Stolen valour: Issues with wearing military clothing

Wednesday, November 8th 2023
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There is a concept American readers will be most familiar with, and which often surrounds vintage and reproduction military clothing, known as ‘stolen valour’. 

It describes how wearing military clothing as a civilian, and particularly medals and awards, can be distressing for veterans. The assumption is that people wear the clothing in order to give the impression of being tough, having endured hazardous circumstances - even specifically having served - in order to gain respect and other benefits. Hence, stealing valour. 

It became particularly relevant in the US after the Vietnam War, and the term comes from a book of the same name. A law was introduced in 2005 - the Stolen Valor Act. In the UK a petition to introduce a similar law in 2015 was rejected by the government, saying no equivalent was needed. It remains, of course, an offence to actually impersonate a solider, as a police officer, and in some circumstances the wearing of military medals without permission is an offence

Even explaining this concept, though, shows what a range of behaviours it covers. Most would agree that pretending to have served in a conflict you haven’t done is wrong. Very few would think that wearing a piece of fashion styled after a military field jacket is the same.

As ever, the interesting bit is the grey area in middle, and that’s what we’re taking about today. I also find it interesting because so many opinions vary, including among those who have served. And my mind has been changed more than once. 

So our subject is clothing that is obviously military, being worn by someone who did not serve. No medals, no actual behaviour of pretending to be a soldier, but clearly with that origin. 

It could be a vintage piece, or it could be a new one - from a Japanese repro brand for instance. What makes it more or less acceptable?

Let’s start with an example of how opinions can vary. In a related discussion on Permanent Style, a reader commented that he wore vintage military clothing but preferred it without a name on it, as this seemed disrespectful - this guy actually wore it to serve, and now I’m not. 

But another said that he didn’t mind such clothes, and in fact wanted to keep the name and then research the particular soldier who had worn it, in order to know more about him and feel like he understood what the jacket had been through. This felt more respectful. 

Both readers were aware of the issues and were trying to do the right thing, but reached different conclusions. 

The same can happen with veterans. One veteran on another PS post claimed no one should be allowed to wear reppe ties, because those with a diagonal pattern originally indicated one’s regiment. A bit extreme, but still a very long way from my own grandfather - who served in the Navy - who told me he couldn’t care less as long as the wearer wasn’t actually pretending to be in the forces. It was all just fashion. 

Personally, I have no problem wearing military clothing with no name on it. After all, the military themselves sold a lot of it off to civilians as surplus. 

I'm less comfortable with camouflage, and still a little unsure about pieces with a name. It has been pointed out to me that some surplus had names on too - as it was surplus to the individual. And that protestors against Vietnam specifically wore such pieces to honour the soldiers that had died in them. But then, I’m not wearing it as a protest for peace. 

Wearing a jacket that’s more blatant - such as the US Airborne jackets that have emblazoned across the back ‘When I die I’ll go to heaven because I’ve served my time in hell’ seems a little more distasteful, particularly with the use of the first person. 

And it seems both distasteful and odd when you have a military jacket with ‘R Lauren’ on the breast and some made-up lightning insignia on the arm. 

Importantly though, a lot of my opinions have come from speaking to those with greater knowledge (eg around military surplus) and those that are meant to be offended - veterans themselves. 

Such opinions can vary, as we’ve noted, and in these debates there are often far more people talking on behalf of those that are offended, presuming offence, rather than the offended themselves. I know there are a good few veterans among PS readers, so I’d be interested to hear what they find offensive, distasteful, or neither. 

Other things that are relevant are period and context. 

Wearing a piece from WW2 is clearly different from wearing a current piece of military clothing. “I draw the line at Vietnam,” one vintage collector told me recently. “I’ve seen a lot less military clothing around recently from the first Gulf War onwards, and that’s because a lot of it is being sent to Ukraine, for actual use in actual war. So that kind of brings it home to you.”

And the relevance of context is most clearly seen in Japan. One reader commented that he couldn’t understand why the Japanese so enthusiastically wore the uniforms of a country that had defeated them. There are of course many reasons, mostly deriving from the long US occupation after the War. But the very fact that you can’t understand them - that they are socially complex - should stop anyone from proclaiming judgement. 

