From bomber jackets to trench coats, military jackets are a firm favourite in every man’s wardrobe, and a true statement piece. We’re here to show you the best styles for every occasion.
Once a practical staple for our brave men of war, the military jacket is now something of an icon in the fashion world. Their masculinity and versatility sees them pop up in all walks of life, and they are now having less of a resurgence, and rather becoming a permanent fixture on the menswear must-have list.
The military style jacket gets its reinvention season after season by the introduction of different fabrics, textures and details, but essentially any military jacket is going to be your capsule piece that can stand the test of time. Here are the only military jackets men should own and just how to style them.
The Best Military Jackets
The bomber jacket is one of the most popular military jacket styles of the moment and definitely a favourite at The Idle Man. This flying jacket boasts style and practical powers as it’s well known for its warmth whilst portraying a cool, sporty look. Initially designed to be worn whilst seated in the cockpit, it is cut to sit at the hip, and it provides the perfect finishing touch to any casual ensemble. Don’t miss this one off your list; your style credentials won’t thank you for it.
How To Style
When it comes to putting together a laid back, casual outfit with the bomber jacket for men as the statement piece, try to keep the rest of the items low key to avoid your look appearing too messy or too much. A bomber creates an instant vibe, so let it do its thing. Team a cool grey bomber with a simple, black, crew neck T-shirt and some skinny black jeans for a classic monochrome look.
For a slightly smarter look (it’s never going to be work wear formal with a bomber jacket), we can take a bomber jacket in a different texture. A men’s suede jacket will dress up your look as opposed to your regular nylon style bomber, and if you wear some colour this will add interest to your ensemble. Team this type of jacket with a simple printed shirt, a smart pair of trousers and a penny loafer.
Now a true mod favourite, the parka coat earned its military status when issued by the US army, and has undergone numerous incarnations over the years. It’s thickness and length, and iconic hood makes it the perfect cold weather warmer, plus with the addition of a sheepskin lining is often the icing on the cake. If you’re searching for a silhouette that takes you through every day of the week, then this one is for you; it’s laid back, cool, and will keep you protected no matter what mother nature throws at you.
How To Style
You can’t beat a check shirt, dark jean, and lace up boot combo when you’re channelling a relaxed yet style-savvy look. Throw on a parka and you’re practically hitting style icon status with minimum effort.
A parka is always going to be considered casual wear, but we are now seeing more and more guys throwing their men’s winter coats over much more formal outfits, and we must admit, we kinda like it. The juxtaposition between smart and casual is really pushed to its limits here, and sometimes it is that extreme contrast that really makes an outfit work. Try teaming your men’s parka coat with your smart-as-they-come work suit, complete with suave neck tie and see what you think. We know you can pull it off.
For the past 200 years or so the greatcoat has been a familiar overcoat for soldiers, however today it could be a men’s military style jacket that we are a little less familiar with. This is probably down to the fact that it is somewhat difficult to precisely identify, however, when you see one, their greatness is unrivalled.
Distinguished by its double-breasted front, epaulettes, and its length (it falls below the knee), We think it’s actually the amazing tailored cut that puts the great in to the greatcoat. For a men’s wool overcoat like this, the perfect partnering would have to be formal attire accessorised with a great pair of shoes and a cashmere scarf.
How To Style
Team your men’s overcoat with other very heavy weight fabrics, much like its own qualities. As the greatcoat is a winter jacket for men, layering thicker fabrics is something that this piece can take. As we mentioned above, formal wear featuring a cashmere scarf makes the perfect accompaniment to the greatcoat. If scarfs aren’t your thing, opt for a beanie hat and a pair of chunky boots to give you that winter look.
In our eyes, nothing can beat a trench coat for its sophistication, versatility, and polish. This men’s jacket can be dressed both up and down, but still manages to portray a well-dressed man either way.
The trench was originally designed last century by the now infamous Thomas Burberry, and the Burberry brand still offers the ultimate in trench coats even today. Initially Mr Burberry named the coat the “Tielocken” and it was made from the then innovative fabric gabardine cotton. This type of cotton was able to keep the wearer dry whilst still allowing air to circulate, and therefore became the perfect choice for British Army officers to put to the test in extreme conditions in WW1. We love it for the exact same reasons today.
