Each season, a piece emerges on the runways or in the streets that seemingly pulls everything else together with ease. And if you’ve been paying attention to fashion lately, you’ve no doubt noted the ubiquitous presence of a certain olive cotton coat this season. Well, that would be the field jacket. Long before interpretations took flight on the Spring 2016 runways—from classic camels and camos at Versace and Saint Laurent to dip-dyed and ornately beaded at Valentino—there was the original, Alpha Industries’s M-65. In honor of its 50th anniversary in active service (on and off the tarmac), we’re taking a brief look into the extensive history of the wear anywhere, anytime field coat.
To make a decades-long story short, the M-65 field coat (appropriately named after the year it made military issue) was introduced to the Army, Marine Corps, and Air Force as an upgrade to the M-51 and M-43 coats. With a concealable hood for added warmth, two shoulder epaulets, and more pockets for carrying extra equipment and accessories, the M-65 was quickly regarded among those serving in the air and on the battlefield as better suited for . . . well, suiting, in the fluctuating temperatures of rural Southeast Asia.
Only a few years later, still during the Vietnam War, the M-65 settled stateside and paid more subversive service as a symbolic costume among rebel youth and social and political activists across the country. It was adorned by the likes of counterculture dissenters of the 1970s—John Lennon, Jane Fonda, Country Joe, and John Kerry to name a few—and soon became an emblem for antiwar political commentary.
Once the masses got wind, it was only a matter of time before the M-65 landed on the silver screen. Making cinematic cameos in Rambo, Taxi Driver, and Annie Hall, among others, the M-65 quickly became a blockbuster hit proving just how easy it was to be green. The great thing about Woody Allen and Robert De Niro’s characters in Annie Hall and Taxi Driver, respectively, are their unfussy, genuinely effortless, and authentic looks. Coincidentally (or perhaps not), it was the same costume designer, Ruth Morley, who worked on both iconic films.
These days, iterations of the classic army surplus stray far from the original army Olive Green 107 (frayed leather fringe at Alexander Wang Spring 2016 scream commanding urban uniform). Chances are, you’ve got one version or another standing by alongside your denim, moto, and suit jackets, and if you don’t, well, there’s never been a better time than now. Need further inspiration? In May, Rihanna touched down in New York City in cargo-chic camouflage that was anything but undercover. A quick round-robin search on my favorite shopping sites leads me to Off-White’s green camouflage coat emblazed in red velvet logomania with likewise cargo straps. Add to basket.
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