An earlier Jack Straw was a peasant from Essex, one of the leaders, with Wat Tyler and John Ball, of the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. They intended to meet King Richard II at Blackheath but he backed out of the meeting, and they entered London, sacking the Savoy Palace and the St John's Hospital in Clerkenwell.

Nothing seems to be known about Straw as a person, though his name is famous; a John Rackstraw is also mentioned in accounts of the revolt, and it is possible they are the same. It has even been suggested that he was a mere by-name for Wat Tyler: the word jackstraw could have meant straw man, i.e. something like an effigy or scarecrow, a suitable word for a pseudonym. It had this meaning several centuries later in Milton. Also, some ballads and tales say Straw was killed by Walworth at Smithfield, which is what actually happened to Tyler.

There is a pub in Hampstead, north London, called Jack Straw's Castle, which no doubt would like you to believe it was named for some ancient event involving the peasant leader; but it wasn't. The poet Thom Gunn wrote a volume called Jack Straw's Castle in 1976.

The Welsh composer Alun Hoddinott (1929- ) wrote an overture Jack Straw in 1964.

There is a novel The Confession of Jack Straw by Simone Zelitch, her first novel.