Donkey jacket

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A donkey jacket with PVC panels
Sack coat: the precursor to the donkey jacket worn from the mid Victorian era onwards by workers and soldiers. These did not have the leather shoulder patches of the modern work jacket.

A donkey jacket is a short buttoned work jacket in the United Kingdom, typically made of unlined black or dark blue woollen material, with the shoulders reinforced with leather (or later PVC).


The donkey jacket is derived from the wool sack coat worn by workers in the 19th century, and the Oxford English Dictionary references the term as first used in 1929: "one with leather shoulders and back".[1] The jacket usually has two capacious side pockets, and sometimes an inside "poacher's pocket".

Later versions used replaced the leather with a PVC panel covering the shoulder-blade areas, and this could be fluorescent orange or yellow - and sometime branded with the name of the company which supplied the jacket, or the name of the company for which the wearer worked.


In 1888 George Key opened up his own shop above his father John Key's first-floor draper shop on Lower Brook Street in Rugeley Staffordshire, England. That same year, Key designed a new type of coat made of a hard-wearing material developed for those of the British Royal Navy who were working on the construction of the Manchester Ship Canal. Some of the Navvies worked on donkey engines (a steam-powered winch or logging engine), providing the inspiration for the name of George Key's new coat: the Donkey Jacket. [2]

Social significance[edit]

The donkey jacket is regarded as typical of the British manual labourer and trade unionist as well as members of the political left. It is also favoured by traditionalist skinheads.[3][4] Former British Labour Party leader Michael Foot was criticised for wearing what was described incorrectly[5] as a "donkey jacket" at a Remembrance Day wreath laying ceremony and he was shown wearing one on several covers of the satirical magazine Private Eye.[6][7]


  1. ^ "donkey". The Oxford English Dictionary. Second Edition, 1989. OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved November 9, 2009.
  2. ^
  3. ^ TradSkin.Org, (1999), alt.skinheads FAQ, . Retrieved 28 June 2007.
  4. ^ Marshall, George (1991). Spirit of '69 - A Skinhead Bible. Dunoon, Scotland: S.T. Publishing. ISBN 1-898927-10-3
  5. ^
  6. ^ "Hague's baseball cap, Mandelson's mushy peas: True tales or just great political myths?". Daily Mail. 1 July 2007. Retrieved 10 March 2012. 
  7. ^ "Collection highlights: Michael Foot's donkey jacket". People's History Museum.