Thursday, 31 October 2013

The Battledress Blouse

The Grand-Daddy of cropped work jackets.

The DNA of the humble battledress blouse can clearly be seen in post-war casual and work jackets sported by the newly demobbed masses - most famously in civilian versions of the American "Ike" jacket.

Looking for a replacement for WW1 era Service Dress (SD) that was both more suited to vehicle mounted operations, and allowed our chaps better ease of movement, The War Department, after several trials, settled on Battledress, Serge in 1937.
Issued on a large scale in 1939, this is the uniform that most British and Dominion troops set off to war with.

Made from heavy wool serge, with mixed green and brown fibres, these are robust little jackets. Much shorter than its SD tunic predecessor, the BD blouse was originally worn over a collarless shirt and buttoned at the back to a heavy pair of matching trousers.
With an extremely high waist line that hovered dangerously close to the nipples, this was clearly meant to give a silhouette that emphasised height - important when attempting to instil fear in the the hearts of advancing German infantry!*

War Department size label.
1949 Pattern blouse. Notched collar, for wear with a shirt & tie. 

Various patterns were made over the years. The 1937 version had a rise & fall collar, buttoned to the top, (though officers often had theirs tailored to wear with a collar & tie.)
The blouse you see here is the 1949 version, made in 1952 by Prices Tailors Ltd. (There were a myriad number of contractors over the years. Sadly I could not find any information on Prices.)

The 1949 blouse could still be buttoned up against the elements. This reflects its dual use as combat and formal uniform after WW2.
Sporting an open notched collar this blouse was meant to be worn with a shirt & tie.
This type of battledress was often used as an alternative "walking out" uniform to Service Dress. As a combat uniform it was still worn in Korea, but fell in to disuse with the issue of Herringbone Twill uniforms poached from the Americans.

As our own cotton combat uniform came in to service there was no real need for two types of formal uniform and battledress ceased to be issued in 1961.

Pleated breast pocket with exposed button.

Smart fly front over the buttons. Acres of velcro and zips have replaced buttons on today's uniforms, but the fly front served the same purpose - preventing buttons catching on bits of kit.

I will say that wool serge, though heavy, creases easily. Unusually for Army uniform the blouse seems stubbornly resistant to all attempts to iron these creases out of it. Quite how this went down with generations of Sergeant Majors I'll never know.

Belted up, these blouses look rather snappy. If you prefer that louche, some would suggest scruffy officer look, leave it undone!
With pleats front and rear these blouses are quite roomy so, worn with some heavy jeans or flannels, they look great over a guernsey or a submariner. Just the thing for cutting about town in late autumn. Or a clandestine meeting with your resistance contact to blow up a bridge!

Interestingly The War Department also issued a denim working dress version of this uniform. As the name would suggest it was meant for menial work, however it was widely issued to front line Tommies on the Mediterranean Campaign. Plans are afoot to track down a denim blouse as soon a possible.

Earlier examples are becoming scarce, but post war versions are still straightforward to find. You can also still easily get hold of the later Greek & Dutch Army blouses. I found mine on Fleabay, but it is worth checking surplus suppliers to see what they have. There are also various reproduction companies making copies for re-enactor types, but I cannot vouch for these. I'd argue you're better off with an original.

*Apparently such large stocks of battledress blouses were left behind at Dunkirk that they were recycled by the Germans and issued to U Boat crews. Later in the war, with Germany unable to produce enough wool for their longer uniform tunics, in 1944 they introduced their own version made from shoddy (recycled wool.)

Saturday, 26 October 2013

Weekend Man Food

One Pot Pork & Fennel.

Based on a Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall recipe, this one pot dish is quick to prepare and absolutely delicious. The HFW original uses ready cooked left over pork and potatoes. 
Having a surplus of the same ingredients in the raw I decided to make mine from scratch, but feel free to improvise with what you have.

As HFW says in River Cottage Every Day, "pork has a great affinity with fennel," the aniseed note to the fennel taking the edge off the fattiness in the pork. I've added paprika here too, in combination with the fennel it works fantastically well.


  1. 500g fatty pork, chopped and seasoned with salt & pepper.
  2. 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed & sliced length ways.
  3. However many potatoes you need - chopped and par boiled.
  4. 2 tsp paprika
  5. oil


  1. In a hot pan fry off the pork in oil until thoroughly browned all over. Remove form pan and set aside.
  2. Fry the fennel for about 5 to 6 minutes until soft and golden.
  3. Add the pork and potatoes. Mix together.
  4. Add paprika and a bit more salt & pepper if needed.
  5. Turn down heat and cover until hot through.
  6. Serve with whatever vegetables your wife / girlfriend has decided to cook.
That's it chaps. Enjoy!

