One of the significant functions of utilitarian menswear is to protect its wearer. As military weapons and industrial dangers have advanced, the technology of armour and protective clothing has developed to defend the body against their threats.
The connection with hazard and risk of these garments also gives them and their wearer status, even a projection of bravery. Many menswear designs consciously reference this symbolic value.
Bulletproof fabrics, Hi-Viz, ballistic weaves and metal plating have been adopted as a motif of contemporary menswear. This allows the wearer to imagine themselves as the heroic warrior of their daily existence, while their actual day-to-day activities may be banal and risk-free.
LEATHER ARMOUR JACKET
Rather than plunder the recent past, Westwood consistently looks further back into dress history for inspiration. From her aptly named Time Machine collection this black leather jacket references plate armour in its cut and construction, with detachable sleeves and segmented shoulder panels attached to the jacket by leather straps.
Archive no. 2019.89
HI-VIZ RAILWAY WORKERS WAISTCOAT
Shown as part of Christopher Bailey’s final runway collection for Burberry, this garment is strikingly similar to a railway worker’s Hi-Viz protective wear. However, small details, such as the Burberry embossed poppers, and the jacquard signature lining transforms a low-status workers vest into a high fashion garment.
Archive no. 2019.23.1
This example of personal protective equipment is designed to protect vital organs from accidental cuts and stabs when working with a knife. Used by butchers, it is made from small rounded rectangular aluminium plates that are connected by stainless steel rings, which gives the apron flexibility.
Archive no. 2019.105
FIRE PROXIMITY SUIT
This fire proximity suit is made with an outer layer of vacuum-deposited aluminised material. It is designed to allow firefighters to work safely in situations of extreme heat and danger, such as chemical or aircraft fires.
DENIM JACKET WITH METAL PANELS
Jean-Paul Gaultier was renowned for being influenced by British street style. However, his clothes remained out of reach of this audience due to their prohibitive cost. With the launch of Junior Gaultier in the 1980s he turned his diffusion line into the must-have label for any diehard London clubber.
Archive no. 2016.277
ASTRO MOTO JACKET
This jacket is a re-edition of one from Lang’s Autumn Winter 1999 collection. Lang often used one original garment for inspiration; however this piece is a collage of details from various sources. The collar from an American firefighter’s jacket, the elbows from a biker jacket, and the fabrication and other details from astronauts’ garments.
Archive no. 2019.28
STAINLESS STEEL THREAD JACKET
In the late 1990s designer Massimo Osti continued to experiment with materials to create garments with new and exciting properties with his Left Hand brand. For this bomber jacket he used a cotton fabric which is woven with stainless steel threads, a material which gives the garment high wear and tear resistance.
Cotton, stainless steel
Archive no. 2017.325
Designer outcomes based on research into military and utilitarian uniforms have led to the mass adoption of garments such as the army field jacket and the bomber jacket. However this C.P. Company coat was developed from a Japanese beekeeper’s suit and aimed at a smaller die-hard audience that appreciates their more obscure designs.
Archive no. 2016.050.1
TASER TRAINING JACKET
Kit Design Technical Wear
Introduced to the United Kingdom in 2003, the Taser stun gun was initially restricted to firearms officers in five police forces, before being authorised for use throughout England and Wales. This protective suit was designed to be worn during police Taser deployment training and is padded to protect against the standard Taser training rounds.
Archive no. 2017.065.1
The ability of an artist to turn a found object into art, changing its meaning and increasing its market value dates back to Marcel Duchamp and his readymade sculptures. Here, what would be indistinguishable from an ordinary workman’s vest, has been transformed by the printing of the Stone Island name across the back of the garment.
Archive no. 2017.176
BALLISTIC NYLON PARKA
Co-opting the technology that the British state was increasingly starting to use against its citizens, Vexed Generation created this parka from nylon 66, a high tenacity fibre which is knife retardant. Coated with neoprene, the parka is fire retardant and has strategic padding through the pelvis, groin, kidneys and spine for additional protection.
Archive no. 2018.48.1
REVERSIBLE METALLIC COAT
This coat is affectionately known as the Spaceman by collectors and is constructed from a satin weave cotton bonded to an aluminium effect polyurethane cover. It has been engineered to be reversible and has a removable lining attached to the outer garment using a series of ties adapted from those used in the sailing world.
Cotton, Raso Gommato
Archive no. 2016.211