Willie Watson C&O Railmans Jacket Review

I talk about leather jackets a lot on here. If you’re into Amekaji-heritage clothing and raw denim, then you probably already own at least one or two denim jackets and know about or own a waxed cotton jacket, peacoat, deck jacket, or leather jacket. One of the appealing aspects of this style of clothing for many is how substantial and tough a lot of the clothing feels. In fact, many get so into heavyweight jeans and clothing that they devote themselves to it (just look at the cult of Iron Heart.)

I love leather jackets and tweed trousers, but I can’t wear them all year.

The downside of this love of substantial outwear pieces means that layering in early fall, spring, and cooler days of summer is quite difficult. In fact, this was one of my biggest frustrations for quite some time. I hated when the weather warmed up not only because my ideal temperature outside is 45F/7C, but also because warm weather meant I couldn’t wear my leather jackets anymore. On some days, I could wear my denim jacket, but it was not that much better in warmer weather than my leather jackets. Given that I live in Southern California near the coast where the weather is dry and warm while rarely becoming scorching hot, I can take advantage of jackets that are more like overshirts in weight that I could wear in spring, fall, and some evenings in summer. 

For some reason, I never noticed just how many great jackets there were that fit my criteria here. Starting last spring, I went on a quest to find great lightweight jackets to wear during transition periods and cool summer evenings. I was quite successful and now own 4 jackets that I would consider to be “light” which for me, means 11oz or under and wearable in 77F/25C weather. The first two were a mixed bag and the third one was solid. Those will all be discussed eventually, but in this review, I will be talking about the fourth one. This was the one that I wanted the most.

The jacket that I am talking about is my Willie Watson Mfg. Co. C&O Railmans jacket in indigo wabash. I first saw this jacket being worn by my good friend Paul AKA @partial2denim on Instagram. From the moment I first saw it, I thought it was the coolest looking non-leather jacket that I had ever seen. Paul is known as “Mannequin Skywalker” for good reason. Everything fits him perfectly. That is not the case with me. I asked Paul about his jacket, but was not sure about ordering it at first because being short means that a longer jacket like this may not look great on me. However, the more I saw it, the more I felt like I had to have it and I eventually DM’d Willie Watson on Instagram and got in line for one. 

To be perfectly clear, I had not heard of Willie before. I had no idea that he was a well known musician and was the actor who played one of the characters in “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs.” This is not meant as an insult to his other talents, but rather as a compliment to him as a garment maker. My interest in this jacket was entirely due to the jacket itself which I thought was beautifully designed and appeared to be quite well made from what I had seen and heard. It also fit my criteria perfectly as a lightweight jacket at only 10oz. In addition, it was nice and versatile because although it is indigo, the use of wabash meant that I felt confident that it would look good with indigo denim in addition to all my other trousers. Finally, although I tend to prefer shorter jackets, I did not have any longer chore coat style jackets so it would add a new dimension to my wardrobe. Plus, the jacket is made by Willie himself and I love supporting one man brands.

Talking to and ordering from Willie was an easy and pleasant experience. He was kind enough to make shorter sleeves for me as well which I appreciated. I ordered a size 38 because these jackets run fairly large in the chest and I was quite happy with the fit when it arrived. The jacket is longer than any of my others, but certainly not too long and is comfortable without looking loose. In fact, the only minor issue that the sleeves probably could have been even shorter, but that was my fault because I should have specified shorter sleeves.

Measurements for my size 38 jacket are as follows:

Chest: 21.5”

Shoulder: 18”

Back Length: 27”

Sleeve Length: 23.5”

Standard Sleeve length: 25”

I am very happy the fit worked well for me, but the best part of this jacket in my opinion is the design. To my eyes, it sort of looks like a combination of a chore coat and a sack coat. It is more of a chore coat for sure, but it isn’t as squared off at the bottom as a chore coat usually is and I really like this. It is also only a 4 button jacket (3 main buttons plus the upper one for the throat) vs. chore coats which are usually 5 buttons total. The wabash fabric looks great, but what really sets off the jacket are the contrasting panels of indigo twill. From what I have observed, this looks like it is the backside of the wabash fabric being used as the front in certain panels, but I could be mistaken and it’s just a very similar fabric. These are used on the collar, the cuffs, the back cinch, and the tops of 3 out of the four pockets. Using these contrasting panels, but only sparingly separates this jacket from other wabash jackets without making it look like a gimmicky mess. To me, the overall design and use of the two different fabrics is extremely well thought out, making for a stunningly beautiful garment.

The smaller details are also excellent on this jacket. The custom metal buttons are beautiful and I love that the one used for the right chest pocket and cuffs are smaller and slightly different in design to the ones used to actually button up the jacket. Speaking of the cuffs, they are also quite cool. They have a unique, curved design that sort of comes to a peak where the button is which I think looks beautiful and is accentuated by the contrasting panels used for the cuffs vs. the rest of the sleeves. The pockets are also all fully lined in a white cotton twill material which feels just as high quality as the other fabrics used. 

Construction quality is also quite good. It doesn’t look quite as clean as Roy or Ooe Yofukuten, but nothing really comes close to those two in terms of cotton garments. Also, keep in mind that this jacket is made only with single needle lock stitching, which in my experience does not look as clean as chainstitching. Plus, this is a fairly young operation so I think that makes the quality of the workmanship on this jacket even more impressive. There are no causes for concern in terms of durability and the quality is actually better than other high end Japanese brands’ single needle stitching that I’ve experienced. For example, it’s noticeably better than the single needle stitching on Freewheelers cotton and wool garments that I’ve owned. The seams are all felled so no overlock stitching is used. The white thread contrasts strongly against the indigo, but it is a good choice given the wabash fabric used for most of the jacket.

This was a great addition to my wardrobe. It’s not too long, but is longer than all the other jackets I currently wear. I think it would look better on me if I were taller, but I think that goes for any jacket that is on the longer side. Still, I love wearing it partly because it’s different from my normal go-to pieces. Unfortunately I have not been able to wear it as much as I would like thanks to the issues with COVID-19, but as things open up I will continue to wear it throughout these warmer months quite often. The light weight fabric also makes it pretty easy to wear in warmer weather which is exactly what I was looking for.

At a price of $689 this is not a high value for money piece. That should be a surprise only to people who think Kathleen Kennedy was the right choice to oversee Star Wars. It is beautifully designed and incredibly well made so if you want one of the best chore coats out there, this is it. For most people, the jacket just is not going to be worth it and that’s OK. There are other wabash jackets out there, but in my opinion, this one is still quite unique and one of the coolest non-leather jackets out there. If you aren’t enamoured with how this jacket looks, the price will not be worth it for you. If you’re like me, the moment you saw it, you knew you had to have it. If you do feel that way, then I can tell you that you will not be disappointed. I certainly was not. I adore this jacket and I do not say that lightly.

If you are like me and fell in love with this garment at first sight, it’s probably best to DM @williewatsonmfgco on Instagram to find out when orders will be open again. You can also order on his website. Given that the production on these is quite limited due to the fact that Willie Watson is busy doing music and acting, you want to know when you will have a chance to get one. His production slots tend to sell out quite quickly when they open up. I was glad to have gotten a chance to get one of these jackets and I am extremely satisfied with it. The materials and construction are high end, but the real selling point of this jacket is just how damn cool it looks and I am excited to have it get even better with age.

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