Friday, 25 October 2013

Cocktail Hour

Gin & Beer @ The Bird & The Churchkey.

Another gin based cocktail this week, and a rather unusual one at that.

As an Englishman gin and beer both are dear to the heart. So the stiff upper lip quivered with excitement on finding out one of Copenhagen's newest bars, The Bird & The Churchkey, had combined the two in their signature cocktail.

Unsurprising then that the founding principle of The Bird is to provide excellent gin and beer. As such it is stocked with over 60 gins, and sports some 40 craft beers. At last count there were 20 types of gin & tonic gracing the menu.

The bar itself resembles a pleasantly down at heel 1930's London gin palace. Located on Gammel Strand, staggering distance from New Utility HQ, it was the work of a moment to nip round the corner to meet up with the The Bird's manager, Christian Tønnesen, for a re-tasting. (I've had this cocktail before but was too over-refreshed to take notes.)

First mixed by a barman at Cocks & Cows (a Copenhagen burger bar whose premises The Bird took over. Both are owned by Nord Gruppen), the original Gin & Beer used garden variety Kronenberg and dry gin. In addition to tweaking the quantities, Christian switched the cooking lager for Franziskaner Hefe-Weizer, a fruity German wheat beer.

For the gin he plumbed for Bulldog - with a very contemporary un-gin-like flavour profile, it is distilled using juniper, dragon eye (a relative of the lychee), poppy seed and other botanicals. A profile, Christian argues, more suited for use in cocktails.

Assemble the following:
  1. 2cl Bulldog Gin.
  2. 3cl Cherry Heering.
  3. 1cl Simple syrup.
  4. 2cl Freshly squeezed lemon juice
  5. Bottle, Franziskaner Beer. (The Bird have it on draught.)
  6. Ice.
  7. Large brandy glass.
  8. Cocktail shaker.
Pour a dash of the beer and the syrup in to the brandy glass, add ice. Give the gin, Cherry Heering and lemon juice a jolt in a shaker. Strain in to the glass and top with the rest of the beer.

In taste the end result is reminiscent of a strong Belgian fruit beer crossed with a zesty American pale ale. Initially the sweetness of the wheat beer and Cherry Heering are to the fore, with pleasingly sharp lemon & spicy liquorice notes to the finish - the latter coming from the botanicals used in Bulldog gin.

I urge those who love their gin and beer to patronise The Bird & The Churchkey.
An excellent establishment, it is staffed by people with a clear love for what they do. Unusually for Copenhagen the service is very friendly too.
I was particularly impressed that Christian crushes cucumbers each morning to make ice cubes of the juice. Detail is all.
Other recent liquid highlights include a Gabriel Boudier Saffron Gin G&T and a French gin, the name of which I was too squiffy to write down, garnished with grapes.

The Bird's liver threatening proximity means that, if I have not descended in to a gin soaked spiral of vice and destitution, I am sure to feature more from them soon. You can find out more here.

If anyone knows of any more beer based cocktails do get in touch.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Pace Jeans - Sawtooth Denim Shirt.

An American inspired gem.

Wonderfully soft 7.5oz denim and great detailing = a shirt win.
No denim head's wardrobe is complete with out a denim shirt or two. As ever, there are a huge number on offer that vary widely in quality and detailing.

Those looking for an accurate heritage workwear example could do no better than look at Pace Jeans. Founded by Swede, Klas Erixon, in 2003, they're defined by love of all things Americana and a commendably obsessive attention to detail. Though commercial pressure has meant Pace recently adding more contemporary lines to their range, the brand has traditionally focused on high quality workwear.

Satisfyingly long tails.
Cut in a western style, the shirt is made from 7.5oz pre washed denim, produced in Italy.
In addition to the quality of the fabric, what sets this shirt apart for me is the beautiful detailing. The Pace arcuate, stitched here on the sawtooth pockets, and replicated again on the yoke, is inspired by the lines of a 1955 Ford.

Arcuate detail on front pocket.
The pocket, cuff and placket popper buttons are all pearlescent black. Key for me is that, unlike most contemporary shirts, it has generously cut tails. Meant to be worn tucked in, the long tails would stay tucked as workmen went about their daily chores.

Beatiful black pearlescent buttons.
I spoke to Pace's man in Denmark, Carsten Lund Frederiksen of A Small Jeans Company, earlier this week. Asked to summarise what Pace do he said simply, "for them everything is black & white, they're not interested in compromise."

Such is all we should ever look for in our clothes. The concept of authenticity gets bandied about too much in the heritage fashion world. It is perhaps better to solely focus on quality, and in this regard Pace seem to have got it right.

Pace also produce some wonderful dry selvedge bottoms. Milled in Osaka, Japan, they are all fashioned from a satisfyingly heavy 13.75oz denim. I particularly like the PX-03 cinch backs - on which more soon.