I can imagine this topic will engender quite a few comments. As ever, they are welcome and indeed a treasured part of PS. But let’s avoid extremes (yes, a T-shirt was originally military clothing; no, no one is suggesting that’s stolen valour; please don’t erect any windmills just to  be tilted at) and keep an open mind. It’s perfectly possible to change your mind and to do it publicly. I have on there, and I’m sure I’ll do it again. 


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Great topic. I have served myself, and don’t mind people using military clothing at all, including insignia, name etc. I do draw the line at medals and commendations. Those are personal and earned the hard way.

I own a few original pieces, and replicas as well that I wear casually. Anecdotally: I still have my own combat jacket, and I would never dream of wearing that one casually. I wouldn’t mind it though if someone wore it in twenty-thirty years time, with my name on it.


I remember in the early 1980s my buddy and I went to a vintage clothing shop in upstate New York (freezing cold) in November to look for winter coats. He found a US Air Force long, heavy wool coat that fit him and as was showing it to me in the store an older man took it upon himself to announce that my friend would be obligated to remove/replace the authentic buttons and military insignia before he could wear it. At the time I thought this old blowhard was ridiculous and now many years later I still think he was ridiculous!



and i think so, Robert


^^^As another veteran this is the correct take. I also draw the line at medals and commendations (but please feel free to display and honor your vet relative’s shadow box). The rest is fair game.


I agree with Constantin. I’m a veteran and wouldn’t dream of wearing my wind-proof smock but equally wouldn’t ever give it away. I do wear a Real McCoy’s M65 and I know I’m not stealing anyone’s valour. Funnily enough, our Brigade Tie has been closely copied by Tesco’s staff and I don’t think we give a damn. Wearing unearned Regimental headdress and medals is a heinous offence.

Sam B.

I served in the Marines and retired eight years ago. I don’t have an issue with vintage uniform items being used in outfits, in fact I’ve admired the look. I bought a used M65 jacket on eBay, but when I tried it on I felt silly. As if I was hanging onto the past similar to wearing a varsity letter jacket from high school. Even though it was a 1960’s jacket and nothing like the modern uniform that I wore. I love visiting Real McCoy’s when I’m in Japan, but could never wear the stuff emblazoned with USMC or USN. I sure my old Marine buddies would give me a hard time if they ever saw me wearing something like that.

Dan R

Another Marine here (happy early birthday Sam B!) and like you, I don’t have an issue with vintage uniforms and military items being worn and I also admire the look. I served 8 years and have been out nearly 20 years now and also tried an old M65 jacket from a surplus store (thank you Saigon Sam’s) years ago and it just didn’t feel right… like I was trying to cosplay in a time and era that I didn’t belong.

Fast forward a decade and a half and I found a good deal on one from Real McCoy’s and gave it a try and loved it. Sure, it may have helped that the Real McCoy’s one was fantastic quality, fit me perfectly, and went great with the rest of my wardrobe, but what I think made the biggest difference was that I was many years removed from my actual service. I work with another Marine who’s a few years older than me and we get a kick out of seeing some of the t-shirts and how people style an individual piece like a jacket or blouse with the rest of their outfit. If either of us were fresh out of the Marines (or still serving) our attitudes would probably be different, but we’ve definitely mellowed over the years.

I’ve never worn the hoorah moto sh!t but these days I’ve got a few t-shirts with logos from units I served in and wear those on occasion and recently got a shirt from my nephew’s unit at Miramar. I’ve also got a few USMC and USN shirts with “vintage” logos from Real McCoy’s and Buzz Rickson that I really like.

In regards to the topic of stolen valor, as long as the wearer isn’t trying to gain some personal or financial benefit by deceiving somebody by what they’re wearing, who cares?


Having served in the infantry, let me tell you at least 50% of being in the British Army is dressing up. There’s all the different dress uniforms and every regiment has its own and it’s all done with a great deal of pride. You’ll likely never look as smart as you did when you were 20, in a bearskin hat and red tunic. You see in training and on operations too. No-one is ever dressed exactly the same, even in a trench.

For civilians and fashion? I really wouldn’t overthink this, it’s all good. You could actually see it as the sign of a healthy society that we are comfortable seeing military clothes being worn for their utility or by some young kid on a protest march. There’s a feedback loop there that’s being going back and forward with popular culture since the war. We ought to treasure that.


I agree. To quote the UK minister for veterans affairs from yesterday – “I, like most veterans, feel passionately about our fellow citizens’ right to…. freedoms of… and expression that we once put on the uniform to uphold.”

