wardrobes Military field jackets are invading our
Get in line with De Niro and Pacino in a field jacket.
It’s a grim-but-undeniable fact that the horrors of war have inspired more iconic pieces of menswear than all of the great temples of fashion combined. Without World War I there’d be no gabardine Burberry trench coat. No sandals without the marching needs of ancient Assyrian warriors and Roman legionnaires. The MA-1 bomber jacket would be but a flight of imagination if not for the practical cockpit requirements of WWII airmen. And let’s not forget the greatcoat, adapted for Russian soldiers to fend off the biting cold during countless bleak campaigns. A real classic!
One piece of perennially stylish military-birthed outerwear forever orbiting in and out of trend reports, designer moodboards and the backs of raffish, rake-thin models is the US Army field jacket, or M65 to use its military designation. A utilitarian cotton or canvas coat with four front-facing buttoned pockets and (traditionally) a double shoulder epaulette first issued to GIs fighting in the jungles of tropical Southeast Asia in the mid-Sixties.
Military origins aside, the field jacket found a permanent spot in the fashion and wider Western cultural zeitgeist thanks to Robert De Niro’s hollow-eyed and PTSD-ridden Travis Bickle in Martin Scorsese’s 1976 Taxi Driver, a nihilistic weirdo patrolling New York City in one of cinema’s most famous jackets: an M65 of the kind worn in action, and brought home, by innumerable troops
after their combat tours were finally up in Vietnam. Al Pacino’s army-jacketted undercover cop in 1973’s Serpico also deserves an honourable mention.
As with all design classics, the field jacket has evolved to be a far more sophisticated item than the simple olive drab cotton originals that still sit in dusty abundance in vintage and army surplus stores (although those are still great). Brands like Brunello Cucinelli, Drake’s and Connolly are taking the original silhouette and remaking it in rich suede with a tailored, rather than oversized, shape. Whitehot labels have added heavy, streetwear-inspired logos (Off-White) and intricate and ostentatious embroidery (Gucci) to at-first-glance classic M65s.
While they’re in the spotlight again this season, the real beauty of the field jacket lies in its all-yearround utilitarianism. Wear it in decadent tan suede in summer with white linen trousers and driving shoes like an Italian sprezzatura overlord. Or wait until autumn where oversized olive green canvas, black jeans and combat boots can reign supreme.
“The industrial level of replication coupled with the long list of stars and political figureheads that have donned this functional classic all contribute to the field jacket’s myth,” says Owen Beaufort
Zeal, design and development manager at Connolly. “From Castro to McQueen and Yves Saint Laurent to De Niro, it transitioned perfectly from the battlefield to the screen.”
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Below: David Beckham takes to the fieldRight: tan suede field jacket, £2,500, by Connolly
Far left: Robert De Niro in Taxi Driver (1976)Above: tan/green/ brown camouflage cotton field jacket, £895, by Off-White @ matchesfashion.comLeft: green/orange cotton field jacket, £1,830, by Gucci @ matchesfashion.com Left: US troops in Vietnam, where the M65 was first introduced into service
Right: navy cotton-linen field jacket, £495, by Drake’s
Below: Yves Saint Laurent in one of his green versions
Left: Al Pacino in Serpico (1973)