M-65 Field Jacket – for Utilitarian Purposes

Conceived for utilitarian purposes, the field jacket was created specifically for military practicality. And like all things functional and genuinely useful, this ensured longevity. The military’s influence on modern menswear is wide ranging; the trench coat, bomber jacket, and chinos are fine examples. As is the military field jacket. The best-known variant is the M-65 field jacket – identifiable by its two hip and two chest pockets, often in olive green.

In civilian life it has translated with similar purpose: as an everyday, hard-wearing piece of outerwear. It’s typically a casual piece of clothing, which looks great with sneakers and jeans. However, modern day iterations have resulted in a variety of styles – including more formal styles that can be used as hybrid between a blazer and coat during the chilly months of spring and autumn. Whatever your preference, read on for a brief history of the M-65 field jacket, a selection of our top picks and a how to wear it in a modern way.

History

The original US military design was crafted under the MIL-C-43455 standard, with the M-1965 field jacket (abbreviated to M-65) boasting a straight front design and water-repellent fabric. The M-65 was inaugurated into US military service in 1965, replacing the M-51 field jacket which itself was an improvement on the M-43 field jacket used in WWII. Key advancements included snap closures for pockets and a zip, the latter replacing buttons (to stop snagging on obstructions whilst crawling), tougher fabrics, a built-in hood that could be rolled up into a pouch on the back and velcro fasteners on the sleeve and collar. Other hallmarks include shoulder epaulettes and a drawstring around the waist.

field jacket
Elvis Presley wearing an M-51 field jacket, whilst based in Germany serving in the US Army

The M-65 field jacket earned its stripes during the Vietnam War where is was widely used by U.S. Forces. It was ideal for the cool weather conditions following monsoonal rains. It remained in service until late 1980, when it was replaced by a similar iteration as part of the U.S. Army’s Battle Dress Uniform (BDU). The BDU was issued until 2005 when it was succeeded by the Army Combat Uniform worn today.

Present Day

The field jacket, despite having its roots firmly embedded in military history, was equally popular with the civilian population. As to why, the questions remain unanswered. Some believe it stood as an ironic icon of peace whereas others, less romantically, believe it was because of an army surplus after the Vietnam War which ensured prices were reduced.

The field jacket was further popularised in common culture by celebrities including Elvis Presley, and Robert De Niro in the 1976 film Taxi Driver. We believe it became an icon of menswear through a mixture of all three points but mainly because it’s so practical, and so damn useful as an everyday jacket. There are a plethora of convenient pockets available to stow wallets and phones (the modern man’s combat essentials), and the M-65 medium weight cotton construction makes it perfect for the transitional months in-between seasons.

The Alpha Industries M-65 classic US military field coat – manufactured to military specifications

Companies like Alpha Industries still produce its standard-issue-grade M-65 today, but many contemporary fashion brands have reinterpreted it. Tweaks to fabrics, fit and colour have evolved the field jacket for modern-day tastes – ensuring this ‘highly decorated’ military legend lives on beyond the battlefield.

How to Wear The Field Jacket

The M-65 field jacket is best worn casually with a pair of sturdy denim jeans, sneakers and a crew neck T-shirt under a chambray shirt (open or buttoned up). Add a beanie for warmth on brisk mornings, and lose the shirt during the height of summer. A typical field jacket is often cut in a relatively roomy fit, meaning an extra layer such as sweater can be introduced for added ballast.

Certain designers have taken the field jacket out of its original content, smartening the silhouette up by producing versions in slimmer cuts and premium materials. These can act as a blazer alternative in the cooler spring and autumn months, ideally worn over shirt, tie and merino knit sweater.

Aspesi Garment-Washed Cotton-Twill M-65 Field Jacket

A modern-classic: Aspesi Garment-Washed Cotton-Twill Field Jacket in Army Green, £325 from MR PORTER

Drake’s Blue Chambray Regular Fit Cotton Shirt with Spread Collar, £135 >
Sunspel Pima Cotton T-Shirt in White, £75 >
MR P. Slim-Fit Selvedge Denim Jeans in Blue, £180 >
C.QP Racquet Sneaker in White, £240 >

Three Of The Best M-65 Field Jackets

A Smarter Approach

Blue Field Jacket Suitsupply

A relaxed blue field jacket is ideal for some laid-back layering. This J604 option from Suitsupply is tailored for a comfortable yet slim fit, crafted from pure wool by Vitale Barberis Canonico. It features both a zipper and press-stud closure, and plenty of pockets for stashing essentials. Owing to it’s smarter design, it will be well suited as a blazer alternative for smart-casual business wear. Try teaming with white or grey trousers.

Blue Field Jacket, £299 from SUITSUPPLY

This Desert Life

J.Crew Field Mechanic Jacket

J.Crew’s Field Mechanic Jacket in ‘Olive Moss’ is a strong offering colour-wise and would look superb with blue denim jeans and a white T-shirt or sweater. Based on a vintage military mechanic’s jacket, this version is garment-dyed, broken-in and ideal for chilly mornings or evenings. Key details include a partially lined cotton construction, foldable zip hood, standing collar, zip closure, flap patch pockets, and adjustable tabs at the cuffs.

£198 from J.CREW

The Value Proposition

Designed in a straight, easy-fit, Gap’s Colorblock Field Jacket in ‘Surplus’ green boasts a smooth, stretch twill weave shell and is fully lined. Other features include long sleeves, button cuffs, a spread collar and hidden button front. Flap-patch utility pockets at the chest and hip are a nod to the classic design of the M-65 Field Jacket. And as an added bonus the interior lining has an allover camo print. This is definitely a more casual leaning jacket. Wear with jeans, a white T-shirt and sneakers for effortless off-duty style.

£69.95 from GAP