New York’s Fashion Week, born from War

This year’s New York Fashion Week marks its 68th anniversary since 1943. As much as this blog is about military influences in fashion, it is also about the history of fashion itself. New York’s fashion week was started in 1943 out of necessity. In the early 20th century the epicenter of the fashion world was Paris. However, in 1940 Paris fell and became occupied by Nazi Germany. With this occupation came food and clothing rationing, curfews and strict rules. All of which prohibited Paris’s fashion houses from operating at the same level as they were during peacetime.

One of Press Week’s runways

With fashion shows coming to a complete stop in Paris, and with wartime London consistently under bombardment, fashion was in disarray. It wasn’t until 1943, that a new center of the fashion would emerge during these trying times. A “Press Week”, which was Fashion Week’s original name, was planned and created by a young fashion publicist named Eleanor Lambert. Ms. Lambert was the daughter of a circus promoter in Indiana, and already had a claim to fame in fashion by creating “The Best Dressed” list in 1940. She rallied the fashion industry, which was in dire need of such an event because, as savvy as fashion designers, labels, and fashion journalist were, the Third Reich would not permit such an event to occur.

Eleanor Lambert

“Press Week” would be the first time that American designers would be put into the global limelight. The fashion week of 1943, was also a critical moral booster for the art and fashion world. With the rest of the globe engulfed in war, fashion week allowed a reprieve from it all, through the joys of creativity, art and fashion. New York’s Mayor at the time, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, could not have put it better with one of his opening remarks before the show; “Along with the vast war contributions that are being made, New York seeks to keep alive the beautiful and splendid things of life,”.

Within one year, on August 25th 1944, Paris would be liberated and fashion would soon return to the city of lights. However, “Press Week” made such an impression on the industry, that it soon became a required event for designers to showcase their newest lines.

Occupied Paris was far from a place to host any type of fashion show, let alone an entire week.  To give some insight into what occupied Paris looked like, I have inluded some photographs.

Adolf Hitler during his only visit to the city in 1940

Rue de Rivoli by Hôtel Meurice which was used by the Germans as a Headquarters

Although born from war, New York City and fashion would just not be the same without this wonderful week in February, where the only uniforms seen are on beautiful models marching down the runway.

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An Army Field Jacket for the ages, the M43 Jacket and its four pocket fundamentals

One of the most influential military uniform items in fashion during the 20th century, is the WWII vintage M-1943 Field Jacket, the United States Miltary’s first jacket specifically designed for 20th century combat. The M43 Jacket had a simple design with four cargo pockets. A sharp contrast from the M41 Jacket, which did not have any utility capabilities for combat and resembled a pre-WWII civilian windbreaker.

The jacket was made from windproof sateen cotton and was first issued in 1944 to the troops in the European Theater of Operations. The M43 was to be worn in conjunction with a pile-lined coat, that acted as a liner in cold weather and trousers made of the same cotton. Because of supply issues the M43 did not always get issued to the troops with the complete set of trousers and liner. A lot of the period photographs from 1944/1945 show Soldiers only wearing the new M43 with the older wool trousers.

The design of the four cargo pockets on the front side of the jacket would become so popular, that even today the design of the the jacket is still being improved.

The models of the Jacket are as follows… M43, M51 and M65

Here are examples of the jacket worn in its Olive Drab color, I will cover the Woodland, Desert and ACU versions of the M65 in another post.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The M-1943 Jacket worn in WWII

M51 Jacket in the Korean War                              The M65 Jacket in the Vietnam War

The jacket went from the original model the M43 with buttons, to the M51 model with snaps and a zipper replacing the buttons, then the last version with an internal canvas hood added to the collar. The jacket is still issued today in an Army Combat Uniform (ACU) version. However, the original Olive Drab version of the jacket has had the most influence in fashion, as you can see in these examples.

Junya Watanabe Army Jacket $744.00                                              Obey Iggy M65 Jacket $130.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hysteric Glamour M65BZ ¥48,300                            Ralph Lauren Rugby Jacket $228.00

The jacket has also been seen worn by celebrities and on the screen.

Rapper Jay-Z and Bryan GreenBerg from “How to make it in America”, both sporting the M65 Field Jacket.

