In the world of menswear, there are only two major influences: sports and the military. To mention a few, sports have given us staples like the baseball cap, polo shirt, and tracksuit. Meanwhile, the military has inspired us for nearly a whole outerwear collection.
We simply need to remember that necessity is the mother of invention to understand why the armed forces have been responsible for so many of the most significant advancements in menswear. GPS, super glue, and the microwave oven are just a few of the daily technologies that were formed amid the fires of war.
Clothes are no exception, and many of the small elements we see on outerwear were originally created with the battlefield in mind. With military-inspired outerwear resurfacing on the fashion scene, now seems like a good time to pull out a few old favourite styles of military jackets that look great but are also approved for uniform wear.
Originally created to keep WWI fighter pilots warm in open cockpits, early aviator jackets had thick shearling collars and were trimmed at the waist to allow for movement when sitting.
You might know about the stylish Mortimer jacket which is a modern spin on one of Belstaff’s early motocross jackets and also has a lot in common with an early twentieth-century aviator jacket. The biggest distinction with this specific design of military jackets is the material: instead of the hefty leather, this one is made of water-repellent waxed cotton.
The Army Tracksuit Jacket
The traditional army tracksuit jacket is comprised of high-performance fabrics that repel wind and rain while allowing moisture vapour to pass through to keep you comfortable.
An army tracksuit jacket includes various comfort and safety elements in addition to its performance advantages. Adjustable zippered underarm vents, a front and rear reflective stripe, a hidden back vent, and reinforced elbows are among the features – the perfect blend of streetwear and military. There are also two front zippered pockets to keep your valuables safe while wearing this jacket.
The modern peacoat, which is double-breasted and cut short in the body, is based on coats supplied to the US Navy after the American Civil War, which were based on longer coats worn by British sailors prior to that, and Dutch seamen before them. The collar was designed to be worn with the collar turned up against the weather.
With elaborate gold buttons and blood-red piping suggestive of an officer’s uniform, there is the standout version from Burberry’s military-heavy autumn collection that gives a formal edge to the garment, while the cashmere-wool blend delivers a delightfully soft handle.
Although parkas were originally created by the Caribou Inuit in the Canadian Arctic, their oversized fit proved to be useful when used with bulky military uniforms underneath, so it didn’t take long for them to become part of the military attire, especially in the colder climates. The original M-1948 fishtail parka was only produced by the US Army for one year, in 1950, before being replaced with the less expensive M-1951 variant at the onset of the Korean War.
However, it was quickly adopted by the mod movement of the 1960s and was later transferred through the hands of a number of youth subcultures. Brands like Balenciaga have a modern take on the classic parka featuring a mix of flair and functionality while adding a shearling-lined hood for added warmth.
The US Air Force developed the MA-1 flight military jackets in the 1950s as a solution to the increasing challenges of high-altitude, jet-powered flight. It was composed of water-resistant nylon and had substantial synthetic padding and voluminous sleeves that kept jet pilots warm without weighting them down or hindering their movement. All of these attributes made the garment enormously popular with civilians as well. Casely Hayford’s on the MA-1, unique to MR PORTER, elevates the classic design with a sleek army-green satin finish.
This military jacket classic gets its name from the Belgian town of Duffel, which also gets its name from the heavyweight woollen material used to make the coats. Prior to WWI, duffle coats were provided to Royal Navy sailors, but their unique toggle fastenings are today associated with preppy students, Britpop stars, and Rive Gauche beatniks.
This season’s outstanding duffel comes from one of the most popular Parisian labels, Sandro. With elegant, leather-trimmed closures and a semi-fitted cut, it’s city-ready without sacrificing the garment’s nautical pedigree.
The Trench Coat
It’s difficult to believe that a garment as elegant as the trench coat was ever meant to be worn in a trench, yet there you have it. While the design for the officer’s gabardine raincoat was submitted to the British War Office in 1901, the coat received its moniker after being worn in WWI trenches. The traditional material is replaced with robust storm system wool in this modern take from Scottish outerwear specialist Mackintosh, but the trench coat’s classic pattern is retained.
The Field Jacket
The US Army introduced the M-1965 field jacket in – you got it – 1965, and it was originally intended to be worn by soldiers in Vietnam. While the patch pockets and epaulettes are suggestive of its military origins, this jacket has long transcended its military roots and is now more reminiscent of 1960s counterculture. Tom Ford’s is a characteristically opulent interpretation, with a beautifully tailored design and lustrous silk lining.