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plate 18 sailor 1986.232
plate 16 drover 1986.232
outfit 1992.150

Practical jackets in wool, cotton or fustian and worn for heavy outdoor manual work originated in the early to mid nineteenth century, and were known by a variety of different names. From the eighteenth century if not earlier, pilot coats and pea jackets were worn by sailors as slop clothing, unfitted and usually double breasted for warmth; these were adopted by working men from the 1830s and known as reefers or monkey jackets. It was only in the twentieth century that the term "donkey jacket" caught on, probably because the wearers were seen as all-round dogs-body labourers, hard working like the long-suffering donkey.

Navvies probably first wore such working jackets en masse from the 1830s when they were employed across Britain to excavate the railways. They wore cotton moleskin trousers, double canvas shirts, velveret waistcoats, and often a reefer coat or jacket in wool or thick cotton. Today, construction workers and road builders wear a rather similar jacket in black felted wool, often with an applied yoke in yellow or orange PVC for visibility. Matching waterproof over-trousers complete the outfit.

Full item descriptions:

"Picturesque Representations of the Dress and Manners of the English" [1986.232], Murray, Mr John, W. Bulmer & Co.
"building worker's outfit" [1992.150/2]

Related Themes:

Clothes for Work
Victorian Photographs: Occupational