Getting dressed can be a chore — especially right now, when you have to contend with early fall’s noncommittal temperature scheme and the possibility that, come day’s end, you might have sweat straight through whatever you put on that morning.
So it’s with just the tiniest amount of irony that a garment called the chore coat (which you’ll also find under the monikers chore jacket, barn jacket, and even the French worker’s jacket) has re-emerged as this fall’s must-don piece. After a few seasons of playing second and third fiddle to the bomber and the M65, the chore jacket’s hardworking form and austere function have helped turn it into the go-to outerwear choice for stylish guys in cooler climates.
“It’s the perfect layering piece,” said Victor Lytvinenko, the co-founder and designer at Raleigh Denim Workshop, which, this fall, is offering a brushed cotton take on the shape with tonal buttons and stitching. “The intention there was something that was casual, and that I didn’t have to worry about. When I wear sportcoats, I’m always worried that I’m going to rip them. They’re just a little too fussy sometimes.”
Other than attitude, there’s a lot that distinguishes this hardworking piece from your standard-issue blazer. You know you’ve found a chore jacket when you spot straight-hemmed outerwear that features a shirt-like collar, at least two patch pockets on the front, and that closes with buttons. Paul Newman looked like the best-dressed convict in Florida when he wore one in 1967’s iconic film Cool Hand Luke; the late, great street style photographer Bill Cunningham was known to shoot celebrities, philanthropists, and other stylish sorts wearing a bright blue version whose generous pockets let him carry extra rolls of film. Their appeal lies in their many dualities: they’re anodyne without being boring, structured without being formal.
And luckily, you can find one from a lot of different brands right now. J.Crew just reintroduced its barn jacket, an archival piece from over 20 years ago, in a cheerful red shade; and Barbour and Carhartt are sticking by their classic takes on the look. While you’ll find them cut from hardworking fabrics like denim and moleskin, more elevated versions like the one from Raleigh Denim Workshop can even stand in for a blazer — provided you’re not the kind of guy who needs to be in a corner office every single day — and still go right back to their original purpose: keeping you warm at work.
“I wear it often, so yes: I do chores in the chore coat, which is kind of funny,” Lytvinenko said. Below, nine chore jackets that you should consider seriously this fall.