Military uniforms are designed with utility and comfort as core tenets; their construction is honed by the rigours of wear and tear, resulting in pieces that are made to last, come what may. So it is no surprise that military styling has been especially successful in the crossover to civilian wear. One item in particular, has been a style mainstay, and this season especially, the Field Jacket has been the go-to piece for many designers, who have interpreted the humble outerwear into a style icon in a multitude of materials and executions.
This is good news for the rest of us, as the field jacket is the perfect piece to transition between the fickle weather (monsoon season anyone?), and makes for an ideal lightweight, utilitarian travel buddy that doesn’t skimp on style. It’s a great way to up your sartorial game without veering into anything too formal, which is an easy mistake to make in today’s increasing smart-casual, athleisure-embracing environment. Today’s designs all draw their roots from the military issue M-65 jacket, the most notable of which comes from Alpha Industries, which in its heyday, produced more than half a million units of the field jacket a year and was the largest US army contractor for the M-65.
Originally developed in 1943 for use in WWII as the M-43, the jacket went through several design upgrades, including the addition of a snap-button covered zipper front (to ensure that the zip doesn’t get caught whilst one is on the battlefield in a leopard crawl) in the M-51. The final M-65 is the field jacket most recognised today as the classic, it’s iconic four frontal pockets and construction in NYCO ® fabric—a cotton sateen and nylon fabric that is both wind- and water-resistant, along with updated Velcro fastening additions to the cuffs and rolled-up hood, have all made it highly functional, as well as comfortable. The M-65 came into its own during the Vietnam War, where the disparities of the climate (hot and humid in the day and cold and wet at night) made it essential to have outerwear that could tackle the differing conditions and keep its wearer both warm and dry. Its associations with the whole ‘Make love Not War’ movement in the late ’60s—as the unofficial uniform of the protesters, who appropriated it for their purposes with additional graffiti, hand-sewn peace signs, and slogans, made it into something of a cultural icon.
These days, it's more suited to an off-duty look and with the designers bolstering its come-back with a cache of great options, you’ll be hard-pressed to pick just one. Here are six of our faves.