A Few Good Finds

There’s a good rea­son mil­i­tary style in­spires so much of men’s wear: It’s hand­some, hard-wear­ing stuff. Nick Sul­li­van ex­plains why he prefers to seek out the gen­uine ar­ti­cle (and how he does it).

Esquire (Philippines) - - STYLE -

You won’t find me reen­act­ing Get­tys­burg any­time soon, but I am a big fan of vin­tage mil­i­tary cloth­ing. I like to mix func­tional old pieces—stuff with prove­nance— into my daily wardrobe. Not be­cause they have a mil­i­tary as­so­ci­a­tion per se but be­cause they were made to per­form in ex­treme con­di­tions, which means they hold up re­mark­ably well decades af­ter they’ve left ac­tive duty.

If you know what to look for, mil­i­tary clothes and civil­ian work­wear are ev­ery­where in men’s fashion, even the stuff that sashays off the run­way. There isn’t a de­signer alive who hasn’t lifted—cough, paid homage to—uni­forms from the past, so I don’t see why I shouldn’t cut out the mid­dle­man and go straight for the orig­i­nals. It’s a darn sight cheaper.

Sites like eBay and Etsy have been a huge as­set to vin­tage-gear hounds like me. On­line shop­ping may not be as ex­cit­ing as div­ing into musty piles of old clothes, but it’s much less ex­haust­ing. Where once I had to dig up pieces my­self, now I just lie in wait un­til one pops up on my screen.

It can be a long wait, though, and you have to be very spe­cific about what you’re af­ter, which is why code num­bers help big time—and con­ve­niently, code num­bers are the norm for mil­i­tary wear. Search for “Swedish army coat” and you’ll turn up all sorts of non­sense. But add “M1909,” de­not­ing the year the white sheep­skin-lined snow coat was first de­signed for the Swedish army, and you’re well on your way.

The code num­ber NXss17659 ap­peared on a wo­ven la­bel still at­tached to the foul-weather hoodie on the pre­vi­ous page. Thanks to that code and other nerds out there on­line, I learned it was part of a con­sign­ment made in fall 1942 and is­sued to U. S. Navy air­craft-car­rier deck­hands. I picked it up for a mere $42 on Etsy.

It will make a per­fect wa­ter­proof shell for fly fish­ing, camp­ing, or hik­ing. And if I don’t get roped into any­thing that ad­ven­tur­ous, I’ll at least look ready for ac­tion.

1942 U. S. Navy foul-weather hoodie from Etsy; shirt by J. Crew; jeans by Fab­ric-Brand & Co.; beanie by Fil­son

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