That being said I would be cautious about how clothing could be perceived in different cultures (eg would the jungle jacket be offensive to wear to some I n Vietnam? I don’t know but would be interested to know).


A fascinating subject. Every opinion has its own validity. My father (a veteran of the WW2 Italian campaign) speculated that the popularity of military gear waxed and waned in proportion to the imminence or actuality of war. There’s some sociological work to be done.

Regarding the habits of the military Mary Wollstonecraft, in her Vindication of the Rights of Women, has something to contribute:  
“It may be further observed, that officers are also particularly attentive to their persons, fond of dancing, crowded rooms, adventures, and ridicule. Like the fair sex, the business of their lives is gallantry.”
This is far from the generally accepted macho paradigm – even in 1792 – but I couldn’t help remembering it when I read you post.  


Your Grandad sums it up perfectly as long as your not trying to be a Walter Mitty then crack on. As someone who served for 12 years when I first left the service the idea I would wear a piece of military clothing was alien to me. That same person also wouldn’t be seen dead in a pair of ecru Rubato jeans. Having left 10 years ago time as mellowed my stance on me personally not wearing any military pieces. Now I have the jeans I have my eye on a jungle jacket.

Caleb C

As a US Navy vet, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are no hard and fast rules with military fashion.
Purely by feel, I do not think any current military garment should be worn. The military changes their pattern/cuts every ten years or so so it’s not that limiting. Anything current seems a little confusing but maybe that is just it being ingrained in me that there is only one proper way to wear an item to stay within regulations. But after it is sent to the archives, it seems like fair game and becomes more so with the passing of time. (Evergreen pieces excluded, eg Peacoat)
On a separate note, I personally struggle to wear any of my old military gear casually (see ingrained note above as a possible cause). My Ike jacket (essentially a blouson) should go with everything but no matter how much I try to camouflage (pun intended) it as a civilian piece I can’t get it out of my head that I shouldn’t wear it. The same goes for my Bridge Coat with its gold buttons signifying officer status. Wearing it now just feels like an attempt to show off. Even if the majority of people wouldn’t know, the people in the know would. But that doesn’t stop me from appreciating and enjoying seeing others work in old military garments. (It made my day seeing Nigel Cabourn in a Naval Academy sweatshirt as it was our favorite issued clothing)

Caleb C

It also helps if there are some alterations like a heavily tailored coat to make sure it doesn’t look like costume.


As a UK veteran I feel that wearing surplus clothing (vintage or repro) is fine, though head to toe in camo is not a good look for a civilian. Where I would draw the line is with any symbol of rank on the jacket / jumper. The same would go for medals. I feel this crosses the line.


The consensus seems to be so long as one is not trying to “pass off” as something one is not then it’s fine.
Same goes for any industry!

J Crewless

As someone who has served, military surplus being worn by Joe Schmoe who didn’t serve is okay with me. As long as unit patches, and rank insignia has been removed and you don’t pretend you’re a warrior. Regardless if camo or olive drab. Who cares – wear it. I wear it and if there are still patches, name tags, etc still on them, I promptly remove those as I don’t have the right to those.

If the government sold it to the public, then wear it. There are wankers (both wearers of surplus and the complainers) in every field of life who want to grizzle about surplus. There seems to be a glamourization of vets and so forth in some sections of the media. Sometimes the veneration is justified. Other times it’s not. We’re just people like everyone else.

My position is, wear it. With the stated caveats above.


As a veteran myself I never minded people wearing military outfits. Britain and the US have a proud history of Army and Navy surplus shops where civilians had access to overshirts, ponchos, combat trousers , overcoats, caps etc. I have seen the waste that occurs in the services and putting old models of combat gear on the market is a good sustainable thing to do. I even seen people wearing the regiment ties of my old unit and guess what. I do not mind at all, I find it very flattering. I love how lot of the people who talk about stolen valour have never served themselves.


Agree!! I served the navy for 26 months. When to some port, i was leaving the ship for a drink or for a walk in civilian clothes, and no civilian ever told me that i should step out of the ship only in military clothes. I use to wear a russet A2 from the Eastmans, its the only military cloth i own. But have you ever see somone wearing an A2 with medals on chest??? that would be clownish!!! Stolen valour… jesus!!