How To Style
Styling a trench coat is pretty easy as it goes with so much. We love a trench as a must-have addition to a work wear look, however the versatile coat can be worn over your casual pub attire for an instant splash of style.
Keeping it minimal is the key and with this coat its best to avoid any heavy prints or loud logos. We think this makes for a more sophisticated approach to dressing and allows your focus piece to work its magic.
Leather Flight Jacket
When you think of this men’s leather jacket, you are instantly transported to a world of Tom Cruise wearing Aviator sunglasses and flying through the air to ‘Take My Breath Away’, but, this style of military jacket is just as striking today as it was when it was first introduced in 1927. Men’s sheepskin coats are not often something that scream ‘cool’ or ‘buy me right now!’, so a leather flight jacket with its subtle sheepskin detailing is the perfect way to channel the look if you fancy yourself a shaggy number but are too scared to go the whole sheep, I mean hog.
How To Style
For a dressed down look that is perfect for any relaxed situation when you feel like kicking back (but keeping warm), combine a flight jacket with a cosy chunky knit turtle neck jumper, jeans, and a casual boot or trainer. A lighter jean and trainer will achieve a much more casual look, however if you want something that little bit smarter then go for a dark wash jean and boot combo.
Although a flight jacket is instantly associated with casual wear, they can in fact work rather well in a more formal setting. I still wouldn’t advise turning up to a job interview in one of course, but for a smart-casual occasion such as a dinner date you can definitely pull this look off with finesse. Team smart trousers with a plain medium or fine knit jumper, and then just add some masculine boots to toughen up the look.
P = pilot in the case of the pea coat, another favoured style of jacket by men of the military. This particular men’s coat was used by Navy men, and with its double-breasted front and storm collar makes it a definite winter must-have. A pea coat for men is extremely versatile, lending itself to almost any outfit, but working particularly well in the smart-casual category. Jeans, formal trousers, chinos; all options look perfectly OK when teamed with this jacket style. Just veer away from tracksuit pants, nobody wants to see that combination.
How To Style
Off duty style is often brought to life by adding in small details and accessories to create interest and add personality to your look. Things like bags, socks (that are visible), belts, and scarves are all great examples of how you can make your finished outfit look unique.
For a smarter yet still cool combination, you can team your new pea coat with a short sleeved printed shirt and some light coloured slim fit trousers with the bottoms rolled up a few times. Every man needs a great pair of shoes to complete his outfit, and in this case some tan leather loafers will finish off the look.
An overcoat is similar to the greatcoat, but this is a more generic and traditional style coat to be worn as the final item of clothing. The overcoat, as it hints in the name, is usually over the top of a suit or jacket so is best for those cold commutes on a Monday morning. It’s a heavyweight winter piece, though not quite as heavy as the greatcoat, and is usually quite long e.g. falling below the knee. An overcoat should always do two things: keep you warm and make you look good. If you manage to find one that does both, definitely don’t let it go.
How To Style
To keep it simple and casual, jeans, Chelsea boots, and a shirt with mandarin collar creates a casual yet stylish outfit. Add in small details like a scarf or hat to make the look your own. An overcoat will always be at home over a perfectly tailored suit. Add a pocket square and man-bag such as a leather satchel for groomed and sophisticated style ready for the office.
For the past for seasons, the field jacket it fronting the ranks when it comes to military jackets. This is because its a men’s lightweight jacket with a masculine boxy cut and a whole load of pockets, which was first seen back in 1938. Originally coming in a waxy olive green guise, the field jacket is now available in various prints and colourways. That said, for optimum outfit combinations, go for something in a neutral tone so it can go with almost anything you own. We do love a camo print version too, so if you’re up for a trend-inspired piece, here’s your chance.
How To Style
The perfect jacket for layering, this predominantly casual piece goes well with all the low-key items in your wardrobe, such as casual shirts, T-shirts, knitwear and jeans. For a smart-casual, layered look, why not throw your field jacket over an unstructured blazer and some smart shoes? This look is a great in-between outfit when you’re just not quite sure how dressed-up to go.
