War influences style?
Soldiers returning home after a war carried more than battle scars.
They brought home new styles which were invented by necessity during combat.
Military trends that silently became a part of every day style.
The reason for their success was more than aesthetic.
It was due to the function.
Any clothing item worn by troops has to be comfortable, sharp and functional.
The army is constantly experimenting with new technologies to create resistant fibers and fabrics for military uniforms.
The first ready-to-wear garments were manufactured in bulk to dress soldiers in standard sizes and proportions to adapt to men with different physiques. The trends popularized in combat effortlessly find their way into fashions on urban streets.
You can’t open a man’s wardrobe without being confronted by some relic of a military uniform. It makes one wonder if there is more style inspiration to be derived from the barracks than magazine stands.
Here are our top 11 pieces that jumped straight out of your history textbooks into every man’s wardrobe.
Before the 20th Century, wristwatches were worn only by women. They were considered a feminine accessory, worn on the wrist as ornamentation.
That changed in the wars of the late 19th and 20th century when the gentleman’s pocket watch evolved into the ubiquitous wristwatch.
The wristwatch became a strategic tool in World War I as troops synchronized their attack formations based on pre-determined times.
Historians say that the idea of strapping little clocks to soldier’s wrists probably was conceived during the Boer War. But most commentators agree that World War I secured the wristwatch’s place both in military history and as a classic piece of men’s jewelry.
Around the time of Napoleon’s defeat at the Battle Of Waterloo, a Prussian officer named Gebhard Leberecht von Blucher Furst von Wahlstatt noticed that his men were struggling with their combat boots.
He commissioned a redesign of the standard issue combat boot to a simpler shoe so his troops could get ready for action quicker. The resulting half boot had two leather flaps below the ankles that could be laced together.
The flaps didn’t meet at the bottom and each had opposing shoelace eyelets. The design resulted in a wider opening for the soldier’s foot and made them more comfortable because the laces between the flaps could be tightened or loosened as needed.
The two leather flaps allowed for speedy battle prep and could be easily adjusted on the go, making life easier on all of his troops.
The troops led by the innovative Mr. Blucher played a significant role in the defeat of Napolean’s army at the Battle of Waterloo.
Chinos are versatile pants that have evolved from colonial military uniform to preppy classic pants.
British soldiers stationed in India wore khaki (Persian for ‘dust’) colored uniforms. The modern chino is a direct descendant of this uniform.
The U.S. army first used khaki uniforms in the Philippines during the Spanish-American war of the 1890s. The soldiers were dressed in uniforms made of fabric produced in China. The Spanish word for ‘Chinese’ (chino) was used to describe the khaki uniforms.
The name stuck and the pants were later referred to as ‘chinos.’
After the war, ex-troops resumed their studies and sported this new style of trouser on campus. Chinos became an integral part of the Ivy League, preppy look.
In 1941, an employee of the Clark Shoe Company, Nathan Clark, was deployed to Burma with the British Eighth Army. While in Burma, he noticed that the soldiers preferred wearing crepe-soled suede boots while off-duty.
He found out that this hard-wearing, lightweight and durable boot was made by Cairo cobblers for South African soldiers whose military issued boots could not withstand the harsh desert terrain.
Inspired by the simplicity and durability of the design, he went to work to create a boot that quickly gained popularity in Europe and then all across the U.S.
The desert boot design was loosely based on the Dutch Voortrekker, a style of boot that was worn in desert warfare by the South African division of the Eighth Army.
The t-shirt was worn as underwear in the 1800s. The union suit was cut in half to form a long top that could be tucked into a pair of jeans. It had buttons and was considered inappropriate to be worn uncovered in public.
Things changed with the Cooper Underwear company market them as ‘buttonless bachelor undershirts.’ The resulting clothing item was more durable, stretchable and required less maintenance than its predecessor.
The U.S. Navy adopted the pullover cotton tee as part of its regulation uniform, much to the relief of a large number of enlisted young bachelors with limited sewing abilities.
The US Army adopted the undershirt trend during World War I as tens of thousands of army soldiers wore the cotton tee under their uniform. The troops took the fashion home with them at the end of the war and ensured that the trend evolved into a civilian style staple.
The word “t-shirt” was first used by F. Scott Fitzgerald in his novel, This Side Of Paradise.
