I thought I'd sit down and write a little story about how the Wills Jacket came to be, give a bit of a timeline of upgrades it's gone through over the years, and it's evolution into the V2 - what we consider to be the ultimate iteration.
March 14, 2015
Back then it was just ole me in a tiny little barn. Working on harebrained leather and canvas projects with a slow hum on my spare nights and weekend. Wallets, keychains, and such; heavy duty backpacks made of a thick 18oz twill I sourced from the town I went to high school in (Bridgeton, NJ). At the time my days were spent as a stone mason, and the clothing I had access to just would not hold up. I spent most of the money I had to spare on a "heritage" jacket that I thought would be the one. It lasted about two weeks before an entire seam busted.
After this, I got a bee in my bonnet about trying out a particular thick twill I'd been using and making myself a chore coat out of it. The design was simple - I took apart the other jacket that broke and altered the pattern with sketchy lines on some chipboard. Zero knowledge on garment patterning led to a pile of chipboard pieces that I laid on the waxed twill and started hacking away. I made the pattern and stitched up jacket number one in about 8 hours. The blinders came down, I laid down the jacket on the patio outside, and really looked at it. "DAMN! ITS ACTUALLY WEARABLE!".
I had no idea the madness that would follow when I clicked "share" on the humble Instagram page I'd built around wallets and bags. Before I knew it, people were going nuts over this thing and I was scrambling to figure out how to actually produce some of these dang jackets.
Jacket Number One: Had no zipper, no felled seams, single stitched pockets, and was way too small since I didn't know how to account for fabric thickness in a pattern. The cuff opening was also right on the seam which put it in and awkward spot for wearing. Belly pockets were also too small.
Jacket Number Three: The first Wills with an added zipper, still no felled seams. This jacket was made for my buddy Kyler Martz. He spilled a bucket of oil paint on it and soaked it in turpentine - this got rid of the paint but shrunk the heck out of the jacket. It spent a few years on the back (and album cover) of one Taylor Kingman before I traded a new jacket to have it back. Still had the weird seam cuff but other details were starting to get fleshed out.
First Production Version: After a good handful more iterations on my own, enter master pattern maker - Steven Heard. After meeting Steven, we put our heads together to perfect the pattern, digitize it, and prep it for a production line. This saw an added bi-swing on the back so you could actually move in this thick waxed twill; articulated two-panel sleeves, better fitting collar, etc; an improved pattern overall. These also moved away from the annoyingly time consuming leather patch (which I know many of you still love... sorry).
Upgrades On Production: At a certain point we decided a deeper bi-swing was in order, double stitching was added to pockets, and the pockets got a heavier grading throughout sizes. This kept a better scaled look between different sized jackets. We started the switch to a bound/stitched down seam to make a stronger build than a chain-stitched flat felled seam.
The Wills Jacket V2 - The Ultimate: The two most-requested upgrades were adding a liner and a two-way zipper. Well, here you go! (and you all thought our grumpy asses weren't listening...) This version also has stronger seams that trade chain stitches (often prone to failure) for doubled down lock stitched seams. Not that we'd seen many seams fail, but why not overbuild it more? This new seam also lays flatter, leading to a more comfortable-wearing jacket.
This jacket has been the source of excitement, frustration, and the sweat of hard work for seven years at this point, but also a large stepping stone to bring Ship John into the realm of an actual brand. It's because of the draw that spun around the internet with this jacket that Ship John is where it is today. The hype is realized to be true when each patient person receives this beast. And a beast of a jacket is it... through and through.