Why the Field Jacket Will Never Go Out of Style
When the U.S. Department of Defense introduced the M65 field jacket in 1965, the days of waxed canvas (used in the 1940s) were well behind—all-cotton blends simply couldn’t hack the rigors of the field. And then there was versatility: Parkas were great in the winter; cotton fabric worked well in the summer; ponchos sheltered during rain. But the field jacket could do it all, and it’s since become a staple of the modern man’s wardrobe.
Photo: U.S. Military
The revolutionary aspect of this field coat was two-part: its fabric and its function. For the first time, a 50-50 blend of cotton and nylon was introduced, and its benefit was immediate. Synthetic fibers added greater abrasion and tear resistance while simultaneously creating a surface that was wind- and water-resistant. Its other strength only became apparent with time as it was put through real-world conditions. The little green military jacket was never supposed to stand on its own, but rather was part of a seven-part layering system (a cornerstone to our modern modular systems). Depending on temperature and precipitation, pieces were added or subtracted, adapting it to the weather of the day. Cold? Zip in an insulating liner, which remains one of its most popular add-ons.
But the above reasons only partially explain the ubiquity that the M65 Army field jacket enjoys. Engineered features like deep exterior pockets, rugged zippers and hardware, and durable construction ensured that the jackets were useful and dependable. Men wore their field jackets long after they left the service for one simple reason: Their field jackets lasted long after they left the service.
The innovation intrinsic to the men’s field jacket has continued to present day with the Proof Field Jacket and others. Longtime fans of the jacket’s classic silhouette will recognize trademark features like a zip-away hood, which stashes into its collar; two big front pockets; and a rugged front zipper. But Proof updated the revolutionary-for-its-time fabric, sourcing a modern poly-nylon blend that’s more water-resistant and breathable, while the built-in insulation stays warm even when wet. Two hand pockets and a secret stash pocket provide welcome upgrades to the original with the same great look.
Many of the styles iconic to American men’s culture can trace their roots to the military, from bell-bottoms and peacoats to parkas and, yes, the M65. They share a bedrock of function that has men reaching for them long after they have to. The modern men’s field jacket follows in the footsteps of this tradition, innovating based on the demands of everyday conditions. It’s a piece on which, if history has proven anything, you can depend for more than 50 years.