wore these chore coats.




  • Chore jacket UK styling: This work jacket was styled in an iconic way that has carried through to its current reinventions. Cut with a loose, boxy silhouette, it boasted large patch pockets with a button closure up front.


Bleu de travail chore coats were designed to be worn as the final outer layer over work shirts made of flannel or cotton, on top of rugged work pants in denim or twill.


The loose cut styling and large patch pockets made this work jacket style comfortable to wear and practical for storing work tools and gadgets.


French designers
  • Chore jacket UK and French designers: The designers who specialized in chore coats included Le Mont Saint Michel and Le Laboureur, both houses of fashion still creating new versions of this work jacket for the modern age.


  • Hollywood adopts the worker jacket:  by the 1960s, the utilitarian chore jacket UK style had evolved into a pop-culture look adopted by Hollywood screen stars like Paul Newman, who rocked the worker jacket in “Cool Hand Luke” as an emblem of rebellious style.

Bill Cunningham
  • Chore jacket UK style done the Bill Cunningham way:  This well-known and highly respected photographer was an early and loyal adopter of the chore jacket UK style, which he wore for all its utilitarian advantages, rather than as a style statement.


Bill Cunningham would buy a vintage worker jacket whenever he was visiting Europe and kept a ready supply of these chore coats in his closet.


He prized the chore jacket UK style for its design and fabrication, enabling him to move freely and store his photographic equipment in the roomy pockets.

Bill’s everyday look became his trademark uniform and he would be seen everywhere with his worker jacket layered over khakis, his camera slung around his chest and his look finished with practical black runners.


These are some of the interesting backstories of the chore jacket UK style that inspired the popularity and endurance of the worker jacket as a style phenomenon that never went away.

Painting of corner cafe with Man wearing French work jacket by Edouard-Manet, circa, 1878-80

Painting of corner cafe with Man wearing French work jacket by Edouard-Manet, circa, 1878-80

Rock the chore jacket for today’s world

The chore jacket UK style has a cult following today, made up of aficionados from all walks of life, who rock the worker jacket for all kinds of events in their everyday lives.


  • Colour variations: Picture heritage classic chore coats re-worked for today in versatile colours like brown, beige, black and of course, the traditional blue.


These varied colouration choices give you so many more options on how to style your chore jacket UK, French, North American or any other way. Sites like Blue17 and Fashion Beans have many variations of this piece of vintage workwear.


  • Fabrication spins:  While still keeping the heritage moleskin or cotton outer layer, designers today are adding fleece lining to make the chore jacket UK style a Fall weather favourite, perfect paired with jeans and boots for a casual look or elevated with a white button-down shirt, and black trousers for a dressy style.


  • Chore jacket UK styled the minimalist way:  Pair this heritage worker jacket with classic chinos or khakis and a white T-shirt for off-duty wear. Add sockless loafers or white sneakers to finish your timeless style. You could source most of these pieces from Amazon or eBay.


To amplify the look for more formal wear, layer the chore jacket UK style over a black turtleneck sweater and black straight leg trousers. Complete the outfit with dark brown oxfords or Chelsea boots for that classic uptown look.

Wash and wear
  • Wash and wear chore coats:  To get that authentic throwback look for your chore jacket UK style, wash it enough times to fade the colour and soften the fabric. Now you have a worker jacket that looks like an original from the 1940s. If you look for them, you could find great buys at Etsy or even Union Clothing to make this look work for you.


Layer up
  • Your new favourite outer layer:  Swap out your usual denim jacket for a workers jacket UK style in traditional blue cotton. Layer up the blue look with dark wash denim jeans over a light blue chambray shirt.


Hip-hop chic
  • Add hip-hop chic to chore coats:  Replace your track suit jacket with an authentic work jacket UK style and layer it over camo joggers and high-top sneakers for a mashup of retro and streetwear styles that go so well together.


These are just some of the ways you can re-work and reimagine your chore jacket UK style for the day-to-night looks in your life today. Get inspired to take this retro classic for a spin and add some European flair to your everyday style.