The M65 has become a true Military Fashion classic and one in which you can easily find at any Army Navy Surplus store. I have listed some excellent online retailers and also a website that has the original M43 reproductions available.

At The Front’s M-1943 Field Jacket $85.00

M-1965 Jackets

U.S. Wings $99.95

Soldier City $109.99

U.S. Army Style $79.95

For the most part, designers and labels have left this design relatively authentic to the original when it comes to their renditions. The simpleness of the four pocket design has remained an influence on other military chic designer jackets, but it all started back in 1944, where it was first worn fighting to liberate Europe one city at a time.

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Military Themes Inspire Music Videos and Fashion Follows

The entire concept of Military Fashion has come into being as of a result of labels and designers drawing ideas from military uniforms and equipment throughout history. However, military history and the uniforms from the past not only inspire fashion in our daily lives, it also influences popular music. It is undeniable that music videos and bands affect popular trends in fashion. All of this creates a cycle of Military Fashion popularity due to music videos and fashion influencing eachother. I would like to showcase the aspect of Military Fashion that is found in music videos.

I have collected my TOP TEN Military Themed Music Videos ranging from WWI to the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. I have listed them in their chronological order.

World War One WWI


The Decemberists “The Soldiering Life”

World War Two WW2


My Chemical Romance “The Ghost of You”


Dustin Kensrue “This is War”


Christina Aguilera “Candyman”


Katy Perry “Thinking of You”

War in Iraq / Afghanistan


Green Day “Wake Me Up When September Ends”


Metallica “The Day That Never Comes”


3 Doors Down “When I’m Gone”

General Military Themes


Destiny’s Child ft. T.I. Lil Wayne “Soldier”


Rihanna ft. Jeezy “Hard”

All ten of these music videos have taken inspiration from the military in their storylines and songs. This is yet another aspect of pop culture that has subtle military themes. The fashion that is found comes through in what the bands and singers are wearing. I would have to say that the best music video out of the ten, featuring the most military inspired fashion pieces, is Rihanna’s Hard video.

Keep your eyes peeled, who would have thought that you could find military inspiration in modern day music videos.  Fashion and music walk hand in hand, one influencing the other, so isn’t completely bizzare seeing military themes in music videos. If you know of any others, let me know.

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Army Jacket Italiano, Street style à la Roma

The Italian Army may not strike fear in your average person, it has had a rocky history after all, especially in WWI and WWII with their flip flopping between the Axis and the Allies. In regards to style and uniforms though, it’s a different story. Italy is one of the few countries to have had their police and military uniforms designed by top designers such as Giorgio Armani. One specific uniform piece that has made the cross over from the military to the fashion world, is a canvas Italian Army jacket from the Cold War.

Although the Italian Army may have had its troubles in the first half of the 20th Century, during the Cold War and up till now it is the third major contributor, after the U.S. and the U.K., to peacekeeping operations around the world. Which may have something to do with the fact that this specific jacket made it into the fashion world, perhaps because of its global visibility. It has since been replaced by the Italian Army for a modern digital camouflage uniform, better suited for their recent operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Italian Army during NATO Exercises in West Germany, circa 1980s

The jacket itself it very simple, it has two lower cargo pockets and then two narrower slanted pockets on the chest. The design complimented by two silver patch stars on the collars, this is a junior officer rank. Many designers and labels have incoporated these vintage jackets into their ensembles, but there is one label who has done almost an exact replica of it. Rag & Bone’s Ohara Cargo Jacket draws direct inspiration from this Cold War combat coat.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rag & Bone Ohara Cargo Jacket $520.00

It has been featured as an original piece in various fashion spreads.

Originals can still be easily purchased and are quite affordable. This is another great item to go exploring for in your local Army/Navy Surplus store. Just remember “Italian Army Jacket with the stars” and you should be all set when asking for help. For those of you who do not have a local store of this nature, here are some stores listed below.

TopMan ₤40.00

Urban Outfitters $29.99

SportsMan’s Guide $19.97

I would highly encourage anyone seriously interested in this jacket to actually get the original. As you can clearly see, there is a huge leap in the price difference between the original and the Rag & Bone version. Who knows, you may be purchasing something that has travelled the world.

