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What is a utility jacket?

What is a utility jacket?

In a nutshell

A utility jacket is a practical piece that’s commonly made in denim or toughed wax canvas – two materials built to combat inclement weather. They’re usually cut fairly boxy, with a collar and a buttoned-down front. Expect at least four pockets and a blue collar edge to your look.


Utility jackets were first developed in the early 20th century for American farmhands, who spent a lot of time working outside. And, as a result, they needed something warm, protective and with a lots of pockets to stow their tools.

Though nobody can be certain of a specific inventor, brands such as Carhartt and Dickies were among the first to mass-produce the utility jacket, and became synonymous with the style. Since workwear has become a style worn by guys who don’t work in factories, they’ve adopted the utility jacket as an any-weather favourite. It’s found a new home as a contemporary menswear staple that can be dressed up or down at will. Plus, those pockets are still quite handy.

How to wear it well

Since the farmhand days, utility jackets have moved onto pastures new. Options are made in a multitude of fabrics, cuts and shades – ideal if you want to experiment with colour in something that’s already easy to wear.

But even so, you should avoid the temptation to change styles too abruptly. “Keep the utility jacket within the workwear trend,” says Thread stylist Millie Rich. “They work best with like-minded products such as chambray shirts, raw selvedge denim and workwear boots such as Red Wings.”

Just remember to look out for features that made the utility jacket so essential in the first place. “Seasonal traits such as padding are better-suited for colder months,” says Millie. “Then downgrade to lighter versions in when the weather gets warmer.”