The Denim Jacket
After Levis Strauss nailed down the denim waist overall, the company moved to tops as a way to produce more items out of their hard wearing denim. The first few top pieces the company produced were a pull over jumper and a longer chore coat based on similar products well known in France and other parts of Europe. The Jumper didn’t last long and was transitioned into something a little more detailed and thus the Pleated Blouse was born. By 1880 the Triple Pleat Blouse was born - A little heavier than a shirt, but cropped shorter then a chore coat.
The pleated blouse had the seeds of what we know as a jean jacket. But it wasn’t until 1905, with a few critical additions - most notably a pocket and silver cinch in the back that we got the first true jean jacket in the form of the 506xx. Though there were minor updates over the years this was the jacket of choice for cowboys and greasers alike until the 1950s.
As the popularity of the 506 grew the major competitor, Lee produced the first modern take on the jean jacket in the 101j. Much slimmer than the Levi’s version and using a sanforized (pre-shrunk denim) the Lee jacket was wildly popular with cowboys because of the layering potential and with the addition of a corduroy collar made wear a little more comfortable.
The war had made all clothing manufactures rethink the use of materials like brass for rivets and extraneous buckles so in 1953 Levi’s came up with an updated design by using bar tacks to replace the rivets, ditching the cinch strap, and adding a pocket to create a symmetry that highlights it’s design as a true jean jacket. Though officially named the 507xx it was quickly nicknamed the Type II to differentiate it from the original single pocket 506xx now donned the Type I.
About 10 years later, with competition in the jean jacket market heating up, is was time for another update and this time Levis went all out. They came up with a completely redesigned jacket named the 557xx, sporting pointed pocket flaps and a slimmer fitting design, though most called it the Type III, it quickly took on the name “the jacket to rule them all”. This is the jacket most people bring to mind when they think “Jean Jacket”. Over the years this “Trucker Jacket” got some minor updates like hand warmer pockets on the sides and a couple of interior pockets. Iterations existed, sometimes coinciding to a new jean release, but even with these changes, the design was baked in and a Levi’s signature piece.
Today many brands produce Jean Jackets, but if you look closely they all have elements taken from these historical pieces. At Office Hours, we always have them in stock, using different fabrics, and details, and fit. No mater your shape or style there’s certainly a jean jacket out there for you. The difficulty often comes from styling, since many folks primarily wear jeans on the bottom, the double denim look can be difficult if not impossible for most. Throwing a jean jacket over fatigues or chinos is easy and comfortable for everyone. Wearing jean jackets with tailored pants and a dress shirt is a sure fire way to show people your unique style.
Jean jackets have set themselves up as both stylish, and classic, timeless yet current. Worn comfortably new and crunchy or beat up and distressed. They most certainly should have a place in anyone’s closet. Thus making them a clothing “Essential”.