Close your eyes and picture a denim jacket. The piece of outerwear you’ve formed an image of in your mind’s eye is most likely a trucker jacket. We’d put money on it. This cropped style is defined by its twin chest flap pockets, adjustable waist, classic collar, riveted construction and slim fit. It’s sometimes lined with borg that spills out onto the collar, but it’s usually unlined.
The trucker was first introduced by Levi’s in 1967, albeit by a slightly less catchy name: The Type III. It was a revised version of the San Francisco brand’s original denim ‘blouse’ jacket, the 506XX, which was first sold in the early 1900s. Cut short and boxy with a single chest pocket, the 506XX played on the success of Levi’s riveted denim jeans. It was essentially a pair of jeans for your upper body, and it was a huge hit with the same manual workers that championed the label’s tough-as-nails legwear.
The Type III was a revised version of the original and set the template for what we now tend to refer to as a classic denim jacket. It bore all the design quirks we associate with this style today, including the characteristic ‘V’-shaped stitching to the front. It was technically the birth of the trucker jacket, but the name didn’t come until later.
When American menswear collectors from Japan became fixated with the style, they noticed that the raw denim Type Three jackets coming through their doors with the best fades had all belonged to truckers. These guys had been putting their jackets through the wringer out on the road, getting them creased up good and proper in their cabs and really making them their own. The name stuck, and this same basic design, whether made by Levi’s or some other brand, is referred to as the ‘trucker jacket’ to this day.
Trucker Jackets vs. Denim Jackets
The terms ‘trucker jacket’ and ‘denim jacket’ are often used interchangeably. It easy to see why, as the trucker is the most recognisable and famous type of denim jacket. But not all trucker jackets are denim jackets, and not all denim jackets are truckers.
There are thousands of different styles of denim jacket, because a denim jacket is simply any jacket constructed from denim. The term ‘trucker’ refers specifically to a single style of outerwear, which may or may not be made from denim. Yes, the very first trucker jackets were made from denim, but they can also be made of anything from suede to corduroy, wool and everything in between.
Trucker Jacket Buying Considerations
The unique fit of a trucker jacket is part of what defines it. It’s a cropped style that sits above the belt line and is cut close to the body. Some people choose to wear them oversized, but with a classic trucker fit it should be nice and easy to fit another layer over the top.
Again, trucker jackets were historically made from denim, but they can be made of almost anything. As long as it features the trademark cropped cut, twin button pockets to the chest and stitched detailing, it can be called a trucker.
Think raw indigo denim if you want something classic, or sumptuous brown suede for something a bit more plush.
The figure you can expect to stump up for a trucker jacket varies wildly depending on who made it and what from. A cheap denim trucker from a high-street brand could cost you less than £50, while a high-end version made from leather or suede by a designer label could fetch well into the thousands.
As for the original Levi’s Trucker, they start from around £100, so we’d say that’s a good baseline in terms of price.
The Best Brands For Trucker Jackets
The Americans might have invented the trucker jacket, but we make some respectable versions on this side of the pond too. Case in point: Percival. This London-based brand specialises in menswear’s contemporary classics, offering its own subtle spin on some of the most iconic designs.
The label’s Denton jacket is a reasonably priced pleated trucker with the added benefit of slanted pockets to the front. Or there’s the Western jacket, which is more of a classic trucker available in various fabrics, including corduroy.
Levi’s created the first trucker jackets and layer the template from the style today. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that they make some of the best around. Next to the original 501 jean, the Levi’s Trucker is probably the American brand’s most famous product, and it’s still being made to this day.
For a slightly more upscale version than the jackets in the mainline collection, take a look a Levi’s Vintage Clothing. This sub brand makes accurate recreations of heritage designs from the brand’s archives, using traditional techniques and high-end materials.
You’ll struggle to find a classic American denim brand that doesn’t make its own version of the trucker jacket, and Lee is no exception. Expect to find traditional truckers with all the key characteristic details, and often at lower prices than the likes of Levi’s.
Wrangler is another classic US denim label, which is now owned by the same parent company as Lee. Again, prices tend to be lower than competitors, which makes it a good option for anyone who likes the idea of a trucker with an iconic American brand’s name on the label for a wallet-friendly price.
There’s only one country that can rival the USA with its denim output, and that’s Japan. The country bought up lots of production machinery from the States after the Second World War, and Japanese jeans these days are regarded as the high-water mark for denim.
Edwin is essentially the Japanese Levi’s. It’s a long-running and highly respected pioneer of Japanese denim. It’s a gateway to the niche independent brands that denimheads drool over, and it makes some fantastic truckers.
French label A.P.C. Is known for making some of the best value for money raw denim jeans on the market. This is something that extends to the brand’s outerwear too. The Parisian label offers a number of jackets cut from raw Japanese selvedge denim, including truckers.
Styles vary from season to season, but there’s usually something that fits the description, to the extent that the denim trucker has become something of an A.P.C. signature.
Californian climbing brand Patagonia has long rigged on classic pieces of American menswear to influence its casualwear designs. The label’s pile-lined trucker is a recurring staple that’s available in either corduroy or denim, with classic styling and Fair Trade construction.