Private White V.C. Field Jacket

Dammit, I’m in love. Giddy, head-spinning, where have you been all my life love. As I mentioned in a recent Instagram post about the upcoming article on this jacket, I try to be as measured and impartial as possible with all of my writing, but right now I’ll just come out and say that this time around I’ve failed miserably.

Like everyone else I read reviews on a range of subjects which matter to me and I’m always put off when the writer gushes over the item or items in question. It feels insincere and one wonders if it’s a bought testimony. Is the writer spooning out the hyperbole because they got something for free or your publication is being paid to say nice things? (almost always, yes). So consider the rest of this article as a transgression on my part, but one which comes from a sincere place. I’ve fallen in love and I’ll be damned if don’t tell the world about the glass case of emotion which now surrounds me. I’ll be back to my more measured self in the next article. For the sake of being crystal clear I didn’t receive any special treatment when buying this jacket (it was actually a present from my wife after I’d been talking about buying it for a while).

The Brand: James Eden (Insta: @jamesedenpw) is the CEO of Private White V.C. I won’t go into too much detail on the brand as many readers will already be at least partially familiar with the company and there’s a detailed overview of Private White V.C.’s history on their website. In short, James is the Grandson of the Jack White, a Victoria Cross recipient (hence the V.C.) from WW1 and a man who played a significant part in the running of the Manchester factory which now bears his name, having first opened its doors in 1853.

The factory has largely made white label products for a range of British luxury brands, before being brought back into family hands a few years ago and Private White V.C. was established.

I can only say that I admire James for the brass b#*%s he’s displayed in creating a business model which has boldly strayed from the norm of high-end British manufacturing, but which, in my opinion, is the model which is the healthiest and most sustainable for retail moving forwards, assuming you have an educated audience (which, historically hasn’t been the case, but is improving).

The business model boils down to a much more transparent pricing structure, highlighting the cost of materials, labour and margin, with sales being rare and less substantial than most other retailers. Effectively it’s a fairly priced, incredibly well made product. To buy (literally) the same product from a more generic British “luxury” retailer, you’d expect to pay at least 3 times the price and it likely hasn’t been made in house, and possibly hasn’t even been made in the UK.

For me, what Private White represents is the very best attributes which we traditionally associate with British manufacturing. Exceptional workmanship and quality, pragmatic and thoughtful “fit for purpose” design, sensible pricing and a general integrity in the product, company and its people which allows customers to simply enjoy their clothes, knowing that the manufacturer cares more about how it will wear and last than even their customers will.

The Jacket: In summary; hands down the best piece of ready to wear clothing I’ve ever owned. My first thought when I put on this jacket has stayed with me; I’ll give this to one of my boys someday and they’ll probably give it to one of theirs… It’ll be Granddads jacket, the one they’ll put on and, hopefully, think nice things about. It will, I’m certain, outlast me. That’s a sobering thought, but also a pleasant one. Knowing that this jacket I’ve saved up for will be with me on how many trips in the decades to come?

One of the comments I’ve always made so enthusiastically about all my bespoke commissions over the last 5 years, is that they’re “my” clothes. I’ve designed them (along with my tailor or shoemaker), they’re made specifically for me and they come with a sense of ownership like nothing else for those reasons. This is the first non-bespoke item of clothing I’ve ever felt the same way about. This is “my” field jacket, because I’ll wear myself into it over the decades, and then hand it on.

I don’t know if this sense of legacy is normal, but having lost my father when I was young-ish (24) I still feel powerfully moved whenever I see or hold any of his few remaining clothes which Mum still can’t part with (a jumper and his dressing gown, namely) as it’s a physical reminder of him. That was his favourite jumper and I can see him in it, as if he’s about to walk back through the door and put it on.

I digress.

In terms of quality, I’ve only positive things to say. There’s a cleanliness to the stitching which I can’t say I’ve seen in any other manufacturer. The stitches are arrow straight, finished neatly and there’s no bulk at any of the junctions or seam ends. There’s not a hint of a loose stitch anywhere on the entire jacket.

The hardware is super solid and the snap fasteners and primary zip are a beautifully rich and well polished copper which will no doubt develop a more muted patina over time.

Leather buckles like these are almost always poorly made. They’re usually held on by poor stitching and weak glue. This is immaculate and solidly put together.

When I first tried it on I expected to have to take it in at the waist as it was somewhat boxy… until I realised I’m an idiot and there’s a hidden internal drawstring (accessed through toggles in the lining) to cinch the waist and provide the right amount of shape. It’s the old-school equivalent of Marty McFly’s adjusting jacket from Back to the Future.

Internal drawstring toggle.

The only element with fit which slightly confuses me is the sizing. Private White’s smallest size is a size 2. That’s what I bought based on their size chart and it fits me well. It seems odd to me that that as a 5’10” male, I’d be their smallest size, when that puts me at about bang on average height for a western male. I also need to take the sleeves up slightly, by around 1cm. I’d have expected to be a medium, or at most a small given that I’m not overweight. That said, every brand has their own logic when it comes to sizing, so it’s more something to bear in mind when choosing your size.

I wasn’t sure how warm it would be, having only seen it online. Given that it’s not insulated as such, I was concerned it would only handle mild weather, but it’s comfortably held up on sub-zero mornings with a light wool or cashmere roll-neck and base layer underneath. I’d put that down, in part, to the sateen cotton finish which does an admirable job of blocking out the wind and keeping in heat.

Also, pockets. Guys love pockets. I love pockets. Places to put our stuff. Since becoming a Dad, this need has only increased, so another box gets ticked here for the Field Jacket. Pockets everywhere, including 2 large internal chest pockets.

I should perhaps officially reserve judgement as I’m yet to wear the jacket in a field. It’s also not seen a marsh, meadow, or their more elusive American cousin, the prairie. But from my limited experience with it so far in the urban jungle as well as being put through its paces in our front yard I’m confident in saying that investing in something, anything from Private White V.C. will repay dividends and go towards supporting British manufacturing, a more considered view towards purchasing clothes and put food on the table for a group of people in Manchester who seem to care a great deal about your clothes.

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  1. says: Matthew

    How is this holding up? I’m thinking of buying one, though they’re telling me I need size 6 and showing that you’re a size TWO has me concerned I’ll be swimming in it.

    thank you!

    1. says: Andrew Doyle

      Really well. Still one of my favourite pieces and I wore it a bunch during this southern Winter. Beautifully made and made to last. All the pockets are a god-send with my 2 little boys and all the things they hand over to me while we’re out.
      That’s weird on sizing, but I sense they’re a bit off the mark when advising in this space and/or there are slight inconsistencies across models. I bought a linen field jacket in the same size and it was too tight in the waist and arms, so I sent it back and, as they didn’t have a size 3, I exchanged it for a cotton shacketty thing (size 3) and it fits and looks great. They have a pretty goog return/exchange policy so if it doesn’t work then swap it out.
      If it helps, I’m 175cm and the size 2 is perfect on me, but a 3 might be a safer choice if you don’t want it too slim.

  2. says: Shaanan Wade

    Hi Andrew,
    I was looking at the private white site and was wondering what field jacket you have, and what color it is as well?

    Thank you!

    1. says: Andrew Doyle

      Hey Shaanan. It was from their autumn/winter collection about 2 years ago, so your best bet would be to hope for a reproduction at some point in the future. The colour was Demerera. They have the twin track in production at the moment, which is equally nice, but not in Demerera.

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