While spring warmer weather is a welcome break from harsh winter temps, it’s not exactly T-shirt season yet. Nights can still be chilly, and until we roll into June it feels like the threat of rain is always lingering. You’ll need to keep warm, but that doesn’t necessarily mean pulling out a sweater. Layering’s the name of the game in this weather, which calls for something that’s easy on-and-off and doesn’t look bulky — the field jacket is all that and is an ultra-cool piece of military history, too.
Undeniably rugged, the modern field jacket is inspired by tech worn by the armed forces. Take the M-41—named for the year it was produced — worn during World War II as a lightweight windbreaker-style shell made from a poplin, lined with wool flannel. That was followed by the 3/4-length and more weather resistant M-51, and finally, the most iconic field jacket of them all: the M-65. Made for the Vietnam War, this is the jacket you’ve seen all over Hollywood. It was on Rambo in First Blood.
Made with a blend of nylon and cotton sateen, the M-65 was designed for jungle warfare with an advanced blend of nylon and cotton sateen that improved the jacket’s wind and water resistance. Fashion brands eventually took notice of the iconic jacket’s style and utility — with features like a hood that tucked into the collar and Velcro on the sleeves to keep water out — and started making versions for the everyday guy. You’ll want one because they add an air of ruggedness to any outfit and they adequately protect you from wind, rain, and cold. Two birds with one stone.
Made from heavy-duty cotton canvas coated with a water-repellant, this jacket was intended to protect from shrubs and brush during hunts. Now a staple for L.L. Bean, the smooth nylon lining the sleeves won't grab and bunch up the arms of a mid-layer in the fall. The shoulders and underarm gussets help by not restricting your movement so the jacket feels lived in, not stiff. With five pockets, you'll have enough room for a day's worth of gear.
This M-65 jacket by the original supplier of field jackets to the U.S. military is basically a replica of those worn during Vietnam and made to military specifications. It has a loose, comfortable fit — originally designed so GIs could carry gear — while keeping you protected from wind and water. And there are many ways to modify it, with a concealed hood, epaulets on the shoulders, and a drawstring waist. The basic materials used, a mix of cotton, nylon, and polyester, make it easy to care for in the washing machine.
You can thank the washing that Orvis does to the Classic Barn Coat if it feels lived-in when you first slip it on. Made from 7.8-ounce cotton canvas in a brown hue that's a welcome departure from Army green. The cotton corduroy collar feels soft next to the skin when you have to fold it up, and the lined sleeves make it easy to pull on and off over a base layer. Like the others, you’ll get five pockets, three on the outside and two in the jacket. Perfect for a spring hike or running around town.
Outdoor Research has long made some of the most rugged outdoor clothing you can find, and the Prologue Field Jacket is no exception. It’s more workwear-inspired than many on this list, built with a stretchy, wind- and water-resistant fabric, and double-needle stitched to boost the jacket’s durability and warmth. It’ll last you years of traveling, working, or commuting.
Another more casual entry, Madewell makes an excellent, simple field jacket that will keep you warm in the spring with a completely cotton construction. It still takes its inspiration from the military with a packable hood, snap-flap pockets, and a looser fit. A drawstring around the waist and hem lets you adjust the fit as needed.
One of the more technical jackets here, Helly Hansen’s Kobe Waterproof Helly Tech has all the bells and whistles you’d need for an adventure. It’s totally waterproof, with sealed seams, and windproof, but remains breathable so you won't get clammy out on a hike. For storage, it has multiple flap pockets and an interior button pocket. The lining dries fast when it gets wet, and a collar with an anti-chafe chin guard keeps you comfortable while the wind blows.
A more modern take on the field jacket, this barn coat is sleek enough for the city. The exterior is a cotton canvas that resists wind and water, and corduroy touches on the collar and cuffs give it a nice color contrast. Inside, a flannel lining keeps you even warmer. A subtle interior pocket keeps gear safe without extra pockets showing.
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