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What is a field jacket?

What is a field jacket?

Photographed: MVP field jacket (£80); A.P.C. rollneck (£175) 

In a nutshell

A field jacket is a military-inspired coat with at least four pockets on the front and often a couple inside, too. They’re generally lightweight and roomy enough to fit a few layers underneath.

The backstory

The first field jackets were crafted for American soldiers in 1938, as a more practical replacement for the wool coats they’d worn since the First World War. But what we – and your wardrobe – are more interested in is the 1965 update, designed for the Vietnam War. Known as the M65, it was lightweight but weatherproof and covered in pockets, which made it ideal for toting extra ammo and rations in a tropical climate. But because it’s also perfect for carting around your phone, wallet and keys, and works well in rain and shine, it’s now an essential in those unpredictable months between seasons.

How to wear it well

The field jacket is such an enduring style that you can still pick up originals from surplus stores. But they can feel a bit Travis Bickle. Instead, look for something that’s inspired by the original, but feels more suited to civilian life. “Don’t go too far out of the neutrals family,” says Thread stylist Luke McDonald. “Tan, olive, navy and black are the classics. Otherwise it’s too sporty. You still want a little bit of that military feel.”

Because the original was battle dress, rather than formal uniform, it’s still a style that works best casually. “Soldiers back from Vietnam would originally wear their field jackets with jeans, and it’s still the easiest way to style one,” says Luke. “They’re also great over layers like rollnecks, hoodies or even padded gilets. So make sure you get one that’s got a bit of room.”

Best of all, a field jacket is super-practical. “It’s basically a bag in jacket form,” says Luke. “Unlike some coats, you’re actually meant to use the pockets. They can take anything from a battery pack to a book.” Just take care not to overdo the military feel. “Avoid things like combat boots or cargo trousers. It can start to look like you’re playing dress-up.”