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Vietnam Jungle Boots, A Cold War Classic

“Goooooooood morning, Vietnam! Hey, this is not a test! This is rock and roll! Time to rock it from the Delta to the D.M.Z.!” – Good Morning Vietnam

Jungles and tropical climates have always presented a unique challenge to any military operations. The humidity and the hot weather found in these climates can make an all leather boot seem unbearable. Thus was born the first leather and canvas combination boots and than subsequently leather and nylon.

The Vietnam War lasted approximately from 1955 to 1975, spanning over 19 years of conflict. The war saw the issuing of hundreds of different types of uniforms and equipment, each year bringing a newer and improved version of the previous model. This consistent development of uniforms and equipment saw five different versions of boots used. The conflict started with American Advisors in the late 50s early 60s wearing a mixture of all leather black boots and a late war WWII Double Buckle Jungle boot.

Around 1965 the military adopted the classic version of the jungle boot for the conflict. The Vietnam Jungle boot is made from nylon and black leather with two small metal drainage/air holes on the inner side of the boot. After the war the boots would continue to be worn by the American military until the adoption of the digital camouflage Army Combat Uniform (ACU), and the nylon/leather desert boots in 2003.

An artist’s depiction of American Soldiers in Vietnam. 1965

Jungle boots being issued before Desert Storm, 1990

Jungle Boots, Vietnam 1960s

U.S. Military Jungle Boots

This nylon/leather combination allows the boots to breath and remain cool in hot weather. Atheistically it also depicts a sharp contrasts between the green nylon and the black leather, which designers have picked up on and used in some of their pieces.

Santoni Heath Boots $1250.00                              Visvim 7-Hole 73 Folk Boots $1288.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

Junya Watanabe Lace-Up Mid Boot $895.00

These boots are so popular that designer Michael Bastian for 2009’s Fashion Week had a majority of his models wear the boots for the show.

NYC

Jungle boots are here to stay, and the best thing about these boots is that you can easily find them in any Army/Navy Store and at a reasonable price in a variety of colors. I have included a few links below listing some online retailers, but your best bet is to check out your local Army/Navy Surplus store and seek some Vietnam Jungle Boots out yourself. Who knows, you may see something there that might inspire some of your own military fashion ensembles.

Sports Authority $119.99

Walmart $95.95

Army Surplus for Less $89.99

The Jungle boot served the American Military for over 40 years and the design continues to be used in a Desert varation in the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. A truly remarkable design that has been combat proven and now has taken on a new life as a military fashion item. From the wet jungles of Southest Asia to the deserts of Iraq and now the streets of New York, you can always depend on the American Jungle Boot.

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German Military Wool Jackets, Fashion Tested and Approved

In 1939, the German military were producing the best looking uniforms by far. At the start, of WWII the German military was successful on all fronts. By 1942, they had defeated and occupied the majority of Europe and North Africa. Although they had been victories during the early years of the war, they would eventually be defeated and Europe and North Africa was liberated by 1945. The German tunic however, would march on.

The German military at this time, would rarely differentiate between dress uniforms and combat uniforms. The German Soldier was expected to wear the same uniform into combat as he would to a wedding ceremony, one might say both are equally as intense. It was not until the end of the war that the German military began to produce separate uniforms for combat and ceremonies. For this reason, the German uniforms were not only designed for combat, but they were also made to look presentable for ceremonies. If you read my earlier post on the American M-1941 jacket, you will see how this was a sharp contrast to the rational of the American military at this time.

The German military would go through four different styles of tunics, each one progressively getting cheaper to produce. This was due to their limited resources towards the end of the war.  As you can see from these different versions of the tunic, there are some simple design features such as the four pockets, the collar and wool material that many designers have taken and added to their own pieces.

Note: These examples are reproductions from At The Front

M36 Tunic and M40 Tunic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

M43 Tunic and M44 Tunic

As you can see, collars went from green to the same material as the rest of the jacket. Pockets went from pleated to patch and then by the end of the war, they had eliminated two of the lower pockets and the lower section of the jacket. These changes were due to limited resources caused by the Allies’ effective air raids damaging Germany’s military industrial complex. It also did not help that Germany’s factories were being captured with every mile the Allies advanced into occupied Europe.

You’ve seen the actual pieces, now its time to see how seventy years ago the Soldiers wore them.

