Army green: it’s the new statement – or is it understatement? – colour for spring 2019, a powerful and very welcome antidote to all the luridly coloured, ostentatiously branded designer sportswear that’s permeated collections in recent seasons. I recently put two army-green Nato straps onto vintage watches, rendering them instantly cooler and more knockabout. It’s a colour trend that clearly responds to the current “desire for less” mood, and has generated an inventory of great new gear across the whole spectrum of men’s style, from ultra-casual to über-formal.
“It’s an interesting colour because it’s one of the few that can stand out, yet at the same time blend in,” says Elisabetta Canali, showing me a very smart, modern technical-fibre raincoat (£970) for spring/summer. Brands like Canali primarily use army greens this season for urbane outerwear, combined with neat tailoring. The trousers (£225) make a dapper statement paired with a khaki-ish field jacket (£570) in a high-tech Canali fabric. For its summer suiting (£2,200), Cerruti goes with a rich, tropical army-green cotton – like Bowie wore in Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence – which also works well for the brand’s fashionably loose, high-collar cotton shirt (£330). At P Johnson, khaki and army green even show up in eveningwear. “[It works] across all seasons, complexions and dress codes; as a base the versatility is matched only by navy,” Patrick Johnson tells me. His custom khaki gabardine dinner jacket (£1,250) with black grosgrain lapels and buttons packs a punch, particularly when paired with his custom khaki pin-tuck front dress shirt (£156).
I’ve long been a fan of Katharine Hamnett’s silk combat gear trousers (£420) paired with long-sleeve T-shirts. But in army green they acquire a whole new sense of effortlessness. I recently spotted William Gilchrist – the Rolling Stones’ stylist – sporting a rich army‑green cotton drill canvas Oliver Spencer jacket (£290) with rolled sleeves and popped collar and loose judo trousers (£145). He wore them with scarlet velvet espadrilles and looked the epitome of laidback sophistication. Nonchalant styling like this is what makes this top-to-bottom khaki look work – it harks back to John Lennon in the ’70s when he teamed green military ensembles with big Breton-style caps and rounded sunglasses. (I’ve been teaming my khaki uniform with delicate Gucci loafers, angular YSL sunglasses and strategic deployments of yellow-gold jewellery.)
“Green on green is so beautiful,” says Spencer, who’s all about the suit-that’s-not-a-suit look. “Matched but louche, like a shirt suit.” His spring collection also includes a brilliant army-green boiler suit (£560). In a similar league are P Johnson’s made-to-order Japanese cotton shirt jacket (£330) and pleated trousers (£265), which act like a streamlined safari suit.
Ermenegildo Zegna Couture’s premium khaki sportswear is also a masterclass in army-green casual. A blouson (£2,840) in silk, an oversized polo T-shirt (£950) in a unique green-glazed cotton, and a bomber jacket (price on request) in army-green satined linen boasts details such as contrast leather thermal taping that subtly ratchet up the military-sportif factor. More accessibly priced sporty army green comes in the form of Kent & Curwen’s poly-cotton blouson (£595) and bell-bottom trousers (£145).
Which brings us round to that staple of casual menswear – the field jacket, integral to popular style since Robert De Niro’s Travis Bickle landed on the streets of 1970s New York. Introduce a tech finish, however, and things feel very different. Specialist outerwear brand Ten C has cut a field pocketed jacket (£900) – as well as a Tempest anorak (£595) – in an over-woven micro-fibre, imparting a finish that’s crisp and urbane.
Army green also extends to leather items, such as Cerruti’s restyled baseball blouson (£2,200), or Missoni’s racer pants (£2,300) in an excellent handpainted olive-green nappa with a rich patina. Kent & Curwen’s army-green leather hooded Deacon cagoule (£995) has a similar lustre. Bottega Veneta has a lambskin bomber jacket (£3,095), finished with the house’s intracciato woven detail.
However, it is matte fabrics that best communicate khaki-green’s military roots: Myar, an Italian brand known for reworking military uniforms, has reimagined pieces from various national armed forces: a Swedish army jacket (£330) and trousers (£240), Italian army trousers (£215) and a British army customised forage jacket (£315) like the one my father wore when he served in the Gordon Highlanders London regiment.
It would be remiss not to mention one of the original proponents of army-green outerwear, Stone Island. Its 2019 update on army green, called sage green, appears in a polyester/polyamide field jacket (£750) – its tactile fabric is the result of heat-induced compression during the dyeing process. This brand is always ahead of the game, so stay tuned for what it does next.