Very interesting topic; I think most will agree that, as on any topic, the people on the extreme ends of the spectrum are probably wrong. (Wearing a rep tie is ok, wearing full uniform without being/having been a soldier is not ok.) Other than that, you’d almost have to judge every case individually. I did my mandatory military service required by law in my home country, does that mean I “served”, and am now allowed to walk around in vintage uniform pieces? Certainly not in vintage uniform pieces used by my own country, as I am Austrian.
I guess most people go for vintage US military pieces because of their connection to Hollywood movies and US pop culture as a whole, the same way people like vintage Submariners because of James Bond.


I agree with Andreas. I am also Austrian and have done compulsory military service but would never wear a part of the uniform of the Austrian army, or any other army, in my private life. I think this is also due to the esteem the/any military is held in Austria; much lower than in the UK. Due to our recent dark history we have become a pretty pacifist culture. Further, wearing part of an obvious military uniform in Austria (I guess the same applies in Germany) could lead to people thinking that you are politically on the extreme right, perhaps even a Neonazi, and Austrian/German vintage from WWII for obvious reasons is much worse and prohibited.
I would draw my personal line where military clothing has become part of „normal“ menswear, e.g. a peacoat, a trench coat or even a green service coat like the one Private White had last year. I would also wear some of The Real McCoys collection if it is without a logo and, in Austria, would not be recognized on the street as a replica of US military clothing.


Interesting. Wouldn’t you say, that modern far-right aesthetics use newer military/tactical gear, while older vintage pieces today mostly draw on 1960’s and onwards protest counterculture vibes? You didn’t see much vintage gear on the people, who stormed the capital, but you might see young men in the creative industries wearing stuff from (or inspired by) the 80’s or older.


The (very non-PS) brand Maharishi is an offender here – they say they take “a pacifist approach to military-grade utilitarian design, representing camouflage as a symbol of nature and art”, which is just a way of having their cake and eating it too. For instance I bought a bag from them that turned out to have a little signal mirror of the kind that air force pilots carry – in other words, they let their customers indulge in the classic male activity of fetishising military kit, while presenting themselves as above it or ironically detached from it.


Tbh, my opinion is that allies of Americans during the period should only wear military clothes with names on them. I know this sounds discriminatory but it would be extremely cruel to wear someone’s clothes when they could have been killed by one’s ancestors during the war.


I do not agree. In post-war Germany/Austria the western Allies, especially the US, are seen as liberators defeating the worst totalitarian regime ever. I do not know the general sentiment in Japan, which might be more muddled.


A very interesting article, literally after I’ve just purchased, after much consternation and probably over-thinking, a M65 from The Real McCoy’s.

I was aware of the military associations; the name is a good clue and reading of your blog also provided further education. However, simply put, I wanted one because (i) I love the style of the M65 as a casual jacket and more importantly, (ii) I love even more the utilitarian aspect of the pockets (something that I’m sure military personnel will also attest). As a modern day casual jacket, it’s perfect when you don’t want to carry bags for those ‘little’ personal accessories – think mobile phone (which seem to get larger and larger), keys, wallet, etc etc.

When choosing to go TRM route, I did so knowing that I would get a quality product, albeit a repro and also quite expensive. I don’t profess this route to be VfM.   I’m not a very good vintage buyer. I chose to buy a plain olive green, not one with camo pattern and logos/patches/names etc – because I thought that this would indeed make it look like I was a pretend soldier, which I’m not and do not want to appear that way either. I also think the OG colour looks fantastic with a pair of jeans in all the typical colours; indigo, washed blue, black (especially washed black) as well as cream (which I don’t have). It can be dressed up or down. I don’t know if people would have a potential problem with it being dressed up, with the association that you discuss?

From a purely design perspective in every day wear, it’s nice to have a hidden hood in the collar. This however, can be a bit of a pain in the back-side, quite literally (sorry I could help that) if not folded into the collar properly as it drops down between the outer and lining layers making you look like you have a hunchback. I’m also not a huge fan of velcro fasteners, but it is what it is being a repro. I can live with all these things and the association.

Would I buy it again – definitely.


I find this debate somewhat confusing. The idea that it may be distasteful or offend a veteran is entirely subjective and also very nationalistic in a way i feel deeply uncomfortable with. I’d be much more concerned with offending those who have been subject to US/ British military oppression by wearing surplus than offending a veteran of the US or British military. Also, how does wearing Chinese, Pakistani, or Russian surplus come into this debate? Presumably the author would feel less concerned about offending a veteran of any of those military?


