What exactly is a chore coat? First and foremost, the name is your biggest clue. Popular during the first half of the 1900s, the lightweight chore coat was born out of France and exclusively made to protect laborers and artists by creating a tough barrier on top of clothing, typically work overalls.
Chore coats featured oversized pockets (at least one spacious chest pocket and even larger hip pockets) for the tools of their respective trades, and they were generously cut so as not to impede movement. Materials typically included cotton canvas or thick cotton twill fabric in a blue hue with large buttons rather than zippers, which required more dexterity and focus to operate. The fabric could be cut and sewn together quickly since drape and fit weren’t exactly priorities.
One of its most iconic iterations is the French “bleu de travail,” literally translating to “work blue.” Originating in the late 19th and early 20th centuries during France's period of rapid industrialization, this classic French work jacket was initially a staple among agricultural and industrial workers. Crafted from durable cotton twill or moleskin, its blue color was practical for disguising stains and dirt that came with a hard day's work. The garment gained popularity for its durability, comfort, and cost-effectiveness, becoming emblematic of the working class in France. Over time, the bleu de travail transcended its utilitarian origins to become a symbol of French working-class culture and has even found its way into contemporary fashion. Yet, at its core, the bleu de travail remains a tribute to the labor and craftsmanship that it was originally designed to serve.
When the chore coat came to the States in 1923, it ditched the blue French workwear coloring for more neutral tan and brown tones and was crafted for the American railroad worker. As a result, it received its own distinctly American flavor that lives on today.
Carhartt was the first one that took a stab at creating an icon and went ahead and crafted one with copper rivets and triple stitching for strength. A flannel lining was later added for warmth, a necessity in the colder climes and work environments.
The chore coat was also popularized in post-WWII Japan largely because the prevalence of American military garb eventually led to the westernization of men’s style. The button-up shirt and blue blazer were eventually replaced by the chore coat in the ‘70s, and its most prominent iteration is the denim version that’s a staple today.
In recent years, the bleu de travail has also gained a following among painters, artists, and other craftspeople, who value its functional design and pockets for conveniently holding tools and materials.
Some might confuse the chore coat with the field jacket, which we’ve covered extensively, and that’s understandable since both are casual and practical while imparting a rugged style. The chore coat is traditionally unlined and wasn’t meant to act as a layer of insulation but rather a light protective layer, while field jackets may be unlined or lined.
Original field jackets were military-spec, and they were not as baggy as chore coats and typically had a standing collar and flap pockets with snap closures, while chore coats could employ notch-lapel or point collars and had large open patch pocket. Occasionally, a chest flap pocket was used. Modern interpretations of the chore coat run the gamut of materials and still use traditional denim, waxed cotton, canvas, and even boiled wool. The versions are myriad, and you’ll also see chore coats called “engineer coats”, which is another very similar permutation. The chore coat was never meant as a fashion statement, but like the venerable work boot, it’s evolved into a key member of workwear style that’s prevalent today.
They also tend to be cut slimmer today, though boxier versions are still popular. The key is to find the cut and material that works for you. If you’re on the job as a contractor, factory worker, tradesman or artist, go for the roomier cut. If it’s hitting the pub on a crisp day, opt for a narrower cut for a more put-together style pallet. And rather than scour the web for the best choices, we’ve assembled 11 of the best chore coats to suit your look or your occupation.
How to Wear a Chore Coat
Unlocking the potential of the chore coat in a contemporary setting is less about rigid fashion rules and more about embracing its innate versatility. As a modern guy, you're constantly juggling different roles—be it the casual weekend warrior, the nine-to-five professional, or the spontaneous adventurer. The chore coat seamlessly fits into all these scenarios, serving as a sartorial Swiss Army knife in your wardrobe. Whether layered over a crisp dress shirt for a smart casual office environment or thrown over a tee for a laid-back vibe, this jack-of-all-trades outerwear piece effortlessly elevates any outfit. It's a style buy that pays dividends in adaptability and ease.
As an outer layer on a sweater and t-shirt
Not surprisingly, the chore coat makes for a great, well, lightweight jacket. Here Primer contributor Daniel Baraka expertly pairs blues across 3 layers for a modern and useful outfit. See more in Live Action Getup: Spring Layers.
