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What is a Shirtjac

WHAT IS A SHIRTJAC ANYWAY?

 

We live in confusing times in a confusing world. Augmented reality and Artificial Intelligence have crept into positions to replace actual reality. Facts and truth have been superseded by opinion. Abbreviations and portmanteaus only confuse things further when we consider the clothes that we wear. This is particularly true when we consider the humble shirtjac.   

Shirt-jac, jac-shirt, shacket, shirt-jacket. Shirtjac. Are these all the same? How did we get to such confusion about what to call a garment? When does one wear such a creature? Well, dear friends and loved ones, read on to find out.   

Clothing has evolved tremendously since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. Manufacturing technologies and techniques allowed for vast improvements in the quality, durability, and consistency of the clothes purchased and worn by consumers. Design trends and materials benefitted from global exploration and trade (see our earlier piece on the Brief History of Blue Jeans as an example). What is now worn as much for comfort and ease of use/styling began as a simple jacket worn by hard-working wage earners to protect their personal clothes; the shirtjac ( as we prefer to spell the word, your mileage may vary) came to life more than 150 years ago in the same country that gave us the Etch A Sketch, the Stethoscope, Aspirin, Ratatouille, Champagne, the stapler and the list goes on: France.   

There was little, if any, delineation between the clothes worn to work and those worn for personal ventures for vast segments of the working classes throughout the world. Indeed, many people wore the same clothes day in and day out. Protecting those necessities while on the job would not only protect the person wearing the clothes but would save time and resources from having to mend or replace clothing- processes that were not always feasible.   

As economies boomed, workforces transitioned from agricultural to industrial work. Shop aprons were replaced by heavier, hard-wearing jackets and pants to hold up to the rigors of oftentimes dangerous, dirty work in factories with little concept of safety or best practices. Modern day shirtjacs trace their lineage back to the tightly woven cotton moleskin jacket with oversized front pockets to carry hand tools. An exterior chest pocket was added to allow a notebook or something similar to be kept close by. Dyed in a newly created low-cost blue, known as Berlin Blue, this factory provided jacket was dubbed the “Bleu de Travail” or Work Blues.   

The choice of moleskin was simple. Cotton moleskin is renowned for being durable thanks to the tight weave of the fibers. It is easy to mend should a tear or snag happen. Early iterations moleskin date back to the days of Caesar and Cleopatra; known as “fustian” and differentiated from other fabrics by their strength owed to the increased number of weft threads. Moleskin is among those unique fabrics that can be worn with reasonable comfort year-round with some thought given to what is worn under or over depending on the conditions. Denim and other canvas fabrics were used throughout Europe and the rest of the industrialized world as the shirtac found its way into other markets via sailors and merchants.   

As the Industrial Revolution gave way to the Gilded Age and then Progressive Era in America history making changes were on the horizon. Democracy and the rise of the Middle Class were on the march. As was Isolationism, The Roaring Twenties, the Stock Market Crash and subsequent Great Depression, Fascism, and World War II. Through such a period of unprecedented growth, turmoil, and change the shirtjac remained. More than ever there was a need for clothing that was affordable for the consumer while holding up to the rigors of work.   

Allied field uniforms borrowed queues from the nearly 100-year-old shirtjac to become field shirts or field shirt jackets. Iterations can be seen in US Military BDUs and predecessor uniforms such as the M1943 Uniform & M 1942 Paratrooper Uniform widely used in the second half of WWII by the Greatest Generation; the OG-107 and its iconic M-1965 Field Jacket would cement the shirtjac in its rightful place as one of the true classics.   

With the help of the Bleu de Travail, and the courage of those who came before us, we have the time & space to consider how and when to wear the shirtjac. No longer is it simply a durable shirt-weight jacket worn to protect our clothes, it is a boldly designed premium-built garment that sets the wearer apart from the masses of puffer ski jackets, hoody sweatshirts, and overcoats.   

The Dover Wool Shirtjac from Mountain Khakis is a striking blend of warmth and protection from the elements and the classic look & feel of a 70/30 wool blend. Two hand warmer pockets with quick-dry fleece lining and two chest pockets make it as versatile as it is stylish.   

Our cotton herringbone outer with quilted liner makes the Lincoln Shirtjac ready for cooler evenings outside, looking sharp on the way to work, or when you want warmth combined with tasteful styling.   

The Mountain Khakis Norris Shirtjac blends our cozy sweater fleece fabric with the functional style of a shirtjac. Easily worn over a lighter weight shirt just as you would wear a fleece pullover, but with the added benefit of button snaps to make it easier to wear. 

 

Shop our full line of Men’s Shirtjacs. Or reach out if you have questions. All our staff is based in the US and is ready to tackle whatever you throw at them.               



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