The other workwear country: East Germany
As the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall draws near, we take this opportunity to tell you more about East German workwear.
You will often see chore jackets described as 'European jackets' or 'EU jackets', and most of the time they are actually East German. French workwear has become a thing, a way of describing a type of clothing beyond nationality.
The French jackets reflect the country's specific social history - they became widespread with mechanisation and industrialisation, even more widespread when trade unions secured the right for the employers to supply protective wear, the brands often had a strong regional connection - Lafont with Lyon, Le Laboureur with Burgundy, Sapivog with Vosges and so on.
But we digress. East German jackets are not described as such, maybe because they are from a defunct country, a failed economic experiment, and yet as garments, they should be celebrated in their own right.
They are often made of a lighter cotton fabric (more like a shirt), they fade more easily and they are often a grey blue or on the grey scale,
There is a big demand for vintage and faded workwear currently, so the East German jackets help meet demand, especially for faded jackets. French employers had to supply new garments on a regular basis, making it hard for the jackets to get really faded, and explaining why they are so many deadstock pieces out there (employees had many spare ones). You can imagine the German jackets being worn for longer.
East Germany was one of the more developed Eastern European countries, with a strong industrial history. The manufacturers were VBE Vollbeschäftigtene 'employment units' - you will often see these three letters on the garment's label.
One VBE prospectus states that providing workers with protective wear is part of the ethos of the DDR and actively contributes to the building of socialism, so these clothes carried a big responsibility.
So when you buy a vintage workwear garment, you buy a bit of social history, whatever the nationality.