Wardrobe Must-Have — The Utility Jacket
The success of fashion designers oftentimes does not come from pure innovative ideas, more often, designers are inspired by people, places, history, and politics for which resonate throughout society. Wartime uniforms have notoriously influenced fashion, think of Pea Coats, Wristwatches, the Blucher Shoe, Chino Pants, Desert Boots, Cummerbunds, Aviators, Bomber Jackets, and even the T-shirt of all things! All these items were inspired by wartime garb There is a level of romance equated with hard times in history, perhaps it reminds us of how far we’ve come or perhaps it makes us feel powerful like our ancestors and no fashion item has remained a staple in both male and female wardrobes, quite like the Utility Jacket.
We could go back centuries to discuss how wartime uniforms have transformed overtime but let’s fast forward to when the Utility Jacket truly got its legs. The fashion Utility Jacket, also known as The Field or The Army Jacket, drew its inspiration from the 20th century. In the 1940’s, Britain imposed what was called the Utility Clothing Scheme, which was intended to ration clothing materials and labour due to wartime austerity. Long gone were the days of immaculate soldier uniforms, embellished with ropes and embossed buttons. This was a new era of wartime clothing, one of utility and purpose. The M-1941 or M-41 made of cotton poplin with a zipper closure and storm flap was the first of its kind.
This brings us to the 50’s when the Vietnam War required that their uniforms be green from head to toe for better camouflage and so the M-1951 Field Jacket, at this time known as “The Jungle Jacket” was born. There were a number of iterations of the jacket, but eventually the army settled on the M-65 whose colour was OG-107, OG standing for Olive Green.
The M-65 has been phased out of wartime attire, but it’s cultural impact has remained. Throughout the 60’s and 70’s, this jacket was worn by many, not to promote the war, but as a symbol of government resistance and revolt. Popular figures like Jane Fonda and John Lennon wore similar jackets while promoting the anti-war movement, giving a proverbial middle finger to the combat overseas. Movies such as the Taxi Driver, showcased Robert De Niro’s character wearing the jacket while back at home in America.
Fashion designers tried to repurpose the jacket in the 70s and 80s, think Gucci’s epaulets, Prada’s trim-fit trench and Versace’s battle blouse, but none really took off. It would appear that the emotional impact of the war was still too close, and more time was needed to heal the wounds. It wasn’t until 2001 when Marc Jacobs came out with his new collection and Vogue picked up the piece, styling it over a floral, overtly feminine dress when the look took off. From there version after version of the Utility Jacket has graced every single store front over the course of two decades. Even when the jacket isn’t on trend, you can find some edition of it somewhere for sale every Fall.
The Utility Jacket has a unisex appeal to it and a strength that resonates with many people; it and can be paired with jeans, dresses, shorts, and skirts and the options are endless as long as you’re creative. So if you do not have a Utility Jacket in your closet currently, my advice is to invest into a good quality one now, you will not regret it.
Click the links below for some of my favourite Utility Jacket Finds.
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