In the old days, the greengrocer, the fishmonger, and baker could often be identified by what they wore — an apron, or smock, or jacket that was specific to that trade. More than just an uniform, these garments were often a badge of honor and reflected the pride people took in their work. They were also kind of cool, and they are having a comeback.
Once upon a time, certain skilled trades were considered a respectable way to earn a living. People took pride in what they did, often setting out a shingle and building up a business over a lifetime before passing it on to subsequent generations. The greengrocer, the fishmonger, the baker, and the butcher could all be found on the market streets of towns and villages and neighborhoods of big cities the world over.
They were usually identified by what they wore — an apron, or smock, or jacket that was specific to that trade. They were well-made garments, sturdy and practical with appropriate pockets, patches and fastenings.
Old Town Clothing is a clothing manufacturer in Norfolk England that makes clothing with a nostalgic nod towards these 'Small Trades' of the past. They are a small operation, producing only about 50 garments per week out of woolen, cotton and linen cloth sourced mostly in England. Their garments are made to order (but not made to measure) with a few items found in shops such as The Kitchn favorite Labor and Wait in London.
To the casual observer Old Town might appear to be simply an exercise in nostalgia, but we hope that the discerning might notice that the garments are essentially useful items with reference points and influences from past costume. In much the same way as today's townscape is made of elements from different periods, we attempt in a simple way, to play with the notion of Now and Then.
The photographs shown here are by Scott Wishart and a part of a project from Old Town called Small Trades. Again, from their website:
These images were inspired by the long tradition of recording tradespeople and street types in illustrations and photographs, in particular those of Irving Penn, whose work from the early fifties is the subject of the book 'Small Trades', the name of which we borrowed for this series.
The captions on the photographs featured above are my own and represent a playful take on what roles some of the garments may represent today. Despite their somewhat nostalgic feel, I think clothing like this has a very practical place in today's world. I like the fact that each piece is made by hand and is meant to last a long time, whether in the fields, behind the counter, or at the office.
• More information: Old Town Website • A charming Slide Show • Scott Wishart's Small Trades Gallery
(Images: Scott Wishart