In the meantime, if you like the look of the shirt why not pop in to see Carsten at A Small Jeans Company. In addition to a shop packed full of quality denim & leather he has beer and coffee!
As yet Pace don't have a UK agent, but don't despair, if you're not in Scandinavia or Germany you can get your paws on their denim here.

Saturday, 19 October 2013

Cocktail Hour - The Gimlet

A short history of the Gimlet.

Made with gin and lime, this cocktail is simplicity itself and a firm favourite of mine.

Named after a tool for boring small holes, or possibly Royal Navy surgeon Admiral Sir Thomas Gimlette, it is generally accepted that the Gimlet began life at sea, sailors needing the lime to prevent scurvy. Presumably the gin was added to tide over thirsty matlows till the issue of their daily rum ration. 

It's a wonder that us Brits ever sobered up long enough to conquer a third of the known world!

Gimlets are traditionally made with Rose's Lime Juice. Lauchlan Rose began importing limes from the Caribbean in the 1860s and, patented by him in 1867, the cordial acted as an alcohol free preservative for lime juice on long voyages.
The description in Raymond Chandler's 
1953 novel The Long Goodbye states that "a real gimlet is half gin and half Rose's Lime Juice and nothing else."
This mix is very sweet - the norm now is a less teeth threatening 2 parts gin to 1 of cordial.

A true classic. With the growing popularity of gin the humble Gimlet is making a comeback.
There's a school of thought that dispenses with cordial in favour of a mix of fresh lime juice and bar syrup*. I must admit to preferring the slightly sharper flavour this gives. Whether this is still a proper Gimlet or not is open to debate.
Apparently this more modern variant is a bastard child of the original and a Giblet - made with three parts gin to one part lime juice, shaken, and topped off with soda.

I would suggest experimenting with both types, though make sure you have a comfortable chair to hand - a chum of mine once quipped that drinking a Gimlet was akin to "receiving a soft punch to the head." They are rather bracing...


  1. 50ml Gin - a dry gin such as Tanqueray or Gordon's is ideal.*
  2. 25ml Rose's Lime Cordial
  1. 50ml Gin
  2. 20ml simple syrup
  3. 20ml fresh lime juice


  1. Pour the gin in to a cocktail shaker filled with ice
  2. Add cordial (or fresh juice & syrup)
  3. Shake well and strain in to a chilled martini glass
  4. Serve with a twist of lime

If you're interested in finding out more on classic cocktails Tobias Steed & Ben Reed's Hollywood Cocktails is an illuminating read. Also worth a look is The Institute For Alcoholic Experimentation. A fantastic cocktail blog, written by another chum of mine, Clayton Hartley, it is a mine of information on all things booze related.

More cocktails to follow next weekend.

*Simple Syrup, a barman's staple, is a doddle to make. Take 1 part sugar and 1 part water. In a small saucepan, bring sugar and water to a boil; simmer until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Can be refrigerated in a glass jar and kept for 1 month. Feel free to experiment with darker sugars like muscovado or demerara to enhance the flavour - this will also depend on what cocktails you want the syrup for. I find that golden castor works well for Gimlets. You don't want to overpower the sharpness of the limes or have it look too cloudy.
To make a Rich Simple Syrup just up the sugar ratio.

*Gin can also be substituted for vodka. This, in my view, is not a proper Gimlet and therefore will not be discussed here.

Friday, 18 October 2013

Weekend Man Food - Slow Cooked Lamb Curry

Or how to avoid curry withdrawal when in a foreign country...

Easily as good as restaurant offerings.
Copenhagen is a wonderful city to live in. However, as a Brit, one of the major downsides is the lack of a decent curry house. They do exist. Alas, they are both eye wateringly expensive and down spiced for the Danish palate to such an extent that you're left with nothing but a bland stew.

With withdrawal symptoms really starting to bite, and in keeping with first principles here at New Utility, I decided to make my own from scratch. One pot dishes are great for the autumn / winter. It is not as hard as you might think and is well worth the results.

Best made in the morning, left to slow cook for hours on the stove the lamb will be lovely and tender. Decent lamb is a bit of a bugger to get hold of in Denmark, so feel free to substitute for pork. Easier to find in the UK, any good butcher should be able to furnish you with a leg.


  1. 4 onions, sliced
  2. 2 red peppers, sliced 
  3. 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  4. 5 or 6 chillies, diced 
  5. small chunk, fresh ginger, finely chopped 
  6. 1 kg of lamb, roughly chopped (or same of pork chuck steak) 
  7. 3 tsp ground cumin seeds 
  8. 2 tsp coriander seeds
  9. 1 tsp fenugreek seeds (for pork use fennel instead)
  10. 1 tsp black pepper corns
  11. 1 cinnamon stick 
  12. 1 tsp ground turmeric 
  13. ½ tsp cayenne pepper 
  14. 1 tsp paprika 
  15. 1 tsp garam masala 
  16. 2 handfuls fresh coriander, chopped 
  17. 1-2 x 400g/14¼oz cans tomatoes 
  18. 550ml/1 pint chicken stock 
  19. salt, to taste
  20. Butter & rapeseed oil for frying
Ingredients marshalled you are now ready for the final push.


