Donkey work

The word workmanlike was used to describe the duffle coat last month, but its prosaic chops are as nothing next to that of the donkey jacket — a garment whose very name, from middling 20th-century uniform association to hapless equine connotation, is so redolent of hard graft.

Here, though, its grubbier-than-thou pretensions are shaken up in every way conceivable. This is a donkey jacket, yes — but not as we know it. Indeed, allusions to the donkey jacket orthodoxy are given up the second it deviates from the prescription of patch pockets, tartan lining, and PVC shoulders. But just as well, because what an exciting world, the world of donkey jackets liberated from the strictures of mid-century workwear homage.

The key thing with this donkey jacket is its whole-cut upper body, with back, front, shoulder, and sleeve, all cut unbroken from one piece of cloth. It is a type of construction sometimes seen on hunting jackets or, oddly, old dressing-gowns — and more often than not is accompanied by a seam across the chest, which here is extended by one across the sleeve, too, at the same height. This gives the jacket the two-tone signature of the jackets with which it shares its name. The construction also gives the donkey jacket a casual and easygoing feel, and a cut which capably flatters the broad and slight of shoulder alike.

After that, everything else slots into place. Seams run down the inside-front, both bringing shape to proceedings, and facilitating the addition of hard-to-see warmer pockets. Either would invite stiff disciplinary action from the union, but for life outside it, better that function takes precedence over idealised notions of the form. And surely all is forgiven with a collar so whopping it nearly but not quite unbalances the whole thing.

The donkey jacket of today comes in heavy overcoating and sail-cloth. Be not under-whelmed by its short and single-breasted appearance: like the neighbouring flight jacket, the heft of its outer materials, coupled with its fully faced interior, adorned with melton wool from West Yorkshire, makes for something very warm indeed. The donkey jacket of tomorrow, meanwhile, is currently in work. It is a spring version, which relocates the sail-cloth to the lower half, and introduces a new material — matching, of course — up top.