“Universal Threads”: a series spotlighting "U.W classics" and exploring common threads running through each of our collections. The format is simple: a category, a rail of products and a light-hearted conversation between U.W brand founder, David Keyte and design journalist, Leanne Cloudsdale.
In the next episode of the Universal Threads series, we unravel the inspiration behind the Bakers Jacket, the origins of which are deep-rooted in UW co-founder David Keyte’s personal history books and design journalist Leanne Cloudsdale's take on the evolution of this much-loved jacket.
Film Maker - Joe Wheatley.
Words by Leanne Cloudsdale.
Regardless of season, the rails in my wardrobe remain at 70% jackets. Woe betide anyone who tries to peel me away from the outerwear department when we’re out shopping. Me and coats are inextricably linked. They’re an extension of ‘the self’, a signal to the world about the stuff you’re into, a signpost pointing to the person you really are.
In this zone, there’s a tricky part that’s hard to nail. Get it right and you’re sailing. Get it wrong, and you’re a badly dressed troll under the bridge of aesthetic anxiety. This, my friends, is the void between smart and casual – sometimes referred to as ‘smasual’. It takes confidence to walk this beaten path with your head held high, but more than that, it requires the perfect mid-weight layer. A piece that makes you feel finished, without being formal. A garment that offers the right amount of shoulder definition, without making you feel like a 1980s runway model. But what - I hear you whisper - is the name of this ‘mystical’ garment? Well comrades, it goes by the name of the Bakers Jacket, otherwise known by the Universal Works crew, as the stuff of workwear legend.
If you’ve managed to get to 2022 without owning one, I salute you. How you’ve managed it, is anyone’s guess (shipwrecked, perhaps? Living in a wi-fi dead spot? Stranded on the island of Sark with a double puncture since 2008?). Anyway, you’re here now, reading this, so let David Keyte and I help explain the virtues of this egalitarian essential, in part 4 of the Universal Threads series.
The Bakers Jacket is a Universal Works core classic that hovers comfortably in the “I’ve made an effort” part of every stylish man’s wardrobe. Purposeful and pretty much timeless, it’s the one garment most blokes would struggle to live without. Its continuous inclusion in the Universal Works collections comes down to the sheer wearability - people love the shape, the pockets, the comfort and the fact that it feels a bit, shall we say, ‘iconic’. Jackets like these make you feel less lazy. Pop one on and as if by magic, you at least look like you’re about to do something worthwhile (even if it is only going down to the supermarket).
UW People - All looking great in variations of the Bakers Jacket.
Strangely, for something so bloody fashionable, its design is firmly rooted in practicality and comfort – and definitely nowt to do with the way we look. These are what blokes wore to do serious hard graft in, especially during the so-called Fordist era between the 1920s – 1970s. Think economic growth. Mass production (whether that be cars or loaves of bread). They were built for daily toil, not for being sat on your arse, scrolling through your phone.
Anyways. It’s a modern world. We’re modern people. Things have moved on. Blokes don’t wear flat caps on building sites anymore and you can’t smoke at work. They call it ‘progress’. The chore jacket lives on though. A phoenix rising up from the (derelict) foundry flames. It works. Feels real. Always looks authentic. Pockets-a-plenty to stash your tools in – or just your house keys and a Mars bar.
UW founder David Keyte and I banged our heads together in front of the camera (again) and talked about the origins of the Bakers Jacket. To unravel the spark of inspiration, he took us back to November 2008 and explained, “When I was working on the designs for the first collection, I had 25 years’ worth of ideas stored in my brain. I’d worked with some of the best names in U.K. men’s fashion, but never on my own terms, or on my own collection.
Sam from our Coal Drop Yard retail team wearing Bakers Jacket in Cumin Cord.
I never wanted the Universal Works collections to be about high fashion or excessive design, but instead, about working clothes that reminded me of the simple, stylish, weekend garments I watched my father and uncles dress in when I was a kid. They weren’t rich, but liked to wear good clothes; with a nice bit of tweed and polished shoes on a weekend. But it was the everyday garments of their working lives that influenced that first collection. In reality, what they were wearing was probably dated by the time I saw them, as they were still dressed in fifties and early sixties clothes in the seventies!
I began with a simple everyday “Work Jacket”. Back then everybody’s idea of a work jacket was the French blue version, the US Chore Jacket or Engineers Jacket. The one I designed was in that same mould but I remembered the curved sleeves of my dad’s work jacket from years of wear so I added darted sleeves to achieve this more ergonomic shape. Essentially it was the same simple work jacket I’d had in my head all those years except with a few more considered touches.
Bakers Jacket stop motion film made by Allan Buxton with Universal Works.
Once the jacket was taking shape, the pattern made, samples in work, I needed to give it a name. The Work Jacket would have been the obvious choice, but I wanted it to be a nod towards my old man, and not only did he work really hard he also had a skilled job; he was a Baker. So that was it, the Bakers Jacket was born. It is a hard-working simple jacket, much like my Dad was a hard-working simple guy, what you saw was what you got.
The UW Bakers Jacket isn’t an ode to those generic “heritage” manual work styles, it’s more like the bread my father made - a great everyday staple. We make new iterations every season in a variety of fabrics and I hope we continue to make it for a few more years to come.”
Copy that! See you at the coal face (or the coffee shop).