I must stress here that I am far from an expert on anything military, despite the fact that I work for a military electronics company, this sets me at an immediate disadvantage when it comes to discussing anything involved in military reproduction clothing a market where knowledge and attention to detail is almost a prerequisite, to the uninitiated it can get super confusing. Militaria is one of the big associated niche areas of denim and work wear, with quite a few denim companies also drawing inspiration from vintage military wear, some going so far as to make extremely accurate reproductions, obviously a military uniform and associated garments are very much considered work wear and in the main are extremely tough, utilitarian items, but sometimes they are just a good looking design. Let’s take a look at a few of the more well known and popular examples which are still widely produced today.
G-1 Flight Jacket
G-1 is US military nomenclature for the fur lined collar leather flight jacket first introduced by the US Navy in 1947, although its official name is the M-422A, which replaced the M-422 (a similar jacket also known by the G-1 tag and used since the 1930’s). Now do you see what I mean about military wear being super confusing? To take the confusion to the next level there is also an Army version called an A-1 which is also a popularly reproduced garment.
The G-1 has enduring popularity amongst a whole variety of denim enthusiasts owing not only to the military connotations, but also as an early biker jacket worn by the motorcycle clubs formed by ex airmen after WWII and the Korean War, the association with work wear and denim is long. Modern reproductions are made by a huge variety of quality leather and clothing companies, with some accentuating the repro element with painted logos or patches reminiscent of the Airborne combat units who first made them famous. Some of the best examples are made by Goodwear, Real McCoys, Buzz Rickson and Eastman leathers, whereas a vintage G-1 can be picked up still on eBay for less than $200, but beware of the condition of such jackets.
M-65 Field Coat
The M-65 is a field jacket named after the year of its introduction, 1965, and was introduced to replace the M-51, can you guess which year that jacket was introduced? This particular style of field jacket began with the WWII issue M-43 and was improved upon with each itineration which followed. The M-65 was made from a more water resistant but still breathable fabric, and featured a hood which could be rolled up and zipped into the hood. The M-65 saw most of its service during the Vietnam conflict where it became a favorite of the troops for protecting them against the cooler weather of central Vietnam and the monsoon rain conditions often encountered during jungle warfare.
The M-65 was only originally available in Olive but has since been pressed into service in a variety of situations and environments such as desert (sand colour) and urban (black) conflicts, it has even been made for snow duty with a button in liner and detachable fur lined hood. During military service the jacket was almost exclusively made via contract by Alpha Industries, who still produce an excellent version today for less than $200. In more recent times the M-65 has been reproduced and tinkered with by Iron Heart, Buzz Rickson and Real McCoys.
CPO Shirt/ Jacket
Even though the CPO stands for Chief Petty Officer, a high ranking none commissioned officer in the US Navy, the CPO shirt/ jacket (there is confusion as it is a thick woolen shirt with hand warmer pockets), it actually bears little resemblance to any part of a CPO’s uniform. The CPO jacket worn by the Naval officer is much more formal, whereas what we know as the CPO jacket is quite a casual item available in a variety of cuts, lengths and colours or patterns.
First made popular in the 1960’s it has become a staple of the work wear scene with many brands making a variation of the CPO design a part of their winter collection year on year. Some great versions are made by Iron Heart, Trophy, and Buzz Rickson, whereas vintage versions can be picked up on eBay for less than $50 if you’re fortunate to find a good one.
The iconic Boondocker boot began life as the less glamorously named Type III service shoe, which was ubiquitous to most branches of the US Armed forces from 1940. In fact the nick name Boondocker was given exclusively to the Marines version of the Type III, a rough out service boot, ankle high with a rubber composition sole.
The modern interpretation of the Boondocker strays away from the original russet colour and rough out leather, although as always accurate reproductions are made available by brands who specialize in such things. Good quality Boondocker style boots are available from Viberg and Sagara, under the name Combatant.
The next niche which I’ll be looking into in real work wear, clothes made to fulfill a working purpose which have become associated with the denim scene in some way or another.