the fisherman's smock blog post - shopping guide
Fisherman's smocks

The Fisherman’s Smock

Originally designed as workwear by the fishing community, the Fisherman’s Smock has become a versatile overgarment sought after by many for its practicality and durability. If you are looking for a traditional Fisherman’s Smock, you’ve come to the right place. As a nautical clothing store, we stock a range of styles from different brands. So let us guide you with a brief history of this long standing favourite covering key features, brands and today’s variations.

What is a Fisherman’s Smock ?

Historically, it was made from recycled old sails, a durable tough cotton canvas fabric, which was ideal to face the elements and stood up to the rigours of the job. Usually designed loose fitted to allow ample arm movements and to be layered over a pure wool fisherman’s jumper or Breton sweater, acting as both a wind proof and shower proof overgarment.

From 1874, it then became part of the French Navy uniform and over time forged its place among the key staple pieces of any sailor’s wardrobe.

Today, it is not only sought after for sailing and fishing activities but also for gardening, painting, wood working or even rock climbing as one customer told us !


A traditional fisherman’s smock, also known as Breton smock or “vareuse” in French, has three key features:

  • A V neck, wide and easy to get over your head, with a small button on the inside
  • One or two internal packets
  • Must be made in a good thick cotton canvas

Being primarily a work garment, it was critical that no buttons nor pockets be external as to not catch the fishing gear or ropes.

However, you can find alternative designs, with a boat or round neck, with or without external pockets, all relating to various UK regional differences, also known as Cornish or Whitby smocks.

History also shows that different shades were used by different ports, a good way of differentiation between fishermen. Today, two colours dominate the market with navy blue and red brick but some brands like Mousqueton excels at producing a multi choice of colours every year. Other like Saint James, Armor-Lux and Captain Corsaire tend to focus on the two main colours.

In terms of sizing, opt for your normal size to wear over a cotton Breton shirt. Size up to wear over a winter jumper. These are not exclusive to men’s clothing any longer and are equally liked by ladies with sizing stocked from XS to 5XL depending on the labels.

Fisherman’s smocks with hood

Not the traditional design but a brilliant take on this classic garment is the hooded smock.

Made also in quality thick canvas with plenty of useful well thought details:

  • a hood to cover you during those windy and wet days, adjustable with togs
  • 1/4 zip neckline with drawstrings, so easy to put over the head
  • chest zipped pouch pocket to keep your small belongings safe
  • two front side pockets to keep your hands warm
  • long zipped slide slit on one side for added comfort, perfect to give you more room when you put it on

If you need any help deciding on sizing and/or style, feel free to be in touch.

*Prices are valid at the time of the post publication date

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