The advent of spring

It has been an annus horribilis to end all annusses horribilis, but it seems to be coming to a close with shoots here and there of hope and of optimism. Nowhere is this true more than at the outerwear factory, where, in a dip in production capacity this month, not one but four new jackets have not only gone into work, but come out the other side, too. Jackets with one eye on spring, these — albeit spring in England, which most days doesn’t look very much like the spring in the picture-books.

There’s the SB3, for starters, which is back again in tropical worsted from various hyper-specific locations in North and West Yorkshire. The workshop has seen few more tenacious materials. It is full of springiness and a hint of the stubborn, gruff qualities of the sheep from which its yarn was spun. It is joined this time by a similar if not identical cloth from another mill which does its weaving in the same part of the country: this one an organic, undyed variant, which even more than the former appears as if woollen from a distance, but is up close a fresh and bouncy worsted, arguably good for all times of year.

There’s more than that, though. There’s the flight jacket, too, which was last seen without a collar in weatherproof ripstop two years ago, and before that, with a collar and in a fetching two-tone of cotton sail-cloth and woollen melton. The version newly made comes both with and without a collar, and the reason for this both of whimsy and purpose. The design has been tightened up all over the place, in truth, from the placket to the pockets to the way its bomber-like body is eased into the hem-band. It resembles increasing the English Harrington, with further distance between it and the jackets work and trucker.

The third jacket waiting in the wings until at least Christmas is out of the way is a double-breasted, semi-tailored jacket, known henceforth as the DB. It is an ancestor of the good old SB1, which itself started life as a hybrid of formal jacket and work jacket — most tellingly in the large pockets and the casual shoulders. The DB is very much in the family tradition, and will appear in the New Year in a light, fine-wale corduroy from Lancashire.

Pains are made here to ensure that coats are definitely not, under any circumstance, jackets, but they’re still close enough and newsworthy enough to merit mention here. The car coat recently underwent its third revamp, returning it to its raglan roots, and cloth from Scotland arrived last week so that the first sample, and thus the first proper test of the new design, can be made. No cloth at the factory has ever so much resembled cardboard (and that’s saying something). And there’s a very long new coat development in work, as well. Just coming to the end of development, in fact, which is mostly just working out how the body lining slots into place. It’s not just “very long” — if it comes to fruition, it will be by some distance the longest coat on offer at the workshop. And so, also with a long back yoke and an apron design over the shoulders, it is sure to use plenty of cloth. As the collection at the workshop slowly grows, and all the predictable or classic members of a gentleman’s wardrobe are present, designs are becoming more niche or arcane: this one is certainly no exception, inspired as it is on the outdoors-wear of antipodean cowboys.

That’s five articles of outerwear, then, all waiting in the wings, and not even to mention the pyjama top (which as everyone knows has nothing to do with nightwear and is in fact a sturdy mid-layer, if not a full-blown jacket) making its return in the same cotton-linen hopsack used last year for the shopcoat and field shirt. Getting through the year has at times felt like wading through the unmentionable, or like doing week-long laps on a hamster wheel — but it is closing out at a giddying clip. The only downside of being so ahead of schedule is the pressing question of where on earth to keep it all: the collection might have grown year on year for the past decade, but the workshop resolutely hasn’t.