Outerwear has always been a bit of a sartorial struggle for me; with tailored clothing, there are enough guidelines and principles at play that I can generally feel confident in my direction. With outerwear, the field is a bit more open, as there is more room for experimentation and less stringent rules for proper fit. A light jacket is an absolute necessity in the chronically mild San Francisco weather, and I often struggle with what outerwear would serve me best. When I find myself stumped like this, I generally discover that the easiest solution is to stick with a classic – that’s why I love M-65 field jackets.
The M-1965 or M-65 jacket is a popular rendition of a military field jacket that was used during the Vietnam War era. It has worked its way into pop culture more than any of the other variations and is seen all over the place, in colors and materials sometimes distant from the classic army green cotton/poly. The design fluctuates by maker (although purists will cry that there is only one “correct” design, and they’re not wrong), but the core principles involve four front snap pockets, a standing collar with a hood, shoulder epaulets, waist cinch, and a slightly relaxed fit. Even these classic features are sometimes tampered with, but they’re usually there.
Here is a list of some M-65-esque jackets, most of which I’ve had the opportunity to check out in person. I’ve organized them from least expensive to most expensive at MSRP.
Old Navy Millitary Jacket, $60 ($51 with the code ONSAVENOW): This code knocks the jacket down to near $50, and at that price I don’t think you could do much better for the money. It’s 100% cotton, lightly lined, regular-fitting (not overly slim or roomy), and even machine washable. Given the classic details and free shipping/returns for orders over $50 I think it presents a solid value.
Gap Field Jacket, $98 (but on sale and only $48.10 with the code DEALFORU): The absence of epaulets on the shoulders make this one look a bit less busy, which is nice. It’s similar to the Old Navy option, but also available in a deep blue (and has a few subtle features like snap buttons instead of traditional buttons). At this price I’d say it presents a very strong option. Free shipping over $50 and free returns, although I just put in an order and it still shipped free at $48.10 (couldn’t help it).
Alpha Industries M-65, $150. This is generally referred to as the “classic” model, and that’s because it is. Alpha was one of two main companies that supplied the U.S. military with M-65 field jackets, so these are very true to the original. The shell is a cotton/poly blend; before you balk at that, know that the original model also used this material for its water-shedding properties. Don’t expect to see them on sale. Sizing down at least one size is highly recommended, as they run very large.
J. Crew Garrison Jacket, $188 ($141 with the code SOGOOD). This model has been around for years with little to no modifications, which is always nice to see. It has a detachable hood instead of the hidden hood, which reduces the bulk around the neck. The fabric is a sturdy pre-washed cotton and the jacket is unlined. It fits a bit large but still fairly true-to-size; size down if you’re in-between. This jacket generally doesn’t make it to the clearance section, but can be had for 20-30% off regularly.
Gant Rugger G-49 Jacket, $325. Gant usually has at least one M-65-styled jacket each season, and this year’s model is a deep blue version. Like the Alpha, it’s a cotton/poly blend. Gant can usually be counted on for shorter and trimmer fits on their jackets. They also have an all-nylon one on final sale here.
Aspesi lightweight cotton jacket, $635. Aspesi makes wonderfully designed outerwear but you can’t really depend on the same models being offered each year, as is generally the case with designer labels. This is one of their current iterations, but there are probably more available if you scour the internet. This model is cut a bit shorter and slimmer while maintaining many of the classic details. Mr. Porter will eventually discount these but don’t expect them to last long when that happens.
The Real McCoys M-65, $798. In case you want a M65 that is very true to the original but happens to cost 5.3 times more. A beautiful jacket with incredible attention to detail. Made in Japan.
Wildcard: Go vintage. Military surplus stores and secondhand circuits like ebay will have plenty of wonderful vintage models at low prices. Like with the Alpha, it’s generally a good idea to size down.
What’s your favorite M-65 jacket? There are many celebrated models that are no longer available (like the Gant Rugger Boquet Garni shown above and the Converse One Star Jacket from Target), but I’d love to know your favorites that are currently on the market.