Back in 1888, Queen Victoria commissioned a pair of curtains to be made of melton wool. They still hang in Windsor Castle, somewhere, and are dyed a deep ruby red by a Mr. A. Wilkinson of Leeds’ manufacturing company, William Lupton and Co. The curtains, to this day, are said to be unfaded. That’s a testament to Lupton and Co., Mr. A. Wilkinson, and the fabric powers of melton wool, which has a dense, quasi-felt feel.
The wool twill has also been a standard textile for British Naval officers, seeing use as coats and jackets. All this is leading towards one thing: the melton twill is an absolute heritage fabric.
It was developed in the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray, which, rather unfortunately, also happens to be the epicentre of English fox hunting. As a fabric, it has significant waterproof qualities, especially given that it’s a wool, and is durable, which meant it formed the uniform of barbaric pastimes. Fortunately for us, the fabric has also seen use not just in the unethical hands of the aristocracy, but on the shoulders of some of the first Mancunian canal builders. The donkey jacket – a garment that derives its name from the builders of donkey engines, one of the first steam-powered logging machines – became staple attire for ship builders, navvies and construction workers who gradually built the backbone of Manchester’s waterways. It was made from melton wool but with PVC-lined shoulders, in a rather modern technical twist, and was later favoured by the British Left, Trade Unionists, skinheads and Teddy Boys. Melton wool can do expensive curtains, but it can also grace the shoulders of the people who pay for them.
Anyway, this history lesson is tangential, for sure, but important in understanding this Whiting Jacket from Wax London, who have constructed an overshirt from this important and historical material. It’s in a camel colour which does lean far more towards the aristocracy side of things, but with a workwear shape that isn’t years away from a donkey jacket. Maybe you can do both?