The jungle jacket: Summer’s M65

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This might be our last piece on summer clothing this year, and I wanted to use it to talk about one of my most useful pieces of the last few months - this vintage ‘jungle jacket’. 

I bought it two years ago, at the now sadly closed Vintage Showroom in London. They were popular then, and have only become more so since - Drake’s released its version earlier this year. 

But something I find the new versions can't achieve is the lightness of the originals. That rip-stop cotton was made for tropical climates, and it’s as light as a linen overshirt, perhaps even more so. 

As a result, it became my default outer layer for casual combinations this summer, such as a T-shirt and workwear chinos at the weekend (example here). Or jeans. Or shorts. 

It has all the pockets you need - which is often the reason for wearing an extra layer in the summer - but is so light you almost don’t notice you’re wearing it. 

It helps that vintage versions have been washed and worn countless times, making them softer and perhaps even lighter too. 

Then there’s the normal pleasures of a vintage piece, like the natural fading at the hems and seams, and the little repairs where the jacket has been caught or worn through. You can see one on the back of my jacket in the picture above. 

In many ways, the jungle jacket is the summer equivalent of the M-65 field jacket, which has become so popular with menswear fans over the years. It is the same versatile pale-olive colour, and is just as effective at adding a touch of high/low dressing to an otherwise smart outfit. 

I’ve shot it with two outfits here, and the one shown at top is a deliberately smart colour combination: navy knitted polo, white jeans, brown-suede loafers. The same colours would work just as well with more formal materials too, such as cream flannels, a blue oxford shirt, and a navy cashmere knit. 

The second outfit, meanwhile, shows how nice it is with denim and with colour. It can look work with much stronger colours than that PS Yellow Oxford as well.

Of course, the M-65 is not that warm, being just two layers of cotton. But when you combine it with the fur lining I had made a couple of years ago, it gives you three casual outer layers - jungle jacket, unlined M-65, lined M-65 - that cover most of the year. 

The only obvious disadvantage of the jungle jacket here is that you can’t cinch the waist, which I always felt was one reason sartorial dressers particularly took to the M-65.

It meant you could mimic the waisted shape of a tailored jacket, and buy a fairly big size to fit over a jacket’s shoulders without it being too shapeless elsewhere. 

But then, the jungle jacket is a summer piece, where the main consideration is coolness rather than shape, and you're less likely to be wearing it over anything else. 

There were three different versions of the jungle jacket made by the US, from the early sixties into the seventies. But we’re not vintage collectors here on PS - we don’t care which is rarer, the version with the slanted chest pockets or the straight ones. 

We care more about which looks good, which is most useful, and what the fit is like. On that score, it's worth noting that the third iteration was made in a plain cotton poplin rather than the ripstop. You can see the differences on the Broadway & Sons website - they have a ripstop here and a poplin here.

I personally prefer the ripstop (below), because it feels a touch lighter and I like the texture, but it’s not a big difference. 

In terms of sizing, my advice would be to avoid the Large, which is so long that even friends that are taller than me (so over 6’1’’) find it too long. 

The jacket was designed to cover the seat and then some, with the option of a belt between the two sets of pockets - as a lot of military jackets have been over time. But those proportions look odd today. 

Mine is a Medium Regular, which has a perfect length. There is a slight compromise on the sleeve, which would ideally be an inch longer, but it’s a small point on vintage, which is often so hard to size right. Plus I often push the sleeves up in warm weather. 

Also, note that the shirt from the OG-107 US fatigues is sometimes referred to as a jungle jacket. This is a different style, having just two pockets on the chest and mostly worn tucked into the matching trousers. It’s still nice, but more of an overshirt.

Below, it is worn on the soldiers on the left and right, while General Westmoreland in the middle wears the four-pocketed jungle jacket.

The shirt varieties were also those most associated with protests against the Vietnam War, and John Lennon in particular (second image below). This probably gives them the most countercultural feel, but still, the jungle jacket and the field jacket still have a bit of that.

One of the few annoying aspects of the jungle jacket is that the hip pockets are extravagantly bellowed, in order to fit in as much as possible (see below). This can make the jacket a little ungainly if those are used and left unbuttoned. 

