While not all that well-know stateside, Folk Clothing is something of a cult men’s and women’s casual wear brand from the UK, with several stores in London and a substantial following in Japan and continental Europe. Their designs tend to be solid, ageless pieces with a strong emphasis on post-workwear and military-influenced looks.
In many ways it’s very similar territory to the understated, utilitarian output of several other British brands, such as YMC (You Must Create), 6876, and even Margaret Howell. Although, in its adherence to staid functionalism and simplicity, Folk makes Howell’s designs appear positively sexy by contrast (no mean feat!).
I’ll be honest though that some Folk items are just too sedate for my tastes: standard rain Macs with a very regular (read uninteresting) fit; generic cotton sweats and tees; yet another M65 field jacket remake. All garments offered by countless other designers that do little to set my blood racing. And with the launch of the H&M Group’s “modern standards” Arket label last year, this terrain is now more saturated than ever before.
However, anyone successfully peddling such traditional, minimalist wares for so long clearly understands that the continued existence of their business depends upon developing an exceptional eye for detail and maintaining high production standards. After all, once all modish gimmickry and superfluous decoration has been stripped away from clothing design, what else remains but the cut, cloth, and construction?
And it’s here that Folk so often distinguishes itself. I’ve purchased half a dozen pieces from the brand over the last few years. Of which several are shirts. As simple as these items are, it’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into their design, with interesting pocket and collar details, decorative use of darts, outstanding fabric, and a signature white hem gusset featuring the Folk logo. All of these shirts see regular use and yet still look great five or six years down the road.
Without a doubt though, my favorite Folk piece is a gray denim jacket. I’ve probably made more use of this piece than any other item currently in my closet. I’ve worn it open on summer evenings at the beach, or under a heavy coat in the fall. It looks great with almost everything, However, rather than dressing it down for a streetier look, I tend to pair it with more elegant pieces, like wool dress pants and leather oxfords.
Despite its clear workwear origins, the details of this jacket elevate it beyond the merely functional: an adjustable rear cinch buckle, and bar tack stitching on the front plackets. It’s a rugged-looking piece that, while very soft and comfortable to wear, gives the impression that it was made to withstand the strain of hard work.
It was never my intention to put this theory to the test, however an unfortunate run-in with a clumsy customer in the paint department of a big box chain store a couple of years back left the jacket saturated in deep lavender enamel. Both outside and inside (yeah, beats me too).
The store manager told me to get back to him with my cleaning bill, or to let him know what a new jacket had cost me, and assured me that all would be swiftly put right. In reality, he spent the next two months fobbing me off with BS excuses, passing the buck to head office and the insurance company, or just outright avoiding me.
Under some other circumstances, perhaps I would go to an attorney and make the store pay out for my ruined clothes. But up to my neck in debt, and with a significant home improvement project to finish before I could even take a day off, I had more pressing matters to worry about. Eventually I just let it drop: no doubt precisely as the store manager hoped I would.
While all the other items I was wearing at the time went straight in the trash, this jacket actually cleaned up pretty well in the end. Or, rather, the damage is not totally out of place on a rugged piece of denim of this kind.
There are still numerous flecks of Mystic Purple here and there on the outside, and for some reason a great deal more of the paint that wouldn’t wash out of the inside. But over time the original psychedelic hue has somewhat faded to gray, blending in with the uneven wash of the denim.
It’s not quite the classy piece of outerwear it was before I found myself lying in a pool of violet, but as I’ve continued to wear it frequently, and the denim has become softer and a more ragged, the light staining isn’t entirely out of place. Meanwhile, the heavy scrubbing session that was required to remove most of the paint didn’t take much of a toll on the denim fabric itself.
Certainly, looking at the materials and construction, there are still a few years of life left in the jacket. There’s some fraying at the button holes, and the black paint has worn off many of the buttons themselves, revealing the brass underneath. Also the cat’s claws have inflicted a few injuries of their own here and there. But overall it’s holding up very well for an item that has been worn almost constantly for the last five years. There’s certainly no sign that the stitching has in any way weakened.
If I could find this Folk jacket secondhand, I’d buy it. Although ideally in a size 3 this time, for wearing over a sweater in Winter (the size 2 is very fitted).
Their current denim jacket is less appealing, with a minimalist design and overly dominant zipper down the front. On top of which, the only color way available is a bog standard mid-indigo. So the hunt continues…