  1. First assemble everything you'll need, chop all the vegetables and meat. Measure out your spices. Get your stock heated up and the tinned tomatoes to hand.
  2. Toast all the spice seeds in a dry frying pan until they start to give of an aroma. Decant in to a mortar & pestle (or grinder) and work over until you have a course powder. Mix in the ready-ground spices and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile fry off the onion, garlic, peppers, chillies and ginger in a bit of butter & oil until soft and golden, but not brown.  (Leave the chilli seeds in if you like your curry hotter.)
  4. Add all the spices and fry for one more minute. Remove from pan.
  5. Add the lamb to the pan and fry for about five minutes until brown all over.
  6. Meanwhile, blend the fried vegetables & spices in a food processor to form a paste.
  7. Add and stir in the blended paste and all remaining ingredients to the pan with the lamb.
  8. Bring to the boil, before turning the heat down to a simmer, to cook for 3-4 hours (or until the sauce has thickened up enough to stick to the tender meat.) 
  9. Sprinkle the fresh coriander over the top & serve with rice or sag aloo and naan bread.
  10. Wash down with liberal amounts of IPA!

A word on spices:

It's worth seeking all of them out to get that authentic curry taste. If your supermarket is missing a few try your local Indian or Middle Eastern deli.
The Copenhagen types amongst you can visit ASA Trading at Torvhallerne - run by affable Englishman, Julian Amery, there are few spices he doesn't have. 

Chaps Can Bake Too..

Illegal Stout Bread...

It is nearly the weekend, so time to again turn our thoughts to food & drink.
Living life on the edge.. the Danish Police could be here any second.
I've not ever been a fugitive from the law before, however this bread contains marmite, illegal here in Denmark, so I suspect my days as a free man may be numbered!

Based on a German recipe I found, this is a mite more involved than last weeks' soda bread offering but don't let that put you off - this is some of the nicest bread I've tasted. Wonderfully aromatic with the complex taste of the stout mixed with marmite & honey.
The dough is left to rise overnight, and then again for a few hours, creating a lovely moist loaf.


  1. 10g of fresh yeast (or a 1/4 tsp of the dried stuff.)
  2. 1 liberal dollop Marmite.
  3. 1 tbsp honey.
  4. 330ml stout or porter, room temperature.
  5. 400g strong white or spelt flour.
  6. 200g rye flour.
  7. 1 tsp salt.
  8. 25g warmed butter, diced.
  9. 1 tbsp left over beer, for brushing


  1. Crumble the yeast in to a jug, add the beer, honey and marmite and mix well.
  2. Mix the flours, salt and butter in a large bowl until you have something that resembles bread crumbs.
  3. Make a well in the middle and pour in the liquid. Gradually work over until it is all mixed together and you have a sticky dough - if too wet add a little more flour.
  4. Turn out on to a floured work top and knead enthusiastically for 10 minutes. The dough will gradually firm up.
  5. Plonk in to  a bowl, cover & let dough rise for a minimum of 6 hours, ideally overnight in the fridge. The dough should double in size.
  6. Turn out on to work top again and punch to deflate.
  7. Shape in to a round and place on a baking sheet.
  8. Cover & leave in a warm place to rise for 1 to 4 hours (depending on the initial temperature of the dough.)
  9. Preheat oven to 200ºC / 400ºF / Gas-mark 6.
  10. Assuming you have not already drunk any left over beer use it to brush the loaf. If you want to dust with cracked rye.
  11. Score the loaf with a sharp knife.
  12. Bake for 35 mins or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped underneath.

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Darcy Clothing Longsleeve Undershirt.

Classic Men's Undergarments.

What all the cool young kids are wearing this season.
The Henley Top, ie a long sleeved buttoned t-shirt, seems to be extremely popular this season. Virtually every high street chain has their own version cluttering the shelves. These differ considerably from the originals.

Underwear did not make the transition to outerwear until WWII with American GIs gleefully sporting their white "skivvies" or t-shirts with HBT (Herringbone Twill) fatigues. The look was further popularised in the 50's by the likes of James Dean and Marlon Brando. 

Smart ribbed cuffs and pearl buttons
Pre-dating the t-shirt is the buttoned long sleeve undershirt - essentially the cut off top half of a union suit. Chaps needed undergarments for warmer weather and perhaps a full suit of underwear was a bit much!