In fact, I find this is one of the main issues of modern reproductions, which often keep that sizing of the pockets, but in a new and heavier material that means they look especially bulky.

I tend to keep my hip pockets partly buttoned as a result. But that still means they're usable - in fact, I was wearing it so much over the summer that I developed a habit of using each pocket for a particular thing. 

My phone went in the top-left pocket, with one button closed so it wouldn’t slip out when I bent over; wallet went in the top right, with no need to button at all as it is so light; my face mask went in the bottom left, with one button closed for easier access; and keys were in the bottom right, with both buttons fastened to avoid any chance of them slipping out and hold the weight better. 

I’m sure that kind of organisation will please the geeks/obsessives out there. I’m rarely that systematic, but I did notice it was the one time I never forgot the leave the house without something!

The volume of jungle jackets originally made means they’re not hard to find - it’s often particular sizes that can be tricky, or if you want just one of the iterations. 

They’re also not expensive. I saw a few when I was at Hang-Up Vintage recently, all priced at £95, though the website only shows a deadstock poplin one for £155. The ones at Broadway & Sons noted earlier are €199 and €149.

There are camouflage versions too, but I don’t like camo as much. It’s very subjective, but camo for me is more obviously military, without the countercultural associations of the plain OG. It feels more towards glorifying warfare. 

In fact, that can be an issue with names and badges on a lot of vintage military clothing. But that’s probably a debate for another day. 

Clothes shown:

Photography: Alex Natt @adnatt

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Oggi

I do’nt possess a field jacket Simon but find my olive Drakes overshirt in linen fits this niche.The style mimics an M65 to some extent given it’s military associations.It looks nice with chinos and jeans and if the weather is cooler I pair it with a cotton sweater and grey flannels.

Noel

I have the same one (the washed version) and I agree. It’s a very versatile garment during summer.

Benedikt

Good Morning Simon, perfect timing as I just ordered a Jungle Jacket from Japanese brand orSlow (Used, from Marrkt). After reading your article I hope it will have this vintage feel. Do you have any thoughts on orSlow? I know there „107 Ivy Fit“ denims have been quite popular even outside of the workwear circle. Also I bought a M-65 earlier but despite being vintage (From the 80s) it’s still in a too good condition (The pure irony when you buy clothes, sometimes second-hand, online where you always aim for the best condition). Any tips on how to get that vintage, soft feeling more quickly? Washing them a lot? Leave them in the sun? Thank you!

Benedikt

Thank you Simon!

Ladislav Jancik

“One of my most useful pieces of the last few months”, I absolutely undersign this statement. I have the replica of the 1st pattern made by The Real McCoy’s. Very utilitarian and functional piece, it goes with me everywhere since late spring until now. I wear it even with tailored trousers and linen dress shirts. What I find interesting is that even though the cotton poplin is very light it can be also really protective when the evenings becomes quite windy.

Peter Hall

I had a jungle jacket, or did until my son discovered it and it’s now missing -presumed lost. A trick ,from my old days in the military, was to Velcro inside the body of the pocket to ensure it stays flat.

Darryl

I can see the obvious utlity of military jackets and if something works why not wear it,and of course the military connections with classic clothing are well known. However for me the ‘counter culture’ connotations are a negative. They wouldn’t have been 20 or 30 years ago, but to me personally nowadays they seem much more symbolic of a packaged faux counter cultural identity pushed by mass marketing brands. Contrarily I do like and wear safari jackets and their ilk, which are about as far from ‘counter culture’ as you can get, despite a similar military/hunting context.

Peter Hall

That’s an interesting point from Darryl and I think that’s to be considered wearing anything which has strong connections with a specific culture. For me, 70s era US military clothing will always be associated with the drop out culture. But then, Crombies and Doc Martins have a similar cultural link.