The concerns could be the same, subject to the persons involved, but adds a similar alternative issue of the potential to be seen as “soils of war”.

Several years ago in the states saw a rather drunk gentlemen that looked like a rough sleeper berating a young guy for “stolen valour” and disrespecting him and those that served in ‘nam for wearing a jungle jacket, I think it had a unit patch but cannot remember clearly. Given the lad clearly had been born 20+ years after the conflict ended the probability of anyone really thinking he was pretending to be a veteran isn’t realistic.

Personally, the older it is the less problems I’d have with anyone wearing it with or without badges/names etc. I’m not going to spend my day worrying if the wearer served or not, is possibly honouring a family member that served or not.

Medals are a bit different, but even then you can differentiate between full medals and just bars. The former would look a bit odd generally in day to day wear and most won’t know much about the later.

Bumped into a guy in head to toe urban camo the other day, literally, made a joke about not being able to see him. It didn’t go down well. Don’t think it was official army issue stuff but just what he wears to Tesco in the centre of London.


Speaking of Russian surplus, besides the issue of what that military does there’s some other more tangential cultural issues that come up : some parts of the Russian uniform on a civilian may raise eyebrows as they remind people of a cossack, mercenary, or a gangster.

Fazal Majid

In “Zero History”, William Gibson argues *all* male fashion is derived from military designs. He may be overstating the case, but it’s often the case. The sleeve buttons on suits we’re introduced by Frederick the Great of Prussia to stop guards from wiping their noses on their uniforms, and the tie originates in the scarves of Croatian cavalry (Croate became cravate in French).

James Fettiplace

I think this is a fascinating area and is perhaps the area of menswear most affected by personal associations, possibly conflicting within that individual (see below) and none right or wrong. I”ll give a few examples that i can think of:
Plenty like the Vietnam style because of its association with US counterculture of the late 60s but for me, personally, Vietnam is more associated with a failed military campaign with truly awful civilian consequences (Linebackers I, II, agent orange etc).
I love a big green DB overcoat and love to channel a sort of British WW1 Kitchner-esque vibe, but then struggle to reconcile the truly awful and senseless loss of life on the western front.
And perhaps, most interesting of all is that the high-end Japanese manufacturers often reference US WW2 culture (bomber jackets, highly militarised for example) which I imagine comes from the influence of US culture in the immediate post-war period. However, I can’t imagine many other countries looking to an opponent for cultural references, especially again given the civilian costs of the war for Japan and the outcome. I can’t really think of another example of this but others can correct me here.
Fascinating, as I say. As you get older, you also realise more and more how history you learnt when you were younger (and thereby its associations) needs to be revisited and then yours associations can change again – again, nothing right or wrong here.


James, I think you are wrong. Take Germany/Austria as an example, which is heavily influenced by American culture on all levels. It helps that they US is regarded as an liberator and, frankly, I am very, extremely happy that we have lost WWII. I rather commemorate the victims in the US and UK Army fighting against facism, and some people – not me – might do that by wearing vintage US army clothing.

James Fettiplace

Thanks Marcus for your perspective and happy to be better informed from a Germany/Austrian perspective. You could probably tell I am British and I would say that we are not always great at understanding the perspectives of other countries.
It would be nice to understand the Japanese perspective too (concerning US WW2 references and associations) – if anybody is brave enough to add to this (thank you in advance)

Eric Michel

Honestly I do not think there is a worst period of time to wear casually military pieces when so many have to wear them in real war zones to fight for their countries. In peace time I have never been a big fan, but today…


Great topic for discussion.
I personally don’t like wearing anything with the Union Jack / Flag or American Flag.
So much harm as been done under those emblems and anybody arguing against that point has no understanding of history ( please, we don’t need to hear about races being ‘civilised’ and the Indian railways …..(huge sigh)!

If we look at Nazi emblems , Communist emblems one can’t deny the magnificence of them . The Hugo Boss designed SS uniforms , the red of the Chinese communists have a striking ‘beauty’ to them .
But the associated history is too horrible to contemplate them ever being worn.
Controversially but less so the Che Guevara t-shirts and caps.

