War affects style.
It’s been this way since wars have existed.
Functional combat garments are reimagined for everyday style.
The military uniform had an undeniable effect on the designs, colors, fabrics, and silhouettes of modern menswear.
A number of clothes worn all around the world were first introduced by the military and then adopted by civilians.
The origins of modern menswear are heavily influenced by the armed forces.
The military uniform is all about the classic style formula – fit, fabric, and function.
It is every bit as tactical as it is practical.
Looking back to the World War I, these elements were an integral part of American soldiers’ outerwear:
- Features were added to boost the durability of the outfits, including the use of wool fabric.
- Cap badges and flashes were worn to distinguish a soldier’s rank and regiment.
- Zippers were incorporated into uniforms for convenience.
- Hip-length, military-style jackets became popular, with large pockets and belts. A military style overcoat with epaulets was used in the trenches around this time.
- Gray and khaki, regular army colors, became the popular choice for uniforms.
During World War II, new jackets were developed for use in aircraft, which included the Eisenhower and bomber jackets. For the Persian Gulf War, the environment and location for the soldiers were very different.
The colors of the uniforms changed to help soldiers blend into the desert ecosystem. Uniforms involved bomber jackets and combat boots.
The military is about practicality first, then comfort and lastly, style.
Clothing adjustments made for the convenience of troops resulted in new styles and trends that became classic items in civilian fashions. Of all these adjustments, jackets were the most copied sartorial element.
Read below for a list of 8 military jackets and outerwear that have influenced the modern man’s choices for coats.
#1 Eisenhower Jacket
The Eisenhower jacket was made famous by Dwight Eisenhower, Supreme Commander of Allied Forces and later the 34th President of the United States.
The waist-length jacket or blouson was issued by the U.S. Army in the later stages of World War II in replacement of the longer and cumbersome overcoat that stretched past the thighs.
The Eisenhower jacket featured an adjustable waistband, two breast pockets, a pleated back, fly-front buttons, slash side pockets, and epaulets.
Modern versions of the jacket are much simpler – keeping the original design of a cinched waist silhouette and side slash pockets but without the breast pockets and epaulets.
#2 Field Jacket
In preparation for the Vietnam War, the military called for an update of the M-51 jacket which was in use until the 1960s.
The M-65 field jacket was created to navigate the wild jungle terrain and the climate that the U.S. troops would encounter.
It featured a windproof cotton construction, a drab olive green color palette with multiple chest pockets to store spare ammunition.
The rugged fabric and clean silhouette of this jacket rose in popularity after Robert DeNiro’s famous role in the 1976 film Taxi Driver. Rarely seen without the jacket, the role of the ex-veteran in the movie is closely associated with the field jacket.
#3 Bomber Jacket or Flight Jacket
Most airplanes during World War I didn’t have enclosed cockpits. The pilots wore coats that kept them safe from the frigid high-altitude cold.
The original A2 Bomber Jacket issued by the U.S. Air Corp in 1931 and it became standard issue in 1931 was made of seal skin leather and cotton lining. As the demand for these jackets grew, the department of war replaced seal skin leather with horsehide.
The A2 Bomber or Flight Jacket was a waist length leather jacket that featured two front patch pockets. Webbing was attached to the end of the sleeves and the bottom of the jacket to close out the air.
They featured high wraparound collars, zipper closures with wind flaps, snug cuffs, and waists, which we now equate with the instantly recognizable bomber.
#4 Duffel Coat
The duffel (or duffle) coat gets its name from the heavy napped wool fabric, originally made in Duffel, Belgium.
The preferred choice of the British Royal Navy during World War I and II, this jacket is recognizable for its toggle closure. Designed for sailors to fasten and unfasten the jacket while wearing gloves at sea, the coat has 3-4 toggles that are fastened with rope loops.
The coat features a hood to keep the wearer warm in the high seas and also allows room for a naval cap to be worn underneath. A buttonable strap at the neck and the fuzzy tartan lining keep the cold out. and two patch pockets.
Modern versions of this jacket retain the two patch pockets but usually end at about hip-length, unlike the original knee-length designs.
#5 Pea Jacket/Pea Coat
This short double-breasted overcoat made from a coarse woolen cloth was formerly worn by sailors. The “pea” in pea coat refers to the Dutch word “pije,” – a coarse twilled blue cloth fabric with a nap on one side.
Used by the Dutch at the height of their naval power in the 16th century, a pea coat features a double-breasted closure with large metal or plastic buttons, a wide notched collar and lapel, and vertical or slash pockets.
The close fitting silhouette of the peacoat added a bit of a flair line on the hips, allowing the reefers to climb the ropes aboard a ship.
These coats were originally made of heavy, coarse wool in either navy or black. The modern version of this jacket has been modified slightly with a softer wool and colors.
#6 Trench Coat
The most common jacket that exemplifies the repeated passage from the military to the civil sphere is the trench coat.
This raincoat, created for the soldiers of World War I by Thomas Burberry, was made of cotton gabardine. The material was chemically treated to aid the water-repellant properties of gabardine. The utilitarian and rugged design of the coat made it a common feature among soldiers in the trenches during World War I. Hence, the name – trench coat.
The trench coat features a double-breasted closure with 10 front buttons, a storm flap, wide lapels, and pockets that button-close. The coat is belted at the waist, as well as having straps with buckles around the wrists.
The traditional color of a trench coat was khaki, although modern versions are available in a range of colors.
#7 Fatigue Jacket
The basic uniform for British troops during the World War II was a dust-colored khaki jacket.
The jacket has four pockets – two on the hips, two on the breasts, and are all buttoned. A khaki belt, attached to the jacket, girdles the waist with a brass buckle fastening in the center. On either side of the upper arm are the white ranking chevrons.
A khaki belt, attached to the jacket around the waist, with a brass buckle that fastened in the center.
Today, the fatigue jacket is the inspired choice of outdoor enthusiasts who frequent dusty terrains. Inspired by vintage military style, the jacket is sold in camouflage prints.
#8 The Parka
The parka was originally conceived by the Caribou Inuit for protection in the extreme climatic conditions of the Arctic. They were made of seal skin or caribou and were also referred to as ‘anorak.’
A parka generally features a fur-lined hood and a zipper closure. The length of the jacket ranges from waist-length to knee-length. The lightweight waterproof nylon and cotton construction kept the U.S. troops warm during the Korean war without obstructing movement.
Modern versions of the parka are made from lightweight synthetic materials and lined with down feather, which adds bulk to the jacket’s design. The puffy look of a parka gives it a sporty look, best suited for casual attire.
The styles adopted during wartime are durable and sensible.
Dozens of common items in our everyday wardrobe have been inspired by the military. These 8 jackets are a perfect example of the way national borders become useless against the power of fashion.
At the end of World War II, people began to consume mass-produced clothing that was now gaining a uniformity across the country. Clothes had to be versatile because they were rationed. As a result, civilian clothes took on a “military look.”
The military uniform was and continues to be a source of inspiration for designers.