The Darcy Clothing version is based closely on the old High Cross undershirts (now becoming increasingly scarce.) They are made from 100% unbleached cotton. Much softer than the originals, I have to say I miss the slight bobbling the High Cross vests develop after a few washes.

On the plus side the Darcy versions are pre shrunk. As with all of Darcy Clothing's reproductions the detailing is accurate. The undershirt is cut generously long, with full ribbed cuffs and a dropped sleeve head (lower placement of the shoulder seam.) All details that most reproductions get wrong. 
But then again, is it under or outerwear? I leave you to decide.

If you're minded to these undershirts apparently respond well to dying, something I've not tried yet. You also have the choice of cloth covered or pearl buttons.

They look fantastic layered under a collarless shirt & waistcoat or, in warmer months, worn on their own. The pure cotton will keep you nice and toasty through winter and is far superior to the thin cotton / nylon mixed guff in most high street shops.

You can order these from the Darcy Clothing webshop here. (It is worth stating that I have no affiliation to Darcy Clothing, I just love what they do.)

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Pike Brothers 1937 Roamer Jeans

Simple Yet Beautiful Denims

Three months solid wear...
... and developing lovely honeycombing

Continuing on a denim theme it's time to turn to the German brand Pike Brothers. Taking their inspiration from both European and American workwear these guys focus on making beautiful authentic clothes, eschewing trends that seem to govern most of the denim industry in favour of simply producing what they love. This makes them a firm favourite here at New Utility.

11oz Raw Selvedge Denim. Note the lock stitching.
I had been searching for the right pair of selvedge jeans with brace buttons for a while, so was quite excited to find the 1937 Roamer Pant. Pike Brothers jeans are listed by date, with the year denoting the type of cut. They also have 1958 and '63 versions that gradually sport a more narrow, lower modern fit.

Fabricated from 11oz raw selvedge denim, milled in Turkey, the 1937 Roamer has an authentic "anti fit" feel to it. A high rise at the back and wide, un-tapered leg are entirely accurate for the era. This commendable attention detail extends to the heavy bar tacked belt loops, seam ends and pockets.

The 1930's were a cross over period for mens trousers - by the end of the decade brace buttons were being phased out in favour of belt loops. Levis added belt loops to the 501 in 1922 but retained brace buttons through to 1937. Though, even then Levis gave their customers the option of snap on buttons, just in case. To absolutely make sure your trousers stayed up they also had a cinch back. All details that have been faithfully replicated by Pike Brothers.

Features typical of mid 1930's trousers - belt loops, brace buttons & a cinch - once on these trousers aren't going anywhere!
In keeping with Pike Brothers functional aesthetic there are a minimum of frills. There is no arcuate on the back pockets, a simple branded leather patch and - denim heads look away now - no chain stitched hem. In an interview with Denim Hunters Pike Brothers argue that the lock stitch is actually more authentic - European work wear manufacturers would not have had access to Union sewing machines capable of chain stitching.
Beautiful leather patch.
Pike Brothers suggest that you don't wash the jeans for 3 to 6 months. As with  all my raw denim these jeans had a pre wear cold soak in the sink. The inseam shrunk just over an inch and I lost a little off the waist. In my view there is no point expending the effort to break them in for half a year, only to have them shrink on you during their first wash. A pre wear dip will help prevent this.

After roughly 3 months of wear they have softened up and are developing some pleasing honeycombing. Unlike the pre-aged nonsense, one of the most satisfying attributes of raw denim is that you break them in yourself over months & years - your reward being a garment that is deeply personal to you.

Button fly... of course.
Riveted heavy natural cotton pockets

At 11oz these are perhaps a little light by selvedge standards. Pike Brothers raised quite bit of interest recently, producing an über heavy 23oz version of the 1958 Roamer. I'm sure I am not alone in thinking that the 1937 in a heavier denim would be A Good Thing!

If these jeans tickle your fancy you can order them online here.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

If They're Good Enough For Shackleton... North Sea Clothing

The Intrepid Sweater.

The Submariner - a Royal Navy issue classic.
It is no accident that so many items of military surplus are adapted by civilians - by definition uniform is smart and, until fairly recently, excellently made. Such is the case with the Royal Navy Submariner sweater. 
Popular in the years after the war these sweaters were soon adopted by motorcyclists for wear under their Barbour or Belstaff jackets, the better to keep them warm when their BSA broke down in the middle of a thunderstorm.

Surplus supply of the original WW1 & WW2 items dried up years ago, with reproductions of varying quality taking their place.
Setting the bar in terms of quality is North Sea Clothing, offering a selection of heritage knit-ware options based around Navy issue and home front pullovers of the 1930s/40s.
As readers might have gleaned we love all things Scandinavian here at New Utility and the The Intrepid is a Norwegian pattern Submariner, available in ecru, as here, or navy blue.

