,

Working Class Streetwear Hero: the evolution of Workwear.
Facebook
Twitter
LinkedIn

Date

The first models genuinely inspired by Workwear arrived during the Second World War, thanks to the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli and her "Cash and Carry" collection: exquisitely Haute Couture dresses and suits characterized by large pockets and zips, capable of holding the equivalent of a handbag inside them.

Born for miners, loved by fashion designers. We celebrate International Workers’ Day by retracing the path that workwear has taken to become a streetwear statement.

A symbol of equality that soon became an inspiration for fashion designers all over the world, workwear has existed for millennia, but with the first industrial revolution (late 1700s) the advent of the system of product manufacture, production and forms of organization and division of labour set a well-structured process in motion that also involved the uniforms used by workers in the metalworking industries, by miners, in workshops and so on.

In fact, the functional models that we commonly know as work uniforms date back to the beginning of the 19th century, which included garments with durable fabrics – such as cotton canvas and denim – with lots of pockets (without locks) for easy storage of tools.

A new social class – with their own dwellings in designated areas close to the industries, their own hobbies when not engaged in the exhausting and time-consuming work; they are recognizable by the rugged fabric jackets and wide trousers they wear: it is the Working Class.

The first mass-produced working garments were patented by Levi Strauss, namely the dungarees and the denim trousers: they both had copper rivets and seems to be sturdier and stronger, and several pockets on the legs and hips. They spread mainly in the American West among miners, farmers, factory workers, until they became – in modern times – probably the two most worn streetwear garments in the world.
From the 1930s onwards, with the rise of class struggles, trade unions and the involvement of intellectuals in the often inhuman conditions of the working class, workwear took on a social significance: many public personalities, such as writers, thinkers, artists, wore workwear jackets or trousers to demonstrate their closeness to the workers’ cause.

These include the famous Siren Suit of 1944 worn by Winston Churchill, a great advocate of workwear as practical casual wear, which later became the iconic jumpsuit, with zips or buttons.

László Moholy-Nagy in a workers sirens suit at Bauhaus, 1925

Many artists, especially Soviet ones, adopted work uniforms for ideological reasons, among them Aleksandr Rodchenko, László Moholy-Nagy and Archizoom Associates, who created garments to contain a tool kit for painting: the uniform became a symbol of equality with a double meaning, practical and idealistic, uniting different categories of work, not only the humblest ones.

The first collection in the history of fashion inspired by Workwear.

From its diffusion among intellectuals to the world of fashion, the step was short: this type of clothing became a source of inspiration for some of the world’s most famous designers.

Elsa Schiaparelli Carry & Cash collection, first workwear collection of the history of fashion - 1940 at pluriverse
Elsa Schiaparelli ‘Cash & Carry’ first Workwear collection – 1940

The first models genuinely inspired by Workwear arrived during the Second World War, thanks to the Italian designer Elsa Schiaparelli and her “Cash and Carry” collection: exquisitely Haute Couture dresses and suits characterized by large pockets and zips, capable of holding the equivalent of a handbag inside them, a collection accompanied by a revolutionary fashion show that would change the course of fashion.

Yohji Yamamoto Workers collection Spring-Summer 1983

This was followed by Yohji Yamamoto‘s work from the 1970s onwards, which was strongly influenced by the working class: a style that was also a perfect match for minimalism and Japanese rigour, chosen by the designer as exemplifying his ideal of design.

Again Helmut Lang, Martin Margiela and Raf Simons in the Eighties and Nineties mixed robust fabrics and oversize silhouettes with tailored garments.

Helmut Lang workwear jumper F/W 1999

From the catwalks, workwear made its way to streetwear fashion: it was brands such as C.P. Company and Stone Island that included integrated welder’s lenses on the collars and hoods of technical jackets; introducing anatomical down jackets to protect the most exposed parts of the body.

Martin Margiela FW2020 Workewear Collection

Streetwear brands such as Levi’s, Dickies, Carhartt and Caterpillar (to name but a few), did nothing more than convert their historic uniform factories into streetwear, bringing their companies, which started out mostly in the late 1800s as uniform manufacturers, to the present day.

Carhartt Wip x Vetements fashion show – 2017

From the overalls of the miners of the first industrial revolution, to the aprons worn by the greatest artists of the 20th century, to the fashion shows and streetwear of the 21st century, workwear has never lost its strong and functional personality that has accompanied us to this day.

The Working Class Hero is the hero who saved Workwear fashion: from production to diffusion to fame.

More
articles

Join
Pluriverse

Subscribe to our newsletter

© Pluriverse 2024
Registered office: Via Romaniello 21/B, Napoli (NA), Italy | N. REA: NA 823189
Privacy