This is a guest post by David Grega, winemaker at Carlotta Cellars and US Army Veteran.
I always enjoyed dressing well as a youngster, but I never really understood the power and importance of what you wear and how you wear it.
That is until I joined the U.S Army.
The military taught me to take pride in my appearance.
I learned that clothes should be comfortable, sharp and functional.
Now back in the civilian world I look around and can see the influence of the military on men's style everywhere.
In this article I'll touch on three specific examples of civilian attire whose origins lie in the military.
Why would the fashion industry take style guidance from the military?
The need for a “functional” product that can be worn as a uniform are two of three primary factors that have landed many military clothing styles in boutiques and large retailers.
The functionality makes the item ideal for military use. The fact that it needs to be appropriate as a part of a uniform makes the piece distinct and appealing which allows it to be deemed “fashionable”.
The third factor is what I call the GI phenomenon.
Troops wear their uniforms while serving and become accustomed and comfortable with the familiarity, functionality and distinguished look certain military clothing items posses.
When the time comes to leave the service and return home to civilian life, many military clothing items make their way back home with the troops.
This is especially true just after times of major conflict: WWI, WWII, and Vietnam.
Wartime means a surge in production of uniform items and subsequently a surplus of military clothing, post conflict.
This combination of circumstances leads to an infusion of military surplus clothing into society which inevitably brings about copies and imitations in popular fashion.
Warm and Stylish – The Pea Coat
One of the most versatile and fashionably timeless pieces in a man's winter wardrobe is the pea coat.
Although an early version popped up in the 18th century and was worn by European sailors, the Pea Coat as we know it eventually made its way to civilians via the U.S Navy where it has remained much the same for over a century.
The high and wide lapels along with the 8 or 6 button double-breasted front and vertical pockets are striking and sharp looking without coming off as “formal”. Because of this Pea Coats have never been out of style and will probably remain a fashion staple for years to come.
Khakis first arrived on the scene in the mid 19th century.
British troops in India began rubbing dirt, tea leaves and even curry on their white uniform pants to possibly better camouflage themselves but most likely to alleviate the constant need for washing out stains.
Whose idea was it to have a white combat uniform anyway!
The word khaki is borrowed from the Hindustani language and translates as “dusty”.
Khakis became a standard in the British armed forces soon after and were famous for their use in North Africa as dessert camouflage during WWII.
Khakis made their way to the U.S. military right around the Spanish American wars, but they are more famously associated with the Khaki WW2 dress uniforms preserved in family pictures accross the country during the middle of this century.
Troops returning home after the war brought with them the Khaki look and with a surplus of these pants available to the public the style caught on, especially with the college crowd. From military issue to preppy, the Khaki is considered casual but can be worn with shirt and tie or even a blazer.
The versatility and signature “dusty” tan color of the Khaki pant has stood the test of time and continues to be a valuable asset to any man's wardrobe.
The white tee shirt came into use in the early 20th century as a garment exclusive to the Navy.
The tee was designed to offer superior mobility and comfort while performing deck duties on a ship.
The color white was necessary to display discipline and cleanliness; the sailor would pride himself on performing his tasks and keeping his shirts spotless.
This life magazine cover shot helped catapult the white Tee Shirt to mainstream status.
By the late 1950's the white tee was seen as a symbol of teenage rebellion and rock and roll music.
While quite common place today, the tee shirt is something that every man wears both on its own and as an undergarment.
FYI – before the tee shirt, undergarments were generally heavy and/or long sleeved which limited mobility greatly a proved cumbersome in most cases.
From Navy uniform to menswear staple, the White Tee shirt is another fashion gift from Uncle Sam.
The Military And Menswear – In Conclusion
In many ways, the military is the ultimate proving ground for men's clothing.
What better way to test the garments we wear than to put them through a tour of duty?
As a veteran and a gentleman who enjoys dressing well, I hope this information inspires you seek out the fascinating history of the men's clothing we wear.
When you're armed with this knowledge you'll find you have the courage to dress better knowing you're not just wearing a piece of fabric, rather a piece of history.
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At High Speed Low Drag we interview successful veterans who share their stories of success, failure, and how you can find your path to greatness in the civilian world.