The cummerbund was originally worn as dining wear for British military personnel stationed in India. The locals often wore sashes around their waist called kamarbands (from ‘kamar’, meaning waist.)
Due to the heat in India, the British were keen to find a cooler dining uniform and quickly adopted the sash for their dining wear waist covering instead of a vest.
As the tuxedo gained in popularity in Tuxedo Park, New York, accessories specific to the formal outfit began to surface. The black bow tie and black waistcoat became the norm. The aristocracy soon borrowed the idea of black cummerbunds as an alternative to the waistcoat.
Military Influenced Style #7 – Aviator Sunglasses
In 1936, Bausch & Lomb developed sunglasses for pilots to protect their eyes while flying, thus the name aviator. These specially designed sunglasses were intended to give pilots full range of vision when battling the glaring sun and enemy fighters.
The classic tear-drop shape of these sunglasses completely covered the eyes and offered protection to the entire eye socket.
Aviators have been a part of civilian life for almost as long as they’ve been around.
While the aviator has become one of the most popular sunglass styles for civilians, it still remains a staple of military gear for the U.S. military.
Randolph Engineering has been producing aviator sunglasses since 1978 for the U.S. military.
Originally developed by the US Air Force in World War 1, the Bomber jacket was worn by pilots for protection against the elements. Often flying in open cockpits, these jackets allowed pilots to navigate high altitudes at breakneck speeds despite the cold weather.
The original design of the bomber jacket featured a snug waist, fur lining, zipper closures and a wraparound collar that protected the pilot’s neck from the wind.
The original flight jacket in the United States, known as Type A-2 was standard issue for Air Force pilots. Defining characteristics of the A-2 Flight Jacket included a snap flap front pocket that was used for storing equipment and gear, not for keeping the hands warm.
Another popular style of bomber jacket, the G-1, was made famous by the movie Top Gun but was actually designed to be worn by the Marine Corp, the Navy, and the Coast Guard.
Military Influenced Style #9 – The Scarf & Necktie
For over 2000 years, scarves have been to identify rank in the military. From the Terracotta Warriors of China to modern-day desert military units, we see scarves used because they provide value in inclement weather.
Scarves were considered staple winter garment for men during World War I. Both America and Great Britain encouraged the knitting of scarves as a patriotic chore. Early aviators found that these scarves provided excellent warmth at high altitudes and cushioning for when the pilots had to crane their necks while scanning for other aircraft.
Croatian mercenaries who arrived in Paris during the Thirty Year’s War (1618 – 1648) wore bright scarves around their neck for battle. These scarves were tied tightly and often resulted in the men fainting during maneuvers. The look was adopted in a much looser fashion by the French, who called it “La Croate,” or “La Cravate.”
It took several hundred years for La cravate to evolve into the thin strip of cloth we wear today but it was certainly the forerunner for the necktie.
Military Influenced Style #10 – The Suit
The modern suit can trace its lineage all the way back to uniforms of the French and Russian armies in the Napoleonic-era.
For the French army, those uniforms consisted of an open, single-breasted blue and white coat, a white waistcoat, white breeches or trousers, and either boots or shoes.
For the Russians, it was a dark green, double-breasted coat with a standing collar, white breeches or trousers, and boots in the winter and shoes in the summer.
These two uniforms formed the model for what would evolve into the 20th Century three-piece and double-breasted suit.
Military Influenced Style #11 – The Pea Coat
The pea coat is arguably one of the most versatile items of clothing in a man’s winter wardrobe.
First used by European sailors in the 18th century, this classic coat was then adopted by the U.S. Navy before becoming a staple in the menswear industry.
The pea coat derived its name from the Dutch word, pije, which referred to the type of cloth used to make the coat – a coarse twilled blue cloth with a nap on one side.
The classic pea coat is close fitting as it was originally designed for reefers -sailors who climbed up the riggings of ships. It’s longer than a jacket and covers the backside, but is also short enough to climb and move about in. This double-breasted coat keeps the cold winds out and blocks heat loss with its overlapping layers and oversized collar.
The pea coat bridges the gap between formal and smart casual with its 6-8 button double breasted front.
Military uniforms and civilian dress have influenced each other over the years.
The military is the ultimate testing ground for any timeless style item for men. If it can last a tour of duty, it can definitely handle the rigors of everyday life.
Either way, the legacy of war heroes lives on in your daily wardrobe choices.