The humble donkey jacket has undergone something of a fashion revolution since its first appearance on the market. Once a staple piece for miners and canal workers, throughout the decades this timeless coat has graced the back of many people from different walks of life.
One thing is for sure, this style isn’t going away anytime soon. But just how did it become the fashion icon it is today?
This guide covers everything you need to know about the donkey jacket. From what it is, how it got its name, who invented it, how to style it and care instructions.
What is a donkey jacket?
From conception in the 1880s to modern day, the donkey jacket has been a mainstay style for many, plus the long history with the working class is an intriguing story.
The donkey jacket has always carried a certain association with working-class life. It was most famously worn by miners throughout the decades, featuring vibrant orange patches, reflective strips on the arms and shoulders, and NCB (National Coal Board) on the back. This historical jacket also bears a legacy in the history of clothing for manual workers, normally made from woolsack in a dark colour such as black or navy with leather shoulder panels and back.
It’s often regarded as typical wear for British manual workers. However, contemporary wear has broadened the donkey jacket sphere by its popularity in skinhead culture in the 1970s
Who invented the donkey jacket?
Donkey jackets were originally made for workers in the late 1800s by George Key, a small bespoke tailor who was tasked with creating a coat for workers that could withstand the cold northern weather on the Manchester Ship Canal. John Partridge, the owner of the keystone workers on the canal, has also been attributed to its design in history.
The donkey jacket was a new type of coat, specifically designed from hardwearing material to ensure it withstood the working and weather conditions.
Its name has two meanings. The 'donkey' jacket refers to the laborious work undertaken by the Manchester Ship Canal workers wearing it, but it also relates to the donkey engines the workers used.
How to wear a donkey jacket
Dress it up or wear it to work, donkey jackets are versatile and suited to all occasions. What’s more, the style is guaranteed to ensure every wearer stays warm throughout the harshest of winters.
Choose a lightweight style such as the Moss Donkey Jacket to see you through autumn, winter and spring. The additional feature of deep pockets ensures that whatever the wearer needs is right beside them.
Our Classic Donkey Jacket provides a fresh take on the style, bridging the gap between a shirt and a jacket. The perfect transitional piece and when it is unfeasible to bring a thick jacket or coat out. Pair with a crisp t-shirt and jeans for the perfect springtime ensemble for your inaugural pub trip when it’s warm enough to sit outdoors.
For a more fitted silhouette, take a look at our Women’s Donkey Jacket. At the intersection between comfort and practicality, it’s the ideal outerwear to throw on when it gets a bit colder. Why not combine with a midi, ditsy floral dress, ankle boots or trainers?
How to wash a donkey jacket
As most high-quality donkey jackets are made predominantly with wool, we recommend only specialist dry cleaning to clean your jacket. If you choose to hand wash your donkey jacket, do not use softener or bleach. Strictly do not tumble dry either. For spot stain removal, wipe your donkey jacket clean with a damp cloth and line dry.
Where can I buy a donkey jacket?
Nowadays, the humble donkey jacket has shed the working-class association, and contemporary styles and colours have emerged victorious. The variety of styles, colours, and fabrics have ensured donkey jackets became an essential wardrobe piece for men from the tips of Scotland to the southernmost point of the UK.
The range available is vast and elegant. For example, the Collins Donkey Jacket is crafted from the finest Italian Melton wool with dry wax cotton patches to encompass the original style features.
It’s not hard to see that the future for donkey jackets is bright. With contemporary styles designed and crafted using the finest wool, each individual coat is perfect to layer over chunky knits or lighter shirts and t-shirts when the weather turns milder.