With field jackets for men now readily available in plusher fabrics such as suede, you can mix and match it with your formal wear to create a cool but suave vibe. Wear smart trousers and footwear, and switch out the blazer for this piece. Layer over a plain white or pastel oxford shirt.
Now that we’ve taken a look at various military style coats, its time to see what the military influences actually are. From chinos, to epaulettes, to camo print, the battlefield not only influences fashion in the form of outerwear, but it touches all areas of apparel and practically everything we own has deep-seated roots in the military.
The legacy that Napoleon Bonaparte and the Napoleonic Wars of 1803 to 1815 left was not only an advancement of the First French Empire, but a menswear wardrobe which would have looked completely different today if it wasn’t for them. The Monarchs of that moment from France, Russia, England, and Prussia were totally obsessed with how their soldiers dressed, and the sartorial innovations of the 19th Century still live on with us today.
The connection isn’t immediately apparent by any stretch, but the modern suit that guys feel so suave in today takes its lineage from right back to this time in history. The dress uniforms of the French and Russian armies during the Napoleonic era have since formed the models for what would eventually become the double-breasted and three-piece suit.
The Russian uniform was made up of a dark green, double-breasted coat with a standing collar, and white trousers (breeches), and was finished with boots in winter and shoes and gaiters in the summer months. The French army donned an open, single-breasted blue and white coat, a white waistcoat and white trousers, and again either boots or shoes with gaiters.
The smart dressing of the Napoleonic era quite understandably filtered down and found its way in to the business and formal wear of today. However, as you’ve seen above, our casual attire is also massively inspired by the military, but instead by the more recent versions of military wear we’ve seen, when function has been much more of a desirable uniform trait than anything based on the form we saw from the 19th Century.
- The humble T-shirt was made iconic by the likes of Brando and Dean. However it was in fact originally issued by the U.S Navy sometime between the Spanish-American War and 1913 as a standard undergarment.
- Chinos, which are now a key casual piece in men’s wardrobes all over the world today, got their name from originating in China. They were worn by American soldiers stationed in the Philippines, and again the Spanish-American War war was solely responsible for lending them to us.
- Other obvious examples of the military influence on casual wear include cargo pants and jackets, camouflage print, turtleneck jumpers and sweaters, woollen beanies, and military boots. The cargo stuff goes back to the uniforms of WWII, and our winter staples from Navies since the 18th Century. Even jeans date back to WWII, when servicemen were wearing standard-issue Navy dungarees as casual wear after the war.
Key Military Colours
Muted shades of neutrals such as green, brown, sand and olive/khaki make up a typical military inspired palette. These dry earthy tones are perfect autumnal shades that work really well during the colder months of the year, and will really capture the military vibe without looking like you’ve walked right out of Sandhurst on leave. Wear these hues via simple separates and minimalist styles for a chic effortless nod to the military trend.
Your Quick Guide to Military Jackets
- There are so many styles of military jackets to choose from. Work out which one best fits the occasion and the look you’re trying to create.
- For formal and work wear add that finishing touch by throwing on a trench, peacoat, overcoat or greatcoat. If you’re feeling daring, why not try a parka for a fashion forward look.
- Bombers, flight jackets, parkas and field jackets are perfect casual attire. Men’s puffa jackets and baseball jackets are sportier options which can create a similar look.
- Military jackets can be reinvented season after season. Experiment with different details, prints, and textures to switch up the look. These styles work round-the-clock, all year long so just remember that layering and a neutral colour palette is key.
On That Note
With the sports field and the battlefield having the biggest effect on the masculine wardrobe to date, it would be stupid to say that the military jacket is a trend. That said, it’s one of the few pieces that can be a classic yet still a statement that turns heads. With the winter season fast approaching (sorry summer lovers), it’s not too late to be thinking about which military style to invest in next. There’ll be some exciting reinventions coming our way, so follow the advice in this guide and you can’t go wrong.