Are we being a little precious with this association? Is this link so powerful in our collective psyche we regard it untouchable to marketing

Diego

I absolutely agree with Darryl. I can wear items that have been inspired in their functionality by military clothing but I would not wear any vintage military items. I just cannot wear something that I know was designed to be used in the context of war. Even worse, I could not wear something that has got a USA, Germany, UK, Japan, etc. name/flag on it as it would be almost like taking sides on a complex topic. They are all beautiful jacket but not for me. I much prefer what Christopher Raeburn used/continues to do, which is using these vintage fabrics and garments to create something new.

Craig

I tend to agree with Daryl. I like military-inspired clothing, or clothing adapted from military gear, but probably wouldn’t wear an actual vintage item, or a perfect reproduction. They can feel a bit incongruous in a civilian setting. Ideally, I like the military connection toned down a bit. I feel the same way about vintage or repro leather bomber jackets, or motorcycle jackets; I prefer them in suede because they’re one step removed from the original purpose. Though the jungle jacket is something I’ve never noticed in old military pictures so I only associate it with modern menswear! That being said there is more than one way to skin this cat, the cat being a need for casual but smart light-weight outerwear for the summer that provides pocket space. A safari jacket (don’t much like these), overshirt with pockets, shirt jacket, teba jacket, etc.

David Bok

What a superb example of the M-65! Are you familiar the British Army’s Kayak Parka? The Japanese company, OrSlow worked with Beams (via their sub-brand, Fennica) to reproduce them last year. I bought one this season and have to say it is great. It may not be to your taste but I have found it to be a solid purchase.

Dr Peter

Great piece. I have two US Army M-65 field jackets with the rounded collar, as well as two earlier versions of the US Army field jacket, the M-53s from the Korean War period with the regular collar. These are all vintage and all originals. They don’t have the slanted pockets and pocket flaps seen in the rip-stop or poplin versions shown in this article — all the pockets are horizontal. I don’t care as much for the slanted pockets, just personal preference. My versions have lining material inside that makes it more suitable for fall and winter weather, but not for summer wear.
I do have US Army cotton drill shirts (four buttons in front and two flap pockets) that serve for the summer as overshirts. I also have non-Army safari-style jackets in light poplin and overshirts made of cotton drill and rip-stop fabric, in khaki and olive green. These latter are great for summer wear over a light T shirt. These jackets and shirts are perfect with blue jeans and khakis.

Dr Peter

Thanks. I did understand it was the summer version, but since you mentioned the M-65 label, I thought I would talk a bit about the regular version, that’s all. Sorry if it was a bit off-topic

Felix Sylvester Eggert

Slightly off-topic Simon, but:

I’m currently looking for a water resistant coat to invest in for the upcoming months.
Will there be a restock of existing collabs (with Private White VC) or the launch of a new one?

Felix Sylvester Eggert

Thanks for the heads-up Simon, didn’t even know about the waiting list.
Just sent a mail to support@permanentstyle.com

Robin

Considering the difficulty in getting hold of the right spec of these jackets …. time for a PS commission ?

Manuel

Simon, since you mentioned sleeve length: Does one want the sleeves of outerwear to cover the cuffs of shirts or knitwear worn below?

Thanks
Manuel

Aaron

For that reason I quite like the jackets like this with cuffs that you can fold back a bit.

Preston Stickles

Simon,
I’m so glad you posted this! I have this jacket, but in a tan, and I always struggled to wear it, simply because I had no idea what it was. I found it at a thrift store for $4, and it has a circle imprint on the left breast pocket and sleeve (probably wear the original owner sewed his patches). I’m excited to start wearing it more often!

Mindforge

Funnily enough having recently found a lovely vintage M65, I wanted something similar for the summer and came across the jungle jacket. Given how tatty and expensive some originals looked, by contrast to the great value to be had from the vintage M65s (which makes those Real McCoy replicas look incredibly overpriced), I went for a Rothko replica from the 90s. Still available NOS, it’s very good value, in ripstop cotton and I understand is identical to the originals except for the lack of drainage holes in the pockets. Interestingly, it was only after buying it that I realised I had a very similar jacket from Private White VC in their very light airy material in an olive green, albeit with straight breast pockets, that I have worn a lot in the summer for years.