As a modern alternative to a blazer
If your office is on the casual side of business casual, as in, you don't want to wear a blazer but sometimes just a tucked in shirt isn't enough or too plain, a cotton chore coat makes a great stand-in. Between this and an unstructured blazer one of the most notable differences is just the lack of a traditional blazer's notch lapel. The result is a look that feels like an intentional layer but not dressy.
As an alt for a denim trucker jacket
When many say “denim jacket” what they really mean is a denim trucker jacket, but there are lots of great denim jackets that aren't truckers and lots of great truckers that aren't denim. A denim chore coat offers a distinctive departure without feeling out of place in day-to-day life.
In a casual outfit as an alternative to a shirt jacket or sweater
When it comes to the generally limited options of everyday men's style, having one more is always welcome. If you regularly wear flannels, shirt jackets, or shawl collar cardigans and are looking for an alternative either just for a visual change up or for a difference in weight, a chore coat makes an effortless swap.
Our Men's Chore Coat Picks
Keeping things visually consistent with the chore coat’s origins is always welcomed, and this take from Spier & MacKay details why this European classic has quickly become a modern menswear staple. This traditionally cut chore coat in 100% linen features spacious exterior and interior pockets for easy access, the cut is roomy, and the big buttons ensure ease of use.
Old Navy goes back by giving this coat a vintage . The 98% cotton jacket has a snap front closure and huge pockets to stash plenty of gear. The boxier silhouette means more room throughout the chest for an easy fit.
Made in San Francisco of legacy American-made Cone Mills Denim, Tellason's denim chore coat is just as drool-worthy as their famed jeans. Made of 14 oz non-sanforized selvedge denim, this classic design represents a stylish non-trucker denim jacket.
The mall department store brand's budget-friendly interpretation of the chore coat combines old school silhouette with 2% elastane for modern comfort. The large buttons and point collar also retain the customary chore coat look.
Count on the iconic American jeans brand to come out with a minimalist but handsome version of the chore coat. This coat is the perfect layer for microclimates, with a mid-weight feel to the fabric. The rugged silhouette features a fold down collar and three front pockets to bring together form and function to this signature style.
The Ojai jacket embodies just about everything we love about a modern chore jacket because it honors tradition while adding style and versatility points without deviating from what made the chore coat so great to begin with. Pre-washed and properly faded 8-oz. 100% organic cotton is soft, and the Ojai’s cut is just the right amount of roomy. It all gets punctuated with slick black ring-buttons that use real brass, bar-tacked pockets, and double stitching all over. Getting it dirty and faded will only add to its character, but we’re guessing you’ll take really good care of it.
This navy denim version embodies traditional chore coat style, rugged materials, and American craftsmanship. The thick 12oz. Cotton duck fabric jacket is crafted in Bristol, Tennessee, and the style features pewter riveted seams and pockets with big pewter buttons and beautiful white contrast threading. There’s a simple single interior pocket, and button cuffs to roll back. It’s unlined, roomy, and versatile for both work and play.
When it comes to balancing the time-honored design of a chore coat with modern sensibilities, Everlane's Organic Cotton Chore Coat sets the bar high. Crafted from 100% organic cotton, this garment presents an eco-conscious choice that doesn't skimp on quality. The coat's herringbone texture lends it a tactile richness, while its French navy color offers a sophisticated nod to the style's roots. Designed with dropped shoulders, the coat achieves a relaxed look that's versatile enough for both errand runs and casual outings. Pair it with your favorite jeans or chinos, and you have a look that's timeless yet distinctly your own.
A menswear design with modern comfort, this broken-in, green glen plaid chore coat is 100% linen. Coming from one of our favorite men's clothing brands, Todd Snyder, it's an upgrade piece you'll love for years.
The uncompromising craftsmanship of the ASKET Overshirt is what elevates this workwear piece to a more sophisticated and intentional wardrobe staple. The military grade fabric is tailored from 100% organic cotton which is then gently washed down to eliminate shrinkage, and the finish is an amazing soft handfeel that you are going to love wearing. Three spacious front pockets honor the rugged utility of this straight cut, classic style.