Made from 100% English wool by a family firm in Nottingham, the untreated wool retains its natural lanolin, so will keep its insulating qualities even when wet. Construction is robust, with reinforcing heavy cotton gussets at the shoulders. As with the guernsey this jumper will see you well in to the autumn of your years.

Reinforcing gussets on each shoulder.
Order your true size, don't size up.

This is not a stitch for stitch recreation. As the originals were quite long the jumper has been shortened & the fit is quite snug. NSC recommend that you size up if you like a roomier fit. I don't and love the fitted silhouette of this jumper.
The fact that NSC are supplying the Shackleton Epic Team in their recreation of the original 1916 expedition should tell you all you need to know on how good these sweaters are.

In my view no gentleman's winter wardrobe is complete without one. Perfect for bouncing about the North Atlantic. Or manfully drinking rum laced cocoa whilst watching The Cruel Sea. You can purchase The Intrepid here.

Monday, 14 October 2013

Emmett Jeans 2PJ Selvedge Denim Jacket

Across the pond for the first of our articles this week to discuss the denim jacket.

American influenced, but Scandinavian made - the Emmett Jeans 2PJ Jacket - 14.7oz of selvedge denim goodness.
The cropped denim jacket as we know it today is a thoroughly American garment and can really be dated to 1931 when Lee released the 101J - or Rider Jacket.
Levis referred to their variant, the 506, as a blouse well in to the 1930's, as that is how they were meant to be worn, as a heavy shirt, over a thin cotton undershirt with a heavy duck coat or similar for a top layer. Lee released the Storm Rider - a heavier blanket lined version - in 1936. The blouse was gradually morphing in to a jacket.

Zig-zag reinforcement stitching along the button holes.
Initially intended for horse oriented use this shape of jacket is now widely popular, reinterpreted in to a variety of fabrics and colours.

The number of European heritage work-wear or neo-vintage brands is growing. One such is Emmett Jeans, a Scandinavian outfit founded in 2010.
The 2PJ is their homage to the Lee Rider jacket and shares many of the latter's detailing - most noticeably the slanted pockets, zig zag reinforcement stitching around the button-holes and plastic buttons on the waist adjustment tabs.
The jacket has retained look of the front pleat panels, but lost the actual pleats - originally there presumably to add ease of movement on horseback.
Great detailing - contrasting stitching and doughnut buttons. The pleats are gone, but the panels, running from pocket to waistband, have been retained.
Made from 14.7oz ecru selvedge it's reassuringly heavy, and gets heavier after a rinse. However, I couldn't find out what mill Emmett sourced the material from.
Before wearing the jacket it spent an hour or so in the sink. This gets rid of some of the starch and other chemicals used during production, helping to soften up the material. Though sanforized it did shrink a little.
The 2PJ going for its pre-wear dip.
I love the contrasting yellow / orange stitch detailing and double stitch along the inside of the waistband.
 Nice single ecru selvedge too.
Plastic waistband adjustment buttons.
From the look of the Emmett Jeans website they've not been up to much since releasing their Autumn / Winter 2012 collection. If anyone knows more about them I'd love to hear it.
However, you can find their clobber in Carlings - a high street retailer that, amongst the normal dross, occasionally turns up an odd selvedge gem like the 2PJ.

Friday, 11 October 2013

Weekend Man Food - Steak & Porter Pie.

An English Classic.

Meat & Beer. In a pie. Excellent.

As the weekend looms my thoughts turn naturally to food & drink and the order in which I shall spend the next 48 hours consuming them. Autumn is here and the summer days of watching the wife mince about with bits of salad are thankfully gone.

This recipe, a variant of the traditional streak & ale pie, is quick & easy to prepare, leaving you plenty of time to recover from the rigours of the working week.
It is also quite thrifty - braising or stewing steak is cheap, but responds wonderfully to a slow cook. If possible try to purchase it from a local butcher, that way you'll know what you're getting and end up with better quality, tastier meat.

Porter has a quite nutty / malty profile that imparts a fabulous intensity of flavour to the meat. Meantime Brewery in Greenwich, London, make a great porter that is well worth seeking out. As I'm stuck in Copenhagen I'm using Carlsberg's own. (Yes, they do other things than larger, it's actually quite good.)

Meat & beer. In a pie. What more could a chap want?


  1. 2lb stewing steak, cut into cubes
  2. plain flour, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper, for dusting
  3. liberal dash, olive oil
  4. 2 onions, sliced
  5. 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  6. 1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
  7. salt & freshly ground black pepper
  8. 1/2 pint hot beef stock (stock cubes will do if you don't have your own.)
  9. 1/2 pint porter (you can drink the other half whilst cooking!)
  10. 8oz ready-rolled short crust or puff pastry, both work well (if you have time, make your own, though puff is bit of a fiddle.)
  11. 1 free-range egg, beaten.

