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The Vulpine French Workers Jacket is a cycling-friendly take on a design classic. Able to be dressed up or down, for working or Being Seen – on or off the bike – it's cracking value for what you get.
Dating back over a hundred years to before the First World War, the 'bleu de travail' – or 'working blues' jacket – is designed for factory and farm workers, who needed both rugged protection and cargo pockets. Made from denim or moleskin, originals can still be found – a testament to the longevity of the fabric, build and style.
UK brand Vulpine has taken the design and sprinkled it with cycling-specific features (urban cycling, anyway) to appeal to riders both on and off their bikes.
The first thing you notice is the cotton-elastane fabric – it's stretchy. Not quite as stretchy as Lycra, but if you have it done up and need to bend over or twist, it lets you. The fabric isn't waterproof or even water-resistant, however, so while a few drops will be okay, it quickly wets out under even light rain. Think how your favourite jeans handle rain...
The pockets are the USP of the French worker's jacket, and if for some reason you're not in marketing that stands for 'unique selling proposition'. On the outside you get three large flat pockets. The two lower ones are each large enough to hold an A5-size Moleskine diary or (if for some reason you lack a Moleskine diary) a decent paperback, and do so without overly twisting the hang of the jacket. Heaven forfend your copy of Ulysses should sit crooked.
The top left pocket will easily swallow even the largest of modern phones, albeit with a bit protruding from the top.
Inside the right breast there is a zipped pocket that will secure a phone, with the top unattached so you get a second stash pocket between it and the outer fabric; just the place for a tourist map, train tickets and your very best fountain pen.
The collar can be turned up, but isn't reinforced in any way so adds minimal protection from weather. The cuffs are quite snug. There are two cuff buttons, the wider of the two allowing the jacket to be pulled on or off over the hands, the narrower to pretty much make a seal around the wrist.
At the wrists and at the waist hem are short lengths of retro-reflective piping, but it's hard to spot in daylight unless you're really looking. Actually, it's not that easy to spot even if it's dull or dark: being so small they're of questionable value in a busy urban night. But I suppose every little helps.
Fit-wise the Large recommended by Vulpine's guide worked perfectly for me. Having arms roughly two inches longer than the average bear, I was very pleased the cuffs sat comfortably on my wrists, not exposing skin when reaching out on a drop-bar bike or above head height to, for instance, surrrender. I don't know why that should matter in a French jacket, but I like to be thorough.
The hem reached down to just below my bum, and the stretchy fabric works well here. The cut of the jacket isn't snug, that's for sure – so if I was bent over in an aggressive position there's a fair bit of bunching. Matron. On an upright bike or walking around, the fit is fine.
Vulpine only offers the French Worker's Jacket in this 'Sandstone' colour, which is a pity as on the product page a model wears the traditional bright blue. Beigeness aside, people of a certain age will appreciate the opportunity to walk about the house, workshop or office shouting incredulously 'B-B-Buy, Granville? B-B-Buy?' before throwing a battered Oxo tin onto the kitchen counter or a bemused colleague's desk.
Elderly British comedy references aside, it would be good if Vulpine offered the French Worker's Jacket in more than one colour, but hey – it's neutral, so you can wear pretty much any other colour combo with it.
The only way I can think to improve things is with a DWR coating to at least bead off light showers. Jackets are for outside, and outside is where the rain is, I've noticed...
Otherwise, this design classic is well suited to city cycling. It works well as a layer over a thick top for added windblocking, or over a T-shirt in warmer times for style and convenience of pockets. The stretch fabric leaves you unconstrained, and value-wise at £90 it's a bit of a steal.
For this kind of role you could also look at the SWRVE Wander Over Shirt which I reviewed recently, though that's more at £135. For that you get a water-resistant fabric and different pocket options, though.
At £150 the &SONS Carver jacket mimics the same sort of 19th-century-exploited-masses look but uses a heavier cotton, though with a stretch in it so it's still suited to bent-over cycling. If you're after something with more warmth, the Chrome Industries Two Way Insulate Shacket is £140 and offers warmth and water-resistance, but fewer pockets.
If you aren't fussed about water resistance and don't want insulation, the Vulpine French Worker's Jacket is a stylish thing that copes well with gentle (and dry) cycling and will fit nicely into pretty much anyone's wardrobe – for a reasonable price, too.
Light, bike-friendly and stylish jacket for layering about town across multiple seasons
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vulpine French Workers Jacket
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the jacket is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
It's for people about town or home, the pub or cafe, wanting to carry some stuff on a bike or off, and look casually good doing so.
"A lightweight cycling jacket with a certain je ne sais quoi.
"A style classic, this time from across La Manche. Made from a breathable, rip-stop stretch fabric, the urban casual fit comes together in a restrained style that makes for an ultra-versatile light jacket or work shirt. An inner zipped chest pocket is one of the many subtle attentions to detail we're famous for."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
External patch pockets offer plenty of storage options
Reflective piping details at side seams and cuff plackets, to aid low light visibility
French seam construction throughout the jacket for a neat finish
Contrast coloured button stitching at front placket and cuffs
Corozo Vulpine logo buttons
Inner YKK zipped chest pocket
V circle embroidered logo
98% Cotton 2% Elastane Ripstop weave
Triple stitching where needed, flatlocked seams, and generally very well-made.
If 'performance' in this case means sartorial elegance, then 10/10.
The thin fabric feels strong enough, but you won't be wanting to do any assault courses in this.
I didn't go for any hard rides in it and Vulpine makes no specific claim, but the thin fabric seems to breathe well.
A good cut and the stretchy material make for a lovely fit.
Sizing for me in Large was perfect. Nice long arms.
As it lacks insulation or zips, it's a light and fairly compressible jacket.
This is a very comfortable jacket.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Only needed to wash it once, but it gave me no concerns.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As utilitarian as it is stylish, it's now a favourite of mine.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The looks. Sharp.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
There's no DWR or similar water-repellent finish.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Price is surprisingly affordable compared to others, but then you are mostly getting water resistant fabric and more insulation.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is stylish, fits well and proves very comfortable both on and off the bike. It doesn't offer much actual protection, but then it doesn't claim to. It would score higher with a DWR coating, but even without it's an appealling and usefully cargo-friendly jacket for dry and cool days. If looks are your priority, it's an 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: Sonder Camino Gravelaxe My best bike is: Nah bro that's it
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: cyclo cross, general fitness riding, mtb, G-R-A-V-E-L
Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.