Putting military clothing in civilian context

For decades now, military inspired garments have had their place in both mens- and womenswear as well as in lots of subcultures and style philosophies, such as streetwear, rugged ivy, classic menswear and in the great outdoors.
But how transcended military clothing into something that had lost most of its martial context and everyone can wear?

 

In the earlier centuries you’d probably struggle to see a knight wearing his plate armor while hanging out or some British red coat in the pub on a Saturday night out. Uniforms were either issued to standing armies or had to be purchased by the soldiers themselves. Armor and clothes weren’t suitable for everyday needs, both for their material and colors used.

 

The first case of military clothing in broader civilian use was amongst former American soldiers after World War II who liked their wide cut, durable chinos and their leather flying jackets (if they served as pilots) so much, they just kept wearing them. Between the world wars nearly every bigger army made its uniform colors more suitable for blending in with the environment (brown, tan, olive green) than standing out with bright colors. Still, you were easily identified as a (former) soldier if you wore this kind of clothing and it had not much – and if any, rather pro-military – political context if you walked around in your old army clothing.

British Mods via Club of Gents

In the years during and after the second World War, the United states had high demand for military clothing due to their following wars over the world. While the uniforms were produced industrially in greater numbers that were actually needed, you now could get older pieces that were replaced by newer issues in surplus stores for a few bucks.

 

One of the first subcultures on this side of the pond who discovered the appeal of surplus clothing were British Mods who wore M-51 US army parkas over their suits to stay warm and dry while riding their signature scooters.

 

Starting with their M-51 styles (first issued in 1951, hence the name) the US Army began to cut their patterns with a layering system that helped soldiers to accommodate to the various climates they had to fight in.
That means, under the outer layer (e.g. the parka) was enough room to layer a liner jacket, some woolen shirts and other garments underneath – or a fine suit if you were British youth.

 

The British Mods still didn’t use the parkas for any political expression but rather as a durable, cheap shell to save their pricier clothing underneath.

As anti-war movements started to form, the need for continued death and suffering amongst both soldiers and civilians around the globe was being questioned. Especially, after the “war to end all wars” (WWII) didn’t end wars, but instead started and fueled others, you could see the first military clothing worn with political meaning.

 

Disillusioned veterans who had lost everything but their uniforms and the starting hippie movement writing slogans and peace symbols on the cheap garments from the surplus store were a common sight.

 

Pictures from the anti-war/pro-peace marches went around the globe and made the olive-green US army clothing of that time iconic. Well into the 70ies lots of garments were floating around and played their part in forming popular western culture. See John Lennon or Robert De Niro as Travis Bickle in their M-65 field jackets or OG-107 army shirts with patches picturing band logos or slogans on old concert photos.

Mr Robert DeNiro as Travis Bickle

In the following years, surplus was incorporated into lots of different styles. Punks and early skinheads discovered the appeal of MA-1 satin bomber jackets and their stylish siblings.

 

For the lower body part both the American OG-107 fatigue pant with its signature fading green color and patch front pockets and the M-65 Cargo and its successors with the big pockets at the side of the leg gained popularity for their wide, relaxed silhouette and durable material (cotton sateen and later ripstop).

 

Well into the 90ies we can watch another signature military style reach into daily civilian clothing:
camouflage patterns such as the iconic US Army Woodland Camo or Bundeswehr flecktarn are used either on new clothing or newly designed patterns like the famous BAPE-camo by Japanese Designer Nigo. Urbanization and towering skyscrapers in The States and increasingly worldwide, e.g. in the big Japanese cities, made patterns that were designed for blending in with actual jungle seem suitable for the urban jungle as well.

In recent years, there is no crowd in the streets where there isn’t at least one piece of clothing that’s either a vintage military garment or a reproduction or something that’s strongly influenced by military patterns.

 

Since US Army garments play a strong part in (western) popular culture and are distributed worldwide, this article focuses on them, but it’s noticeable that pieces of a different origin are being pushed by various companies as well.

 

Accompanying the renaissance of higher waisted and wider legged trousers in menswear, the initial success of selling off surplus of an old French army pattern from the Foreign Legion led to brands including very similar cuts into their collections. Brands like Casatlantic started by reproducing the ultra-high rise pleated pattern and also Japanese Repro powerhouse OrSlow who focused solely on US Army garments before, released a „French army pant“.

 

Most recently, Uniqlo collaborated with White Mountaineering on a small capsule where the most sought-after piece was a liner jacket inspired by the US Army layering system from more than 60 years ago.

Starting with lots of classic clothes like suit jackets, trench coats, chinos, followed by pieces that found their new homes on the streets worldwide, bomber jackets, field jackets, parkas, cargo pants and colors like olive green, camouflage patterns, military uniforms had and have strong influence on how people dress all over the world.

 

Stripped from most of its pro-military and later anti-war connotations, military (inspired) clothing has proven to be comfortable, durable and – if you know how to wear it – stylish. Made to withstand different climates while offering freedom of movement, it proved to be suitable for every kind of leisure activity and can also be dressed up for your office job if wanted.

 

 

Judging from the past decades it won’t disappear soon, but will gain even more popularity and get more diverse. As vintage shopping gains popularity, lots of „niche“ garments have emerged, attack the throne where US Army clothing has been sitting over the past decades and serve as inspirations for upcoming collections.

French Foreign Legion trousers reproduction from Casatlantic

Article by: Fabian Eggen
@rugged_tailored

End of the year / Pop-Up

WHEN?
10th – 15th Dec..
13h – 19h

 

WHERE?
The Green
Fürther Straße 11
Nürnberg

 

WHAT ELSE?
Due to governmental restrictions we follow the 2G rules. Please bring your proof of vaccination.

We are happy to annouce to have an end-of-the-year Pop-Up at “The Green”. Visit us at Fürther Straße 11 / Nürnberg starting Friday the 10th until the 15th of December. There will be new articles out of our “Sanity Base” Atelier, a few new Team products as well as a few last minute sale articles. Last but not least 0911 Vintage will join us in this again.

 

Drop by between 13h-19h and get yourself some presents, have a coffee and say goodbye before leaving towards a well-deserved christmas break.

Corporate Hoody and Jackets out now.

Corporate Hoody / black-marble

94,95 

The ultimate heavy-weight “Corporate” Hoody. Stitch count on these is as ridiculous as Bill Bezucks salary. Be quick or get sued.
Limited quantaties!

– multi-colored embroidery
– Your new favorite hoody
– Heavy-Weight 360 g/m² quality. 70% Cotton / 30% Poly
– Drawcords
– light melanged surfaced cotton

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Corporate Coach-Jacket / white

94,95 

Easy fitting “Corporate” Hoody. Stitch count on these is as ridiculous as Bill Bezucks salary. Be quick or get sued.
Limited quantaties!

– multi-colored embroidery
– soft-lined classic coach-jacket
– Poly outside / cotton lining inside
– Drawcords & Buttons
– two pockets

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Größe n. a.
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