  • Method:-

  1. Dust the cubed steak with the seasoned flour
  2. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pan and fry the meat, stirring frequently, until browned on all sides. 
  3. Remove meat and set aside.
  4. Add the sliced onions and herbs and fry off until soft & golden.
  5. Add the browned meat, salt and freshly ground black pepper, porter & stock and bring to the boil.
  6. Reduce the heat, partially cover and simmer gently for an hour and a half.
  7. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.
  8. Transfer the filling mixture to your pie dish. Line the rim of the dish with a thin strip of pastry. Dampen the pastry rim by brushing with beaten egg. Cut a piece of pastry to fit across the top of the dish and place on top of the dish, pressing the edges together to seal. Decorate with pastry trimmings, make a steam hole in the centre of the pie by poking with a sharp knife, then brush with more beaten egg.
  9. Transfer to the oven and cook for 1 hour. If the pastry gets too brown, cover it with foil.
  10. Have your significant other sort out the vegetables. (If skipping proceed to next step.)
  11. Serve hot with horse radish laced mashed potato. Wash down with more beer.

Stick any left over portions in the fridge and heat up during the week. Or simply have some other chaps over and devour the lot. Enjoy!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

Chaps Can Bake Too...

Spelt & Rye Soda Bread

Soda bread. Actually fairly easy, tastier than the shop bought stuff and any special lady acquaintances will love you for it.
Baking, until a couple of years ago, was a bit of a blind spot with me. However, with the cost of a decent loaf of bread in Copenhagen around the 35DKK mark (approx £4) necessity has meant that I've learnt pretty quickly. And chaps reading this can too.

Soda bread is easy. There is no yeast involved, therefore no buggering about with kneading or waiting for the dough to rise. The whole operation takes a mere half hour. The results will be immensely satisfying and far better than the bland stale offerings pedalled by supermarkets.

This bread is a Scandinavian take on a recipe I found here. As a rule our Nordic cousins regard with deep scepticism any bread that does not include rye flour in the mix. So to prevent open rebellion here at New Utility HQ I've thrown some in. It adds a lovely deep golden brown hue and depth of taste to the finished article. Makes enough for one small loaf.


  1. 100 grams rye flour.
  2. 200 grams spelt flour.
  3. 2 tsp baking powder.
  4. 230ml buttermilk.
  5. Pinch of salt.
  6. Flour for dusting.


  1. Pre heat your oven to 200°C with a baking tray in it.
  2. Mix the flours, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl.
  3. Pour in the buttermilk and mix thoroughly ensuring that there is no excess flour left at the bottom.
  4. The dough will be quite wet, scoop out on to a floured work surface and gradually form in to a round.
  5. Plonk the formed dough on to your baking tray (I suggest you might want to use baking paper here too.)
  6. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden brown. If you get a hollow sound when tapping on the bottom of the loaf you're good to go.
  7. If you have the patience cover loaf with a tea towel to cool for a bit.
  8. Devour with liberal amounts of butter and any strong cheese.

That's it. Enjoy.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

A Timeless Workwear Staple

 Collarless (Neck Band) Shirts.

Collarless Shirt
A vintage striped cotton work shirt dating from c1920s.

Around the 1840's baggy square cut shirts, with high attached collars and frilled cuffs, were ditched in favour a more austere form of shirt. Thus the collarless shirt came in to being.

The neck band shirt was a fixture of the working mans' wardrobe for many years. These shirts, normally made from stripe brushed or flannelette heavy cotton, were fabricated to last.

Heavy Flannel work shirts
Two heavy flannelette examples. The early ones can be quite rough... The solution? I suggest long under garments. 
Whereas the more formal poplin business shirts were usually white, work shirts were either coloured or rather gaudily striped. Interestingly, until roughly the 40's shirts were regarded as a second layer of underwear - not something that one should prominently display, as today. All that would have been visible were cuffs, (separate) stiff collar, and a couple of inches of fabric barely visible above the top button of the waist-coat either side of a tie.

Collarless work shirts
Shirts were not mass produced. Normally made by a local tailor, or in some cases by the women of a working family, they came in a wide variety of colours. 
Men would have had few shirts and separate collars were a way of prolonging its life. The shirt may have been filthy (the colours hid the dirt better), but collars were easy to launder and cheaper to replace. Depending on the trade you were in collar & tie might not have been worn at all during the week, but saved for Sunday best. (That said, I was once robustly told off by the haughty proprietress of a vintage shop in the Kings Road for not wearing a collar & tie!)