Russ

I bought one of those Anderson & Sheppard safari jackets you reviewed, Simon, some time ago. It was a bargain – heavily marked down in The Rake sale. It’s a beautifully made piece, but I have never had a jacket with so many pockets – several of them concealed. It’s a nightmare trying to find anything once I’ve put it inside: I know it’s there, I know, but to have to check five pockets before you get to your car keys…,?!

Howie gelbtuch

Hi Simon. What can you tell us about the metal bracelet you’re wearing?

zo

Interesting discussion above re associations with military. I used to think the same about wearing camo. But then I considered trench coats, pea coats, fatigues, chinos, chukkas, aviators, bomber jackets, black tie and even modern suits, literally everything comes from a military background. So might as well… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

R Abbott

I really love the faded green and the cut of the jacket. Now if only one could get a version without all those unsightly, billowy pockets… 🙂

Fred

Building on the cultural comments, some thoughts.
I know everyone wears camo, but it never sits quite right with me to see civvies wearing military clothing, and yes i know mods etc. But still there are some things you have to have served for.
Then there is what you have had said about hats and how you prefer to avoid the traditional panama because it evokes certain connotations, and like instead darker colours. Interesting how that applies to some items of clothing and not others – workwear, military?
On a more practical note, there are some places where it is unwise to wear uniform.
No answers just thoughts

Regan

Just some thoughts, but I find the point on having to serve for stuff being a little dramatic. It’s no red beret. In this case, it’s decommissioned, (very) old stock that will find itself in surplus stores of the army’s own volition. It would look literally like any other piece of clothing, especially if it’s void of insignia. That being said, I don’t feel quite so comfortable wearing woodland-like camos in public. They’re just too recognisable.

Apologies if I might not understand where you’re going with it. I’m from a country with National Service, so certain issued gear isn’t exactly uncommonly seen.

Fred

Hi Regan,
I hear you but I still find it it odd, and sure it’s just personal.
I do find something odd in what is and isnt cultural appropriation. Why is it inappropriate to wear clothes associated with a certain identity but it’s ok to do it from the military or french work wear?
Then people tend to shy away from wearing clothes associated with a certain image of Toffs but it’s cool to be associated with other identities?
When someone wears a piece of clothing they are, I suppose, at least in part, trying to associate themselves with what that clothing represents ‘a soldier’ ‘a worker’. It is not simply a jacket.
And yes I was in the forces and seeing people who clearly never were, and aren’t likely to be going hunting (camo big in Europe for that), trying to associate with that image, well it’s just not my thing.
But I guess my take is to tone it all down, or better still transform it. I much prefer when Simon takes a panama hat and gets it in sisal, or a safari shirt and has it in lilac.
That said still trying to work it out in my head, and there are surely more important things to be thinking about!

Harry

There can be only one! Yours must be the only fur lined military jacket in existence. At first I laughed, but now it has me thinking…

And

I have a linen-cotton ripstop Safari jacket from, mind you, Abercrombie & F., which I’ve been using a lot in early/late summer (in the peak even the dead of night is too hot). Like you, I find the pockets are the main reason for carrying it around, sometimes even if I’m not wearing it. No slanted pocket, but has the drawstring.
Started out very harsh on the skin, but a few washes softened it a lot. For the price I paid it has been very useful – I even brought it to a mountain hike once as the ripstop construction makes it very tough.

Hayes Preston

Great article Simon. The “jungle jacket” is a very versatile piece. Sizing is weird, as it’ is technically a blouse, originally designed to be worn untucked and buttoned over a tshirt. I was in the market about two years ago, I ended finding two, a medium reg, and large reg, thinking I would flip one, but ended up keeping both. For me, the medium works best over just a tshirt, and the large for fits like yours with the OCBD. I can even see it as a lite rain coat over a sport coat (Boyer style)
Another note on sizing, there are two sizes on each shirt; chest size (S, M, L, etc) and length, short, regular, and long. For whatever reason, large reg is a hard size to find, large long is much easier to find. Medium regular seems to be in relatively good supply

Donald Drayer

M65 means Military issued in 1965, this is not exactly like the ones that I wore.

