Washing room of abandoned Zeche Hugo coal mine. Clothing and valuables were placed in the trays and raised by chains out of reach, then locked at the bottom. (by Marcel Fischer)

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From what I remember (grew up next to a mine in Germany and many family members and friends were miners), it’s mostly to keep the private clothes and other things out of the way (the basket system saves space in contrast to lockers, for example). Also, clothes wouldn’t get too dusty when hung up high, and there was usually coal dust everywhere.

The whole construct with the baskets is called “Kaue” (“coop”, I guess?) over here, and there were two kinds: the Schwarzkaue (black coop) for the miners’ working clothes. They would come out of the mine after their shift, take off the dirty clothes and put them in the baskets and then go shower and grab the clean, ‘civilian’ clothes from the Weißkaue (white coop) and go home. Well, and the other way round, when the shift begins again.

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