On a similar note it’s why I think monuments / statues should be to values and not people as people are fallible and complex .

So to sum up …. Give me the style and functionality but not the badges .


If this source is accurate, it would seem the uniforms you refer to were manufactured, but not designed, by Hugo Boss.


Hi Simon,
I hadn’t really given this a lot of thought before, so will be interested to read subsequent comments. For my part I take the middle view. I like and buy the repo military jackets from the Real McCoys, but only those without any insignia of any sort (eg USN) and definitely not those with military units etc. – It just does not feel comfortable to do so. It also feels a bit like cosplay, although I’m not being judgemental on those points. Interestingly one of my daughters in the fashion industry wears camo cargo pants which look great and in that context works.
Medal ribbons and names I would never do as that does feel disrespectful again my opinion for myself. As for showing respect, this article is particularly timely, as one way of doing so, is to buy and wear a poppy
To me military looks best and (in my opinion) not offensive when mixed up with regular clothing. Your inspirational M-65 with flannel trousers, navy roll neck and beanie being a great example and one that I have shamelessly copied!
Once again an article which is a nice change of pace. Hoping to see you later this week at the PS pop-up.


Good point, Ahmad. I would care much more about unsettling any civilian victims of wars, than offending veterans.

I have some vintage US camo jackets I wear, but whenever war is strongly present in the public consciousness (such as now) it feels very distasteful and disrespectful to toy with military aesthetics for my own amusement, so I don’t. It’s an arbitrary line to draw (arguably it’s not much more respectful when war is not on the front pages), but that’s where I draw the line…


I would very much agree with your opinions here Simon. As a civilian I think any jackets with patches and names are reasonable to wear if they’ve been passed on by a friend or family member. I also think it becomes less of an issue as wars pass out of living memory which is happening with WWII now. I do sometimes see posts online where obviously young people are accused of stolen valour for wearing a Vietnam era jacket, despite obviously being too young to have taken part so I think age of wearer plays a part as well as the living memory of the conflict. Once the Vietnam War passes out of living memory I am sure olive drab jackets, even named and patched, won’t be controversial.
As for camouflage it’s not to my aesthetic taste but if it’s an obviously older camo rather than digital camo I think more acceptable and obviously it has practical uses e.g. hunting.


Oddly enough hunters in the US generally wear modern mimetic camouflage such as Realtree (which is dubiously effective at concealing and in my opinion tends not to be aesthetically pleasing) or digital camo. To be fair, even in armies today you could reasonably say camo’s main purpose is to identify rather than conceal the wearer. In a funny way, most hunters wearing their signature camo patterns, while people going for camo as style are more likely to wear older disruptive patterns has the same function of tribal identification.


The Reppe tie example I think shows the importance of context, as most outside the UK probably have no issue or might not know the origin. To me it’s more about avoiding an obvious association with war via the likes of the usual khaki/olive pieces as it’s not a connection that I have or wish to present. At the same time I recognize the utility of these pieces and so I have considered items in less militant colours to remove the obvious military element. All blues store has ripstop jungle jackets in yellow and pink that I think achieve that well, although I’d be more interested in navy personally.


Excellent topic and a great article as always Simon,

I did my mandatory military service in Greece and i would never wear my old uniform . I think it would be bad taste. Same goes for wearing vintage clothing of WW2 era of greek soldiers.
And this is the thing i believe.

The matter of military clothing as a fashion statement is more about the US army. No one would wear… spanish military items as a fashion statement. It’s the power of movies (just think of Top Gun).

So long story short… if it’s a fashion item inspired or mimicking i don’t think anyone is offended.

If it’s an original item than i think it’s ok WITHOUT a name on it.

PS. if the military association is offending some people what about t-shits with Che Guevara, Fidel Castro or other historic figures with controversial aspects in their life?


I’ve seen the French F2 jacket suggested as a fashion item! I must say though with so much of the online world being primarily American it makes a degree of sense that a lot of the militaria discussion would be focused around US military fatigues. I think there’s also the sense of scale of it. So much was produced so so much was easily available leading to trends such as the mod subculture wearing M-51 fishtail parkas, thus cementing it as a fashionable item.


Talking of movies, Taxi Driver also springs to my mind.


By the way, I bought a military French f2 jacket in Paris 17 years ago. I paid 5€. Still in use!


