The field coat began with the M-41. Named, as all later models were, after the year it was first produced, which functioned as part of the World War II combat uniform in the early years of the war. The jacket was also unofficially referred to as the O.D. Cotton Field Jacket, after the material and olive drab no. 2 shade it was produced in. As the first military field coat, the M-41 was based on the design of a typical civilian windbreaker, a type of outerwear that’s meant to protect the wearer against wind chill and light rain; however, the M-41 included more insulating features such as a cotton poplin outer shell and wool flannel lining, button closures at the neck and cuffs, and a button-down storm flap over the front zipper closure.
The M-41 Field Jacket
The M-41 eventually developed into the M-43, which was extended to hip-length and included a detachable hood, drawstring waist for a tighter fit, and produced in the much darker olive drab no. 7 shade. It was made in cotton sateen and was used as part of the standard combat uniform for the rest of World War II.
The subsequent M-51 model updated the design to include snap button closures as well as button cuffs and a button-on hood. Made of a cotton sateen fabric similar to the M-43 and distributed in the shade OG 107, the M-51 became part of the field uniform for soldiers in the Korean War and the Vietnam War’s early years.
The M-51 Field Jacket
The design and production of the M-65 Field Jacket was handled by Alpha Industries from Knoxville, Tennessee, who also did the iconic MA-1 flight jacket. Most of Alpha Industries’ creations were initially part of a contract with the Department of Defense and have since never really left the stage.
The M-65 Field Jacket
The upgrade started with a more advanced blend of nylon and cotton sateen called NYCO that significantly improved the jacket’s wind and water-resistance. The M-65 also switched out the button-on detachable hood for one that could be hidden away into the collar with a zipper enclosure. The button cuffs were replaced with velcro and snap closures were added for the storm flap.
One of the key features of the field jacket that was consistent across the different iterations was its boxy silhouette, which was structured to allow room for layering underneath in cold temperatures. This was particularly prioritized in the design of the M-65, which included interior buttons to attach a warm liner. Along with the jacket’s four front pockets — two at the breast and two at the hip — the field jacket’s new and modern design ensured the utmost capability in transitioning between changing weather patterns, an imperative in unpredictable environments such as Vietnam.
The jacket’s sleek combination of functionality and versatility made it a staple of the U.S. military field uniform for decades. The M-65 field jacket was so enduring, in fact, that very little changes to the design have been made throughout the course of its lifetime as a military uniform, until it was retired in 2009.
As camo for military use continued to be developed, the field jacket was issued in new patterns in addition to the traditional olive green shades. In 1981, the M-65 made an appearance in woodland camo, a camouflaging print based on a pattern created by the US Army Engineer and Research Development Lab (ERDL). The military continued to develop new shades for different environments, such as the deserts of the Middle East, and so the field jacket was distributed in desert camo in the ‘90s and in the digital Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP) in 2005.
The Woodland Camo and Desert Camo M-65 Field Jackets
In the 1960s, military clothing took hold as a style trend — a clear result of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and, subsequently, the availability of military surplus garments for civilians. Field jackets, as well as bombers and fishtail parkas, could be seen on the streets as the latest fashion of the new generation. For the most part, military apparel was ubiquitous among various American and European subcultures, from the British mods and working class to American hip-hop artists in the ‘80s, as it evoked a sense of rebellion and masculine toughness.
M-65 Jacket decorated with many underground bands from the '90s
The M-65 field jacket also came to be seen as a symbol of the activist movement against the Vietnam War, an ironic twist on the jacket’s origins that made the most of its inherently combative look by reframing it as a statement of political resistance. It was famously seen on Navy Lt. John Kerry in 1971, when he gave a public address to speak out against the war he had just returned from, as well as anti-war activists and celebrities like John Lennon and Jane Fonda. As a 2015 New York Times Magazine article, “How the Army Jacket Became a Staple of Civilian Garb”, explains: “The counterculture kid in Army gear could razz the warmongering machine that had endowed the jacket with symbolic power, and he could honor boys destined to die in their boots, and he could also effectively affect a bohemian pose.”
Icon Lt. John Kerry
It was in the ‘70s that the M-65 also made pop culture history through Hollywood movies like Taxi Driver, where it was the defining piece of actor Robert DeNiro’s iconic look. It also appeared on Al Pacino in Serpico, Woody Allen in Annie Hall, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first Terminator movie, where he sported a more understated gray version.
Whether on the catwalks of high fashion maestros like Marc Jacobs or Saint Laurent, in the lookbooks from global streetwear powerhouses like Carhartt WIP or Supreme or as pick from the racks of the local army surplus store – the M-65 Field Jacket is made to last and here to stay, even more than fifty years after being first commissioned by the military.
CamoLots (previously known as Uncle Sams, or armynavydeals) has helped play a huge role in the fashion world over the years. Having a retail store in the heart of the Iconic "West Village" in NYC for over 20 years, meant even designers such as Ralph Lauren, Marc Jacob, and Dust of Gods, bought our original products for their Fashion shows, and stores.
This in turn lead to us being able to sell wholesale items to Urban Outfitters in 2010! That's right! All the military surplus you see sold there even today - Came from US!
Of course, we have always been here for designers and artists throughout the years and all of them take our great stuff and make it even greater by making it original! Not to mention the music videos, to broadway shows to movies!
We truly owe it to all of them - for making Military Surplus we know it as today!
We still carry the BIGGEST selection of Field Coats, Including the M65, making it easy for you to to find that perfect jacket.