Collarless shirt made by Royal
Some later shirts had softer detachable collars. A step forward in comfort... 
Most shirts sported a half placket opening, meaning that it was pulled on over your head. Fully button through shirts did not come into fashion until the 1950's.

The tails were cut generously long. This, combined with trouser waist lines that hovered dangerously near the nipple, meant that one's shirt, once tucked in, stayed tucked.

As waistlines dropped so did the placket until button through, or coat shirts (because you donned them as you would a coat) became the prevalent style.

Collarless shirt made by
This example sports double cuffs & a reinforced front or "bib". 
Cuffs were normally single and button through, though as with the example above shirts for "best" would have had double cuffs and perhaps be fashioned from a lighter cotton, as here.

Collarless shirt made by Somax
A heavy flannelette shirt with additional cotton lining. This Somax shirt is actually quite modern. I found it languishing as dead stock in the corner of a sadly now defunct gents outfitters in Whitstable, Kent. It's now been turned in to a Costa Coffee... 
In addition to the heavy weight fabric needing to be durable for work, the fact of their construction meant that these shirts last for years - important if you couldn't afford to replace them. Remember too that almost all houses were coal fire heated, and in the case of working mens quarters, cheaply built and drafty.

I love this type of shirt. I wear them regularly and feel that they still deserve a place in any man's wardrobe. The heavier versions are immensely warm, and worn sans collar are very comfortable. Combined with a round point stiff collar they can look particularly dapper. (More on the important topic of collars and their nearly endless variants later.)

If not able to raid your great uncle's armoire fear not, you can invest in a high quality reproduction at Darcy Clothing. I found most of my original examples at Old Hat in Fulham, London. Run by tailor David Saxby, this place is a treasure trove of vintage mens apparel.

Monday, 7 October 2013

The Guernsey

Knitwear Icon.

The authors' Guernsey - 21 years old and still going strong.

As Danish autumn progresses and the howling winds that are an ever present feature of life in this country get colder one's thoughts inevitably turn to the subject of insulation. This leads me nicely on to the guernsey.

The knitting industry in the British Channel Island of Guernsey dates back to the early 16th century, when licences were granted to import wool from England. In those early days, the Island’s exports were stockings and at the peak of this trade it is believed that 10,000 pairs left the Island each week. Both Mary and Queen Elizabeth (1558 to 1603) owned articles of Guernsey knitwear. Even the unfortunate Mary Queen of Scots wore Guernsey underpinnings at her execution.

If it doesn't have one of these sewn in to the seam it's not the genuine article.

The Guernsey sweater came into being as a garment for seamen & fishermen. Venturing in some cases as far as Newfoundland, they required a warm, hard wearing, yet comfortable item of clothing that would resist the sea spray.

So was born the now famous oiled wool Guernsey. During the time of the Napoleonic Wars, Admiral Lord Nelson recommended that the Guernsey be worn by the Royal Navy and it was at this time that the Guernsey, which until then had been knitted in unscoured natural wool, was dyed Navy Blue. Variants of the guernsey, known as a "gansey", are today used from Cornwall to Scotland.

Traditional Guernsey knitwear still functions as a cottage industry, produced using age old techniques that have been tried and tested. They are knitted with close stitches from tightly twisted worsted wool and this gives it its ability to withstand sea spray and rain. The result is a strong, long lasting garment that will hold its shape better in both wear and washing. (Though I prefer to dry clean mine.)

Beautiful cuff detailing

The rib at the top of the sleeve represents a sailing ship’s rope ladder, the raised shoulder seam a rope and the garter stitch panel, waves breaking on the shore. These details used to differ from family to family - it helped identify sailors lost at sea.

Traditionally passed down within families or given as presents I received mine from my grandmother, a Jersey islander, when I was 16. Bought large for me to grow in to, my guernsey is sized 40 inch chest.
They are meant to be worn skin tight to make the most of the their insulating properties & mine fits more like a rather snug 38". 
There really isn't much 'give' in that tightly worn worsted! Some suggest sizing up a full 4 inches, though I feel strongly they should be worn as intended.

Under arm gusset for ease of movement
Ditto the split hem

The Guernsey is a working jumper - the under arm gussets and split hem provide ease of movement despite the snug fit.
My jumper has had a hard life, years ago I used it whilst working as a labourer during the Christmas holidays and various other menial student jobs. However, with a few running repairs it is still serving me well and will for years to come.

A few patch repairs over the years are testament to this garments working life and durability
Beware of imitations made elsewhere from inferior wool - for a guernsey to qualify as such it has to have been made on the island from the correct worsted wool to the traditional pattern. A kosher example will set you back approx £70 / 650DKK.

I have no idea where my grandmother found mine all those years ago, but I can suggest these chaps as a starting point. More on jumpers to follow soon.