Shoddy

I’m not sure whether I am missing the point but I have recently been sporting one of Private White’s olive safari jackets, which seems to be along the same lines, but a little smarter, without the saggy pockets or the general air of being about to desert from the Vietnam war. Aside from a tiny hint of Roger Moore, I can’t see the disadvantage. Am I on the wrong track?

Shoddy

Yes. I think it probably boils down to three things for me: 1) the countercultural associations seem outmoded; 2) support your own counterculture; 3) I think it just looks scruffy.

Shoddy

Actually I’ve thought about it again and what I suppose I’m getting at is that for me this jacket falls into the category of ironic militaria (like punks wearing retreat-from-Moscow greatcoats) as opposed to “I’m wearing this kit because I think it looks great” militaria (Steve McQueen chinos and flying jackets). But I can see (although not condone) other people seeing it as falling into the latter category.

Ben Frankel

Japanese catalogues, especially those specializing in military fashion, carry this excellent jacket, have done for years. Nigel Cabourn always has been inspired by this wonderful jacket, alas at a price.
Ive worn mine out,(found in NYC over 25 years ago)- always seeking the perfect replacement! Surplus shops sell nasty versions in poly/cotton mix!

Ira Levine

While I’m certainly sensitive to the possible negative associations attaching to a garment closely identified with a particular military history, as others have pointed out, the military influence throughout the range of menswear is difficult to avoid. As an amateur historian I think it’s easy enough to avoid displaying that influence in an offensive manner by staying away from decorations linked to specific historical contexts. Absent rank insignia, combat honors or peace symbols, a jungle jacket such as yours is a handsome, utilitarian design not unlike a Swiss Army knife, which conjures no disturbing martial associations (rather like its place of origin). As Dr. Freud might have said, sometimes a jacket is just a jacket.
Re American field jackets in particular, I wonder if you’ve ever seen an example of the M-65’s progenitor, the M-43 of the WW2 era. I actually prefer it over the technically improved M-65 precisely because of what it lacks: a zipper, a built-in hood, snap closures and those lower bellows pockets. It does have a bi-swing back, a detachable throat latch and four flat pockets with pointed flaps but with its civilian-style collar it more closely resembles a safari jacket. Most modern reproductions are sewn in a medium-weight cotton sateen that’s just a bit heavier than ripstop and therefore a nearly ideal weight for transitional periods between seasons. They’re once again available from several different manufacturers at very sensible prices and definitely worth a look for a man who wants a touch of military dash without appearing to be on parade. The wearer can be reassured by Field Marshal Montgomery’s assessment of it as better suited to golf than combat.

Stephan

Interesting piece and a nice write-up!
Did you ever write something similar on the safari jacket, Simon? It’s a similar design and usefulness, but with the added benefit of the waist and an ability to dress it up or down as desired. Whereas the jungle jacket is obviously casual. Also, the cultural connotations abound with the safari too.
I have a question on terminology that you used: can you please explain what is deadstock, new old stock, and similar terms using ‘stock’. Thanks!

DD

If the bellowing pockets are bothering, then the french F-2 jacket is pretty nice! It has a bit more sophisticated look, with vertical zip pockets and lapels instead of a shirt collar. And the best iterations cover the seat and have flap pockets.

Steve

Hello Simon,
I’m fairly new to the page and find this topic particularly interesting.
Given that nearly all menswear finds its roots in the world of military/sporting clothing, I took on a sewing project. Never having sewn a stitch in my life, I bought 4 army surplus duffle bags, drafted a pattern based on a favourite sports coat and got to it.
To be honest, it was much more difficult to sew than I expected – duffle bags seem to be made of iron. But the end results turned out quite well. Its a distinctive jacket. People notice it, but it doesn’t reek of being a hand-made first attempt. Also, the roughness of the material makes the eye fairly forgiving of the tailoring errors.
And when it comes to style, this fits mine perfectly.

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Jack

Hi Simon,

Thanks for this article. Thoughts on the sleeve width on yours, particularly when wearing over a single layer? I know they are desired for a certain fit, but the sleeves on mine seem very wide, and I am considering taking them in slightly.

Jack

Thank you! I will keep that in mind.