Donkey jacket in sail-canvas / heavy melton in camel

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£460.00 — ex VAT

Donkey jacket, made in London, with heavy melton from Somerset, cotton sail-canvas from Scotland, a lining of melton from West Yorkshire, and horn buttons from the Midlands.


The jacket is intended to be a relaxed fit, for layering in cold weather. Consider going down a size only if you intend to wear it over just, say, a shirt. The mannequin here — as standard a size 38 as ever there was — is wearing size S.

To fit chest 36 38 40 42 44
Pit-to-pit 20 21 22 23 24
Back length 28½ 28¾ 29 29¼ 29½
Sleeve from centre-back 34 34½ 35 35½ 36
The donkey jacket is rooted in donkey jackets of yore: a two-tone number, and a workwear mainstay in England through most of the last century. It is a five-button jacket, whose upper half is one cloth, lower half is another, and whose big departure from its ancestors is a seamless shoulder.
The donkey jacket has a very substantial collar. It is pointed with round corners. It may be worn all the way up (as left) when it hugs the neck at the back and sides, and really cuts out the cold. Or, of course, it may be worn down (as above). Even then, in repose, it stands proud, rather than limp and apologetic.
The buttons are horn — dark tortoiseshell in colour and matte in finish. Being as they are an entirely natural thing, each looks a little different, one to the next, varying in tone, hue, and striatic marking. Same goes for the little hand-sewn backing buttons (below-left) which serve to strengthen those at the front.
There are five pockets at the front of the donkey jacket. Most obvious are the jetted flap pockets, which are at waist height (above-right). You can't miss them. Below them, out of sight, are warmer pockets (right) which are built into the side-seams, and are chief candidates for the plunging-in of hands.
A small pocket up at the chest, on the chest seam. And this seam, incidentally, is what divides the upper and lower parts of the jacket. The former is cotton sail-canvas, 14oz in weight. It is a serious barrier versus rain, sleet, and snow — all the while being light and breathable. It runs halfway down the jacket sleeve, too.
There's no shoulder seam on the jacket. No raglan, no in-set, no nothing. Good for keeping out the rain, then, and so aiding and abetting the sail-canvas. The complete absence of a seam also means that the jacket has the softest imaginable shoulder: for better or worse, it rolls over the natural lines of the wearer.
The jacket is half-lined with melton — a hard-wearing material, full of character and gnarled grey yarn — from a mill in the Heavy Woollen District of West Yorkshire. It is a fine outer cloth in its own right, but here is happy to play backup to its even thicker, heavier, and slightly smarter older brother.
The heavy camel cloth, up close. It is woven with worsted-spun yarn, and so has a wonderful lustre about it. No plain duffle cloth or heavy melton, this. It is also very heavily milled, so those fine strands of yarn are coaxed together, making an already thick cloth denser and denser and, yes, denser still.

As worn

Him, here — a shade over 6" tall, 11 stone, and a card-carrying member of the 38 chest club — is wearing the donkey jacket over a chunky lambswool sweater in size S, and it is just about the perfect fit.
Same man, same jacket, same size.

Makers of

The jacket is made by an outerwear factory in north-east London. It is specialised skill, assembling jackets from thick and heavy cloth. The idea is to make something which truly lasts — all highly durable making techniques, heavy fusing, and turned seams — without the result being stiff or bulky.
The cloth is woven in Somerset by one of the most illustrious names in British textiles. It is a mill which has woven for the great and good for two centuries and, in particular, has long had a thumb in the pie of military cloth — putting in the largest order for textiles, no less, during the Second World War.
The wool lining hails from a mill founded in the Heavy Woollen District of West Yorkshire in the 1800s. Carding, blending, spinning, and weaving — it all happens on the same premises. This unique arrangement means that the fleece’s change into top-grade cloth could not be more tightly tuned.
The horn buttons were cut, shaped, and polished by the last such factory in Britain (now defunct). It was part of a tradition in the Midlands first linked to the meat industry of the 18th century. "It is no easy task," said William Hutton in 1780, "to enumerate the infinite diversity of buttons made in Birmingham."

So they say

I just picked up the two items from post office. Fantastic. The donkey jacket is so handsome. I've never had a light colour jacket before, but it is so easy to wear with anything.

So said a gent in Japan who acquired the donkey jacket in manila-colour sail-canvas in March 2018.