As you may have already guessed, the French chore coat originated in France in the early 18th century. Usually built from tough cotton drill or moleskin, this hardy piece of outerwear was favored by laborers, rail workers, farmers, and anyone else who’s daily bread came from hard, manual labor.

Early on, these versatile jackets were dyed with a vibrant French benzoate-based blue dye, earning them the local moniker “bleu de travail,” translating into “blue work.” This bears a striking similarity to the term “blue collar,” a popular colloquialism in the US originating in reference to the indigo-dyed chambray shirts worn by the labor force of the time.

What is a French chore coat?

The French chore coat is characterized by its roomy fit (meant for easy layering over a pair of overalls), two big chest pockets, oversized hip pockets, and button closure. Button cuffs are another traditional feature, making it easier for workers to roll up their sleeves when it came time to get their hands dirty.

Men working in a factory in France, wearing a Chore Coat
Image courtesy of Bibliothèque Nationale de France

The design’s wealth of pocket space made it easy for tradesmen to keep their tools at hand without lugging a toolbox around all day, while the durable construction ensured their favorite piece of gear could keep up as the years of manual labor took their toll.

Before long, the design made its way across the pond, where, due to its handsome, practical design, it quickly gained traction amongst US workers and non-workers alike, earning it the name “chore coat”—the perfect piece of outerwear for completing chores around the house, the farm, or on the jobsite.

Model wearing The Ojai Jacket in Smoked Olive

The French Chore Coat of Today

While the bleu de travail has seen countless iterations over the years, the blueprint remains largely unchanged. In the case of our Ojai Jacket, we’ve kept the historic spirit of this legendary piece of workwear alive, calling on that distinctive quartet of large patch pockets, full button closure, and a roomier silhouette. Of course, we’ve applied some tasteful updates of our own, like dual entry hip pockets, vintage-style ring back buttons and a wide variety of fabrications to choose from.

Given the design's hard working origins, we knew we couldn’t call it a true chore jacket without hardy craftsmanship and workwear-grade durability, so we’ve made sure to cover those bases as well.

Model wearing The Ojai Jacket in Granite Hemp.

From the pastures and factories of France to the drawing board at our San Francisco HQ, the French chore coat lives on, expanding its purview from workforce essential to ubiquitous wardrobe staple. The silhouette is easy to dress up or down, and (at least in the case of our Ojai) damn hard to wear out. Honestly, we couldn't imagine our wardrobes without one.

Shop The Ojai Jacket

Want to dive deeper into the history of other menswear classics? Check out our other Journals: 

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