Military uniforms as we know them today, consist of some kind of camouflage scheme, insignia and cargo pockets. No one today would think to wear a fancy dress uniform into the battlefields of Iraq or Afghanistan, that rationel really only developed at the beginning of WWII. The concept of having two separate uniforms, one for combat and one for ceremonies, was a practice that the United States was the first to adopt at the start of WWII.
The first example of a seperate uniform for combat being issued, was the M-1941 jacket. During the war it was known as a Parson’s jacket because the designer was Major General J.K. Parsons. The designation of the M-1941 or M41 jacket was due to the Army labeling system and collectors postwar. General Parsons wanted a field jacket made of cotton and wool with zippers and buttons similar to what arctic explorers wore during the 1930s.
The M41 jacket was worn for the majority of the war, even after the Army adopted the M-1943 jacket to replace the M41. The materials used in its construction were khaki cotton/poplin with flannel lining. There were two patterns, the first having flaps for the slash pockets and no epaulettes. The Standard production model lost the flaps for the pockets and gained the epaulettes.
This is a photo of 1st Division soldiers wearing the M41 jacket before the invasion of Normandy in 1944.
The jacket has made its way onto the screen in recent years featuring in films such as “Saving Private Ryan” and “Flags of our Fathers”. Here is Tom Hanks and Clint Eastwood downing the jacket.
Reproduction houses have produced the jacket and the quality does vary between each company. I have listed a few places where you can find the reproductions.
There are a quite a few options for an M41 reproduction jacket, the lining in all of them except the SportsMan’s Guide version is wool, so they will need to be dry cleaned.
As you can see there is very little deviation from the reproductions and the originals. However, designers have created their own versions of this classic jacket. Ralph Lauren added some stitching on one version and then on another added a patch to the front. Lastly, Spiewak enlarged the buttons and drew design elements from both the 1st and 2nd pattern of the M41.
It should also be noted that the Ralph Lauren jackets showcased below are sold out and unavailable from the websites that they were originally sold on.
Ralph Lauren Key West Jacket $250.48
This is an excellent example of why it would be much better to buy the reproduction of the jacket, especially considering that the designer versions are so difficult to find. I wonder if Major General Parsons in 1941 ever could have imagined that his design would inspire such designers as Ralph Lauren and be showcased in the fashion world.
The M-1941 jacket may have been designed for combat in Europe and in the Pacific, but with MilFashion being what it is today, instead of being worn on the sandy beaches of France, the M-1941 jacket is now being strutted on the catwalks of Paris and New York.