Covering, or clothing and accessories, for the human body. The term encompasses garments as shirts, togas, footwear, hats, and gloves; hairstyles, facial hair, and wigs; and cosmetics, jewelry, and other forms of body decoration. In cultures thoughout the world, perhaps the most obvious function of dress is to provide warmth and protection, but it can also serve religious or ritual purposes. Other basic functions of dress include identifying the wearer (by providing information about sex, age, occupation, or other characteristic) and making the wearer appear more attractive. In the West up through the modern era, dress has often functioned as a reflection of social and economic standing. Seealso fashion.
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The stock phrase buff jerkin refers to an oiled oxhide jerkin, as worn by soldiers.
Jerkins were worn closed at the neck and hanging open over the peascod-bellied fashion of doublet. At the turn of the seventeenth century, the fashion was to wear the jerkin buttoned at the waist and open above to reflect the fashionable narrow-waisted silhouette.
By the mid-seventeenth century, jerkins were high-waisted and long-skirted like doublets of the period.
During the First World War, the British army issued brown leather jerkins to the troops as a measure to protect against the cold but to allow freedom of movement. These garments generally had four buttons and were lined with khaki wool. They were practical, hardwearing and extremely appreciated by officers and other ranks alike. During the Second World War, the leather jerkins were again issued to all the Commonwealth forces and were universally popular. Jerkins made in Canada were dark brown with black wool linings and differed in general appearance from the British jerkins.
The jerkins from the Second World War had bakelite buttons instead of brass and were each unique in that they were finished around the bottom edges with offcuts in a bid to eliminate waste. Warm and comfortable to wear whilst fighting, working or driving, these drab garments came to characterise the British forces as a preferred alternative to the heavy greatcoats that other armies persisted with.
A practical garment known as the Battle Jerkin was developed in 1942 by Colonel Rivers-MacPherson of the British Army; a modification of the English hunting vest, it was developed into a garment made of leather (canvas versions were also created) with multiple pockets, intended to replace the conventional web gear then in use. It was issued to assault troops for the Normandy landings and was used widely by commando personnel in 1944-45.
During the post war period, a much less distinctive PVC version was introduced to the forces. WD surplus leather jerkins flooded the UK during the 1950s and 1960s and were a common sight on manual workmen across the country. Wartime vintage leather jerkins are now collector's items, and at least one UK firm has produced a facsimile. The Belgian Army also produced vinyl jerkins in the postwar era.