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Heavy Duty

Thomas Pink explores how the M-65 field jacket became representative of more than just sartorial discernment


Gentlemen wearing a Thomas Pink M65 Jacket

Of all the military garments that have been adopted by civilians around the world, one of the most recognisable is the M-65 field jacket. It was a descendant of the M-41 jacket created during World War II, with more recent ancestors being the M-43 and M-51 jackets. You may have deduced that the numbers in their names refer to the years these jackets were issued, with 65 corresponding to the year of the USA’s land invasion of Vietnam and the beginning of its bombing campaign in the North.

US Department of Defence contractor Alpha Industries manufactured the M-65 jacket for Vietnam’s variable tropical climate, including South Vietnam’s monsoons. The company innovated the 50/50 nylon-cotton sateen blend, commonly known as NYCO, which gave the jacket its great resistance to wind and water. And they placed Velcro and additional snap buttons along the garment’s storm flap to reinforce these qualities.

Other updates included replacing the M-51’s detachable buttoned hood with one that could be stowed in a zippered compartment at the collar, as well as four large front pockets. The M-65 had a boxy silhouette with plenty of room for layering up in colder temperatures, and interior buttons for attaching a liner. For the jungle warfare environment, it came in the US Army’s colour code, Olive Green 107.

As American soldiers returned home from the controversial war, veterans often wore the jacket to anti-war marches and other protest events. Future presidential candidate John Kerry wore one during his famous 1971 appearance before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, in which he revealed the atrocities being committed by his country and refuted the widespread falsehood that the Vietnamese masses wanted saving from the National Liberation Front (aka the ‘Viet Cong’, a pejorative term circulated by the US and its allies as propaganda).

Famous anti-war veteran Ron Kovic (who wrote Born on the Fourth of July) would also be seen wearing the M-65 field jacket, helping to transform it into a symbol of peace and counterculture. Indeed, as it came to be associated with scepticism towards American exceptionalism and foreign policy, the M-65 jacket became something of a statement of rebellion and questioning of elites.

In more recent times, the M-65 field jacket inspired certain garments in the first ever Marc by Marc Jacobs collection in 2001, as well as those made by a broad variety of luxury fashion brands over the years. The jacket’s popularity was augmented by its ubiquity onscreen, from Robert de Niro’s iconic look in Taxi Driver to John Goodman’s in The Big Lebowski. Meanwhile, new versions continued being worn by the US military until 2009, with colourway updates suited to different environments.

Now, Thomas Pink is releasing an M-65 jacket for stylish metropolitan life. It’s made in Italy, The jacket is fully lined and has styling elements including gauntlet cuffs. It can be dressed up with bold colours or paired with neutral ones to convey stylish understatement. It’s a timeless garment, of course, whose utilitarian aesthetic makes it an extremely versatile staple that conveys an attractively restrained ruggedness.

Thomas Pink's M65 Jacket

Close up of Thomas Pink's M65 Jacket in Olive Green

Close up of Thomas Pink's M65 Jacket in Navy

Thomas Pink M65 Jacket in Navy