The best new military field jackets

The military field jacket is getting a sharp, streetwise, hi-tech reboot, says Tom Stubbs

Brunello Cucinelli linen/wool field jacket, £2,150
Brunello Cucinelli linen/wool field jacket, £2,150

Some day a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets,” intoned antihero Travis Bickle in the 1976 film Taxi Driver. De Niro’s famous monologue went on to become a trifle too, er, earthy for this publication; but Taxi Driver is a masterpiece, not just of the modern urban thriller genre but of street style. The Vietnam-era M65 military field jacket he wore, with its four-pocket arrangement and gathered waist, is as covetable today as it was then. And after an inspection of this season’s new interpretations, I can’t help but think that when Bickle’s rain does come, we’ll be glad of the state-of-the-art fabrics and ingenious tailoring.

Ermenegildo Zegna wool field jacket, £2,270
Ermenegildo Zegna wool field jacket, £2,270 | Image: George Ong
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Performance textiles are the first point to consider. Take MEHM+, which uses a navy wool-bonded fabric for a jacket (£595) that retains the essential field profile but looks super-current. “The fabric is a water-repellent yet breathable technical wool,” says MEHM+ founder/designer Mehmet Ali, formerly creative director at Hardy Amies. The crisp precision of the piece is set off beautifully with (sustainable) corozo-nut buttons.

Maison Kitsuné cotton M65 jacket, £342
Maison Kitsuné cotton M65 jacket, £342
Canali lambskin field jacket, £2,820
Canali lambskin field jacket, £2,820

Field jackets from Ermenegildo Zegna, are also at the cutting edge, executed with blended-composition fabrics. There’s one in a pale-teal polyamide/polyester (£1,545), a water-repellent microfibre with the feel of a matte raw silk. Another (£2,270), in heavier navy-blue wool, has serious clout – a tri-layer-membrane jacket that would be at home on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier. Brunello Cucinelli’s take (£2,150, main picture) is cut from a houndstooth linen/wool blend in cement grey that is lined with water-repellent nylon, the distinctly refined texture belying its technical abilities.

MEHM+ wool field jacket, £595
MEHM+ wool field jacket, £595
YMC cotton Amon Duul blazer, £295
YMC cotton Amon Duul blazer, £295

The field jacket doesn’t have to be exclusively action-ready; more elegant versions play well in town, such as those from You Must Create (YMC), whose avowedly non-fashion style I’ve admired for 20 years. They’ve taken their relaxed-cut Starck blazer and worked it into field jacket form, called Amon Duul (£295), with a subtly gathered waist and open patch pockets. It comes in the Starck’s signature navy, but I think the deep-khaki garment-dyed cotton twill is the one to get; it looks especially good teamed with matching wide-leg trousers, for smart-casual dressing in more tropical climes.

Loewe nappa leather parka, £2,550
Loewe nappa leather parka, £2,550 | Image: George Ong
Polo Ralph Lauren cotton twill military jacket, £345
Polo Ralph Lauren cotton twill military jacket, £345

Robust khaki twill takes decorative elements surprisingly well. “Putting unfamiliar embellishment on something familiar is what makes these very ‘Paul Smith,’” Smith said of his strawberry-embroidered cotton field jackets (£715). He has a few other nifty versions this season, among them a vibrant Madras-check seersucker (£515) and shirt-like light coral or khaki-toned cotton/cupro field jackets (£615). But for a dead-on authentic take on this American classic, look to Ralph Lauren. The field (£345) from his casual Polo range is fashioned from ultra‑relaxed twill, which seems more worn-in than even Bickle’s number. It’s replete with a Stars & Stripes sleeve badge, vintage-look taped zips and a drawstring through its bottom edge.

Paul Smith cotton/cupro jacket, £615
Paul Smith cotton/cupro jacket, £615
CP Company cotton field jacket, £499
CP Company cotton field jacket, £499

Notable tailors have also been playing (with) the field. Thom Sweeney conceals the gathered waist for a more streamlined effect. Its herringbone linens (£1,640) have an exquisite lustre, and the sumptuous slate-grey suede version (£2,600) is a real showstopper with gunmetal hardware instead of zips. Loewe showcases the gathered waist on its tan nappa-leather jacket (£2,550) via a length of the oversized rope that was a feature of its collection this season.

Thom Sweeney linen herringbone field jacket, £1,640
Thom Sweeney linen herringbone field jacket, £1,640
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The utilitarian status of any field jacket is underpinned by its pockets. Canali’s sumptuous lambskin version (£2,820), with its amber hue and buttery feel, has pockets with raw edges “finished” with wax. Other designers have reduced the number of pockets: the two-pocket Maison Kitsuné zippered field (£342), for instance, is cut from a stonewashed chambray that gives it a mid-1980s Gallic nonchalance, evoking the impeccably cool French kids sitting on kerbs smoking Gauloises who I used to envy on school trips to Paris.

But you cannot talk about field jackets without mentioning CP Company. Known for its distinctive garment dyeing and self-coloured hand top-stitching, the brand has produced brilliant examples for years (including the unique goggle-hood version, a next-generation outerwear icon in its own right). This season, a simple black lightweight field (£499) flaunts undiluted CP Company cool with an ultra-light reinterpretation – Raso EL – of a classic fabric. There are the same cotton outer and nylon inner layers of the original, but thanks to new technologies there’s a weight reduction of 40 per cent and some welcome stretch in the yarn. It’s a great contemporary piece – light years ahead of the “You talking to me?” Bickle version, but with all the same quick-on-the-drawstring spirit.

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