Group of soldiers wearing both the M36 and M40 Tunics

This photo clearly breaks down the differences between the early models.

Two examples of the M44 Tunics late in the war

The four pockets, the collars, the wool material and the epaulettes, features designers have all borrowed to create their own pieces. Here are just a few examples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rag & Bone                                                                                 Rag & Bone
Stalking Jacket $680.00                                                     Leigh Jacket $475

Hugo Boss Corpo Wool Coat $595                               Express Wool Military Jacket $173.60

The designers have clearly taken inspiration from the German tunics of WWII. These vintage German designs do not come cheap. Luckily, with all vintage military items there are companies who make reproductions. The company featured at the start of this post is one of those companies. I have listed them below with their prices. The differences in quality really comes down to the wool thats used, so the higher the price the better the quality.

At The Front $115.00

1944 Militaria $115-385.00

Hessen Antique $85-90.00

During WWII, these tunics struck fear into the populace and armies of Europe and North Africa. However, for the German Soldier it was something they wore with pride. Designers and labels have taken some great features, such as the four pockets and the collars of this uniform, and incoporated them into some beautiful warm wool jackets both for men and for women. German design has always survived the test of time and this is just another excellent example.

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From Korea with Love, tested on the peninsula and now perfect for the season, the M51 Fur-Lined Fishtail Parka

The Korean War, that started in 1950 and ended in 1953, was unlike any type of conflict the United States had ever faced before. The United States had experienced its fair share of cold weather combat during WWII, but nothing as extreme and consistent as the rough weather felt by the Marines and Soldiers on this Asian peninsula.

The Army, as in times before, recognized that they needed to supply their troops with something more than the standard field jackets and overcoats issued in the last war. This need sparked the creation and development of the M-1951 Fishtail Parka, a design that has continued to be replicated and improved upon by labels and designers today.

The original parkas manufactured during WWII and in the interwar years between WWII and the Korean War, were expensive and heavy duty. The Army wanted to supply Soldiers with the same type of parkas, but at a more economical price. Thus, the M-1951 Fishtail Parka was born. This new design had a removable liner and canvas outer shell. After the war, this design was then improved further with the development of the M-1965 Parka. These are now both popular designs for women.

What also makes this fashion military fashion piece unique, was that it became a popular item with the Mod Fashion trend in the 1960-70s. It looks like we could be seeing the return of this trendy design. How did this great parka look on the guys in Korea? Well here are a few examples.

Sgt. Bowman, 1952

Maryiln Monroe during a USO show in Korea.
The M51 is definitely being upstaged in this photograph!

Mods in the 1970s

Most recently, Military Parkas are being spotted on the runways, rails and racks of shops worldwide. Each label and designer has added their own unique style to the classic m51 Parka. Here are just a few examples. These trendy parkas can be found using a simple search on the internet for Women’s Military Parka.

Junya Watanabe $1650.00                                         Juicy Couture $358.00

Larok Luxe $398.00                                           Marc Jacobs $598.00

Tis the season for army green parkas, but if these designer labels seem a bit pricey or not authentic enough for you, there is always the option of downing the original piece, or a reproduction alternative. Here are some links to some excellent Military Uniform suppliers who carry the M51 Parka or the M65 Parka.

Vintage Trends $195.00

Fishtail Parkas ₤99.97

ArmyNavyShop $63.80

Vermont Barre Army Navy $44.95

The M-1951 parka kept American Soldiers and Marines warm over 60 years ago in the worst of conditions, and also gave the Mods of the 1960s a unique style. Today it has returned to our shops as a fashionable answer to staying in style whilst staying warm.

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German Paratrooper boots land on target, from Drop Zones to Runways

Paratroopers, from their first modern use by the U.S.S.R. in the 1930s and their first successful application in war by the German military in 1940, have always had specialized equipment and uniforms. The German paratrooper, the “Fallschirmjäger” was no exception; in fact they were the most uniquely equipped and uniformed paratroopers of the war. One of the most bizarre and uniquely designed uniform pieces of their uniforms was their 1st model “Fallschirmjäger” boots.

