For this latest edition of The Devil in the Detail, we are delving into the nuances of a military piece which has, for many, become a civilian wardrobe staple. First introduced by the U.S. Army for the troops during the war in Viet Nam, this jacket offered versatility and durability which made it essential wear for the ground force in the forest climate; we are of course talking about the Tropical Combat Coat, from Buzz Rickson’s.
As we alluded, this jacket offered the troops something which hadn’t really been on the table before, and that is a quick drying garment which can be easily packed away, without adding much weight to the load. With a specially considered fabric, specifically chosen for its quick drying properties, Buzz Rickson’s have meticulously reproduced the cotton poplin to closely resemble those of the originals in the 1960’s. This choice was absolutely essential to the troops, to avoid being weighed down by rainwater from tropical storms. But while this fabric has been densely woven for durability, it remains remarkably lightweight, and easily packed away into a small bundle. That’s military ingenuity at it’s best!
For functionality, the Tropical Combat Coat features four expandable front pockets which have been cleverly designed with a pleated feature, for maximum storage capabilities. This allowed troops to easily stow away rations, equipment or maps along the way! A button flap pocket was added for security, proudly displaying the sets of period correct Urea buttons, which have become so synonymous with this era. The same buttons can be found on the concealed front button plate, which has been designed to protect the wearers torso from the elements, reducing risk of colds or flu when wet.
A buttoned cuff allows the sleeve to be easily rolled, while form and fit have been considered by the addition of waist adjuster tabs to add comfort and ease of movement when in transit. Shoulder epaulettes allow for military caps and Daisy Mae’s to be quickly stored away whilst remaining accessible for protection from the tropical sun’s scorching rays. In order to remain true to the period of design, the brand have manufactured a cotton care label which sits inside the right hand side of the jacket, which carefully illustrated how to wash and care for the garment. Subtle details are illuminated here, including the drainage holes at the bottom of each pocket, which allow rain water to quickly flow out.
Though this jacket was born out of a period of intense war, and political unrest, it has been carried into civilian life by veterans and then the gen pop, for various reasons. One such reason is that this jacket has been so well designed for versatility, and practicality, that it serves a day to day purpose in city and rural life. Another is that, for many, military clothing has become a symbol of anti-war sentiment which was so prevalent during the late 1960’s into the 70’s. Tropical jackets and M-65’s would be decorated with peace symbols, and flowers, to illustrate the absurdity of war. Whatever your stance, it is undeniable that this jacket has endured to become a modern classic of menswear, with versions being offered up from some of the world’s best producers of vintage inspired reproduction, to high street chains with scant regard for quality.
We think that this Buzz Rickson’s iteration gives a lot of bang for your buck, but we also carry versions from Toys McCoy, and Freewheelers & Co. So if you’re feeling inspired, why not head down to Son of a Stag to try a few on for size? You might just find you’ll be won over by this versatile summer piece!