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I AM a shirt jacket evangelist. I own more of them than I would care to admit, and even if I don’t believe everyone out there should dig themselves quite as deep into this particular sartorial rabbit hole as I have, I’m a staunch believer in every closet containing at least one. Maybe two. Eh, call it three.
When it comes to which shirt jackets should fill these positions, options and opinions abound. Some folks will argue the three-pocket chore coat, which started as a worker’s garment in late-19th century France, fits the bill. I love a chore coat, but I’m not sure I agree. When I’m talking shirt jackets, I’m talking about something, well…shirtier. Something with a familiar-looking button-front, a curved hem, and a flap pocket or two on the chest. Something like Line of Trade’s CPO jacket, which traces its design cues back nearly 100 years and should be slotted into your outerwear rotation with all due speed.
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A wool-blend exterior is made even warmer thanks to 60 GSM polyfill insulation.
It’s Steeped in Military—and Menswear—History.
Like so many other style stalwarts—trench coats, field jackets, chinos—the CPO jacket’s roots can be traced back to the armed forces. In this case, it’s the U.S. Navy, which issued heavyweight wool overshirts to chief petty officers—hence the name “CPO”— starting back in the 1930s. The shirt was a staple through World War II and the post-war era, eventually filtering into civilian life the same way those other standard-issue items did, with folks wearing their old uniform items casually until they became a staple. The style kept going strong for a couple more decades, but flagged in popularity until recent years, when designers, direct-to-consumer brands, and mall mainstays alike all started making their own versions. Put another way: this thing’s got pedigree. And when it comes to building a lasting wardrobe, focusing on styles that have already proven they can stand the test of time is always a winning move.
It features classic shirt jacket details like a buttoned, barrel cuff.
It’s Not Stuck in the Past.
Now that we’ve unpacked the story behind the CPO jacket, let’s take a moment to acknowledge that Line of Trade’s riff on the style isn’t overly beholden to history. It’s got the dual flap pockets that came to define the style, sure, but that’s not all; a couple of handwarmer pockets sit at the hip so your fingers won’t freeze if you forget your gloves this winter. And instead of relying solely on the heavyweight wool-blend exterior for warmth, it’s finished with an insulated lining, so you’ll be extra toasty. And though navy was the preferred color for government-issue CPO jackets (not exactly shocking, I know), this one comes in a deep bluish green that’s both subdued and thoroughly modern.
Handwarmer pockets are an essential on extra-cold days.
It’s a Cold-Weather-Wardrobe Utility player.
When I say this shirt jacket can pretty much do it all, I mean that in a few different ways. Functionally, it’ll keep you warm without overheating on brisk fall days when you toss it on over a T-shirt or button-up. Layer a sweater or hoodie under it and you’re prepared for early winter. And when the world goes into full freeze, it’s time to stop treating it as an outer layer and pull a topcoat over it for some serious protection from Mother Nature. Play your cards right, and you can easily squeeze three seasons of consistent wear out of this thing. And as for what to wear it with? Well, it’s basically a shirt in a not-quite-neutral hue that’ll look great with everything save for the brightest of greens and blues. (Even then, who am I to judge anyone for a little power-clashing?) What I’m getting at, here, as you’ve no doubt already surmised, is that the thing is versatile. Dress it up with high-waisted, pleated trousers and loafers. Dress it down with well-worn jeans and a pair of Chucks. Have fun with it, because unlike those sailors from a century ago, you’re not in uniform—though you might wind up wearing it so often it feels like you are.
Jonathan Evans is the style director of Esquire, covering all things fashion, grooming, accessories, and, of course, sneakers. He lives in Brooklyn with his wife and son. You can follow him at @MrJonathanEvans on Twitter and Instagram.
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