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).
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