It is no secret that El's & Co., in a former iteration as El's Vintage Workwear, was born of a love of vintage workwear, specifically the French worker jacket.
With over a decade of deep-diving into minimalism and simple living, I looked for forever pieces. Capsule is a bit of a buzz word, but why not - a capsule wardrobe, and when I stumbled across the uniformity, simplicity and durability of my first vintage worker jacket, I was hooked.
They say comparison is the thief of time, and I'd like to posit that choice is too. It has always been a telling sign for me that if I can't decide what to wear, I have too many clothes. I want a Simpson's character wardrobe - the same thing, in order, in multiples, but not too many.
The history of French workwear dates back to the late 1800s. As industry was developing at a break-neck speed, so too was the requirement of durable, practical and protective over garments.
The worker jacket was born and could be found on the backs of pretty much any worker: railway, farm hand, carpenter, factory worker.
Le Mont St. Michael developed a specific combed cotton in the early 1900s, later dubbed moleskin, which was and is favoured for its hardiness, wind resistance and water resistance (from the very tight weave of cotton).
I find it mind-boggling, in a world of fast fashion, that I am able to get my hands on jackets from the 1940s and 50s that are in pretty much as good shape today as they were then.
To think of myself as a custodian of such a jacket that will last me my lifetime, is a warming thought, and continues to satisfy my minimalist desires ten fold.
2. Everyday Wear
Bring back the term normcore! I've been wearing a worker jacket most days for the past 4.5 years and nobody has batted an eyelid. Throw them over my one of two pairs of jeans, the same trainers, and again - nothing.
Pieces of vintage French workwear, specifically the vintage worker jacket, is the ultimate everyday wear item: it goes over a tee with shorts in the summer, it fits under my Barbour in the winter. In my opinion, their prime-time outing is spring and autumn when you want that little extra layer.
The French worker jacket is endlessly cool. They've been in our fashion periphery, I'd say since the 50s with Paul Newman decked out in one in the film Cool Hand Luke. We also associate the late photographer Bill Cunningham as a a stalwart fan of the practical piece. Oh, and Monty Don, and architect Piers Taylor.
Today you'll find rails of Bleu de Travail in any respecting vintage shop, and many retailers have created their rendition - reflecting their staple status.
3. The Environment
It makes for harrowing reading to learn that the fashion industry is pegged as the second most damaging industry to our planet. This is just one statistic that... I have no words for. I won't bombard you with more, but please read Lucy Siegle's To Die For: Is Fashion Wearing Out the World (and buy it from your local book shop - deliberately not linking to Amazon!).
It seems to me, that with the phrase Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, we as a society are het up on the recycle bit, forgetting the two words before it. Buying a vintage worker jacket that you can wear everyday represents the reduce, and reuse? Yes, wear it everyday!
4. The Hunt
To partake in "shopping" as a minimalist caused me a bit of a value-conflict for a long time, but this business allows an outlet for my acquisitions. And boy, do I love the hunt. It's been a journey - lots of people ask where I get them from, and "all over" doesn't cover it! It's a joy, and I get to call it work.
Keep your eyes peeled for more vintage wear which will sneak its way on to the site sometime soon.