I completely understand where you and the others come from and you all have vaild points. Now I was 11b and signed up near the end of the persian gulf 27-10-93. In some requards I have been told by some friends who have not severed that to let it go but I find myself in conflict . these uniforms the class a and class b the pt’s bdu and so forth was out distiction of unity and purpose that no one forced us to take the oath to defend but yet I do find that alot of these kids these days. Are merely trying to be big mocho kids and be something they are not. I think that if you want honor us then respect us and our uniforms we earned our medals our national defense or whatever commendations we recieved we earned those and the patches are our identy along with the uniforms . but that does not give them the right to try to be us. if they want fine but i ask do not disrepect us and proclaim to do something that we did by our own choice. Ask them if they can walk in a mile as a 11bang bang or 11 charlie or even get past 30th to start with. all I ask is if they want to act big then for once walk in our shoes our battle buddies understand what it means to be smoked or to understand the “LDRSHIP” ACRO. OR EVEN THE SOLDIERS CREED. JUST RESPECT US


This discussion belongs in a South Park episode where one of the kids goes and buys M65 inspired jacket from random mall, being completely oblivious of its origin and then some old man starts overreacting and yelling at him in the streets.
I’d like to comment on people fetishising military clothing but then I remember that I’m wearing pleats and turn ups on my trousers.


The term “fetishing” is clearly pejorative in nature. Let’s not lose sight that a lot of military wear is terribly functional be it for the amount of pockets, inability to tear or excellence in providing warmth.

I have a deck jacket for the latter but I avoided getting it with the USN stencil because I’ve never been in the USN….

If I’d watched enough film could I probably find somebody wearing an example which I thought looked “cool”, sure, but I’m not sure anyone can reasonably be offended by that.


I had the guys who fantasise about military conflict in mind mostly, you know those who collect multiple guns, tactical gear, skull face masks and the like. I actually also own a full camo battle uniform and I really, really hope I never have to wear it outside of training exercise. Back when I was in active military service I avoided wearing uniform elements in public if possible. But then again people have different hobbies so I try not to judge too hard.

Outside of that I’m not really a fan of some military aesthetic elements like too many pockets on field jackets, very loose fit on pants or epaulettes on coats but thats purely question of personal taste. I can agree that there can be a place for these outside of fashion and in actual field work where you can make use of this utility and rugged but affordable construction.

And that leads me to my final point and thats about price and target audience. Real McCoys similarly to Filson and others in the category seem to be priced for wealthy hipsters. From my stand point, while maybe justified, this pricing taints the nature of these kinds of products that I feel should be utilitarian and affordable in nature. Same issue as I have with cashmere sweats, 400+€ jeans or 200+€ canvas sneakers.


For those of us who eschew logos, wouldn’t the same hold true for military ‘branded’ items? I


I have a formal Yorkshire regiment navy db blazer that I found on Ebay. The only way could tell is if they know the roman number and the crown on the buttons. I feel a bit awkward wearing it due to this idea of someone feeling offended and I think this is a great post about it.
I think I’m doing it a favour rather than just being eaten by moths or taking space for nothing. I am currently thinking of changing the buttons but it would cost me more than I paid for it.
Any thoughts on this? Thank you!


Nice! I’m a Yorkshireman, so I’d just wear it! play it off with a Rugby shirt underneath and some chinos like RL would


Will surely do, thank you!


Two (vaguely) related points here. I found a vintage US Navy chambray shirt in New York which actually has my surname on it, which is quite rare in the UK, but a bit more common in the US. I have no qualms about wearing that, and it often leads to an interesting chat about its provenance. On the other hand I had a friend who served in the Coldstream Guards, and then became a pub landlord in Surrey somewhere. A would-be customer walked in wearing a Brigade Tie, and was asked which regiment he’d served in. Faced with a blank look, my friend told him to “F off”! Which the bemused bloke did, probably still wondering to this day what he’d done wrong!


War means a lot us pain and suffering for the populations of the countries being attacked. I dislike war. And I don’t wear military clothing. I would wear it if it had a clear message for peace on it.