Paratrooper boots during WWII were specifically designed to provide extra ankle support for rough parachute landings. Thus the German army deviated from their traditional loosely fitting “Jack Boot” issued to the majority of the German military, to a new tightly laced boot for paratroopers. The American military did the same, instead of issuing their paratroopers the standard canvas leggings/gaiters and low-quarter boot combination, they designed and issued a tightly laced taller boot specifically for paratroopers.

American

 

 

 

 

 

 

German

The most prominent design feature of the German boots is the side laces. Traditionally speaking, military boots are front laced in the same fashion as the American version above. The side lacing of the German boots is what many designers have incorporated into their pieces.

Here are pictures of Fallschirmjagers during the war, look closely at their boots.

These photographs are from the Mediterranean Theater of Operations 1940-43

Designers have taken this style of side laced boots and have created their own pieces, borrowing much from the original German Paratrooper boots.

The boots below are all designed by Fly London for men.

Wall Side Lace Boots $206.88                                      Wall Boots ₤120

 

Load Boots (black) ₤134.99                                        Load Boots (brown) $339.95

 

A small London Label You Must Create (YMC) has a version for women (left) and men (right)

Side Lace Boot (brown) ₤195.00                         Side Lace-up Boot (black) $305.00

As you can see, the designer boots do come at a price. Now I would like to draw your attention to some authentic alternatives. Reproduction houses have now started to make these boots, the quality is quite good and they are almost exactly like the originals.

Varusteleka €209.90                                            Hessen Antique $189.00

Epic Militaria ₤125.95

The Germans certainly had an interesting design for their first model of paratrooper boots. The war progressed, and they replaced the side laced boots with a more conventional front lacing boot. Had it not been for some imaginative fashion designers and labels, that could have been the end for this funky design.

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French fashion adopts Classic Army Jacket

The French have always been a fixture on the fashion scene, this is especially true considering how it has become a part of their national identity. It should come as no surprise then, that their military might have something to contribute to “La Mode Française”. The first example I would like to showcase that demonstrates such excellent French Military design, is the F1 Field Jacket. Between the zippers and the buttons and all the pockets you could want, the French Army really got it right when they designed the F1 Model 1950 Jacket.

The jacket was originally designed in the 1950s, thus giving it the model number 1950. My readers should note that this is very common in military designs, as you can see in my last post the M-1941 jacket was adopted in 1941, thus designating it the M-1941 Jacket. The F1 jacket did go through two more design improvements in its lifetime. There was an F1 Model 1980 and then a F2 Model. These newer versions of the F1 had minor improvements and changes. The pockets became patch pockets and there were a few modifications in regards to how the insignia would be worn. All in all though, the design stayed the same.

The jacket did not see very much action in the original olive-green color. During the 1990s the F1 was manufactured for the French Military in camouflage. Around this time, Army Surplus stores worldwide received thousands of these jackets from the French government to be sold to the general public, as they were deemed obsolete due to the new camouflage version.

This wave of F1 jackets flooding the Army Surplus market led to its entrance onto the streets and then eventually its adoption by the fashion world.

These two photos below show the F1 Jacket being worn correctly by French soldiers.

This photo was taken somewhere in Africa during the 1960s.

Opération Turquoise, the F1 jacket did see limited combat with France’s contribution to the United Nations during the Genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

The great thing about this jacket, is that it can be worn exactly how it was originally designed.  It can be easily purchased from your local Army Surplus store and immediately worn without any alterations.

These are a few examples of it being worn in ensembles…

Paris, France 2010

Urban Outfitters version of the F2 Jacket $63

This jacket is a must have for anyone that would like to add just a touch of MilFashion clothing to their wardrobe. It can easily work for guys or girls and as you can see below through my links to Army Navy Surplus Stores, it is a very affordable piece, which is great for such a popular item!

Uncle Sam’s Army Outfitters $38.00

ArmyShop.ie € 9.99

You may even be able to find it for an even better price, you will just have to pop into your local Army Surplus store and ask them if they have “that cool French Army jacket, you keep seeing everyone wearing”.

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70 Years later Vintage Army Men’s windbreaker keeps coming back

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Buzz Rickson $360.00                                                            At The Front $125.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Price Glory $95.00                                                   The SportsMan’s Guide $59.97

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

Ralph Lauren M41 Military Jacket                     Spiewak M941 Field Jacket $102.00

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.

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