How The Field Jacket Became A Menswear Essential

Categories Fashion

How did a military staple become one of 2017’s favourite civilian garments?

Origins

Sharing military heritage with that other popular on-trend piece of outerwear, the bomber, the M-1965 field jacket was introduced during the Vietnam War to replace earlier ground-breaking models the M-1951 and M-1943. The major features of the M-65 include a  concealed hood that rolls into a pouch on the back of the neck, two practical pockets on the hip and two on the chest, a prominent brass zipper, windproof cotton and an inner lining for protection from the elements, and velcro fasteners on the sleeves and collar, designed for tackling the monsoonal rains of Vietnam. The jacket originally came in a colour officially known as Olive Green 107, but is now trotted out in a rainbow of different colours and styles.

Pop culture

At the end of the war, Alpha Industries — the Tennessee company that won the military contract to produce the garments — churned out M-65s for civilians with the exact same specs they’d shipped off to Vietnam (above). The jacket was really catapulted into pop culture by 1976 film Taxi Driver, starring Robert De Niro as a veteran marine who returned to New York from Vietnam wearing his old military garb, confirming the jacket’s status as a grungy, hard-nosed fashion statement. That reputation has been perpetuated by Hollywood ever since — Al Pacino as the title character in Serpico, the grey studded number worn by Arnold Schwarzenegger in The Terminator, and a favourite look of Jensen Ackles’ Dean Winchester in Supernatural.

Today

There’s hardly a streetwear brand on earth that hasn’t made their own spin on the field jacket, and designers haven’t been afraid to depart from the original shade of olive green, nor stick with more conservative reproductions of the military original. Oversized jackets — both field and bomber jackets — as well as the ubiquity of oversized boots and army green as a colour have become staple of civilian wear, rather than a passing trend. The field jacket, in particular, strikes the perfect blend of comfort, style, functionality, and the versatile silhouette works on every body shape. The utility of the four pockets also means it’s popular among suburban dads who haven’t let fatherhood totally railroad them into a wardrobe dominated by Seinfeld-esque jeans and sneakers.