It is interesting, considering most tailoring has been derived from military dress.
I have a fabulous big Greatcoat. But it is in military green. It does its job brilliant, but I can not wear it as I look like Melchet out of Blackadder. I have taken the military buttons off and put on horn ones. No difference because it looks so predominantly military, and as I am a shade over 6 foot with 46in chest, it is an awful lot of Military Green. Everyone comments on what a great greatcoat, then makes a military reference, kind, joking or not so kind.
However, as soon as my 16 year old tall daughter wears it, it is transformed into a really cool item. There is a lot about age and status going on.
I think this highlights the balance between what the wear is trying to portray and what the world / individuals perceive.
If the wearer is wanting to portray more than fashion / style then it can and will be perceived in a negative way.
Recency is a really good point. No-one ever thought Adam Ant was making a statement in military tunics. But the Fugees were saying something in anti-establishment fatigues.
Bomber jackets, Greatcoats (non -military colours) all pass without reference to military and I am sure as time goes along we will get more. Fatigues and fatigues inspired, I think are already here.
Returning to the precise point of “stolen valour.” What is the wearer trying to portray, some affiliation with those who genuinely suffered or indeed can be seen as oppressors by those from the opposite side of the battle. This is a point where we transcend into trying to be what you are not and with a mawkish vibe.
For me personally, tailoring, style has often come from military background because it looked good. However, putting on military clothes to be associated with what you are not is sad, despite protestations of honouring the original wearer it is still trying to wear a badge that is not yours.
Counter culture fatigues are saying something different and are not trying to allude to some sort of machismo.
Whenever you wear something that is strongly associated with a culture, institution, military or tribe, then you should be wary of what you are trying to portray. Kilts, MCC ties, excessive country tweeds etc. those who are a part of that group will treat you as a fraud, mainly because you are.

Kwende Mg.

Can we talk about that Navajo cuff instead perhaps. That’s a good example of another kind of of stolen valour called cultural appropriation.


Ah no he is referring to the silver bands with inset turquoise I believe. Same problem as the military issue, it’s all around intent and people’s individual sensitivities


I think the term “cultural appropriation” gets thrown around a lot, sometimes unwarranted.

If I buy genuine Navajo crafts from a Navajo craftsperson and wear it, that’s not cultural appropriation. That’s business. Possibly, hopefully, business that helps the native crafts stay alive, since it’s hard to sustain traditional crafts (which are usually time consuming and passed from craftsperson to craftsperson, and thus die out of no one practices the craft) unless the craftsperson can earn a living selling what they make. Despite how we may idealise starving artists making art for the sake of art, most people actually like being able to make a living.

Now, if I buy genuine Navajo crafts from a Navajo craftsperson, then pay a factory to make copies of their design and sell them for $5 a piece, that’s cultural appropriation. It’s hurting the craftspeople and cheapening their skills and their culture – even if I don’t steal any customers from them, I’m still helping establish that “Navajo crafts” are cheap.

And of course, if I buy Navajo crafts and claim to BE Navajo, that’s… fairly silly. I wouldn’t fool anyone. But I’d probably call that cultural appropriation as well.

Of course, it’s easier with crafts, where one can (money allowing) actually buy the real thing. It gets trickier with other signs of cultural identity, like copying hairstyles or tribal songs.


It is really important to discern between liking copying and pretending to be.
I like reggae and chinese food. I am not reducing them by liking them.
Fashion, music, art all take inspiration from a multitude of sources without diminishing the original and more often than not raise interest and appreciation of the culture they have come from.
Yes fashion companies make a profit from what they do. Do they contribute to those who inspired them, rarely. But, was that the reason cultures developed art work, to profit from it?
Please watch “Everything is a Remix.” Nothing is from a single source, nothing is purely original.
This is a beautiful world because of multi-culturalism, we should embrace the spread of culture even to those that do not understand it. Because maybe one day they will, otherwise just let them enjoy the pretty colours.


For me, there’s no real issue part from the obvious of wearing Nazi uniforms, terrorist related garb and perhaps even Japanese Imperial.
I was born in the 80s so even Vietnam is a far off forgotton conflict. But being British, the Allied unifrorms and certain items especially from the 40s hold great appeal especially as some are iconic and still very much wearable like peacoats, Wyverns, A2s (or even A1s from Valstar for example) and 40s style trousers and patterns come up regularly. We even go to extremes here in the UK with the Goodwood Revival where whole uniforms are encouraged to be worn. Obviously this is not something you do in the street. There’s always a period war movie coing out and as such Military style will never go away.
I’m more than happy to wear an A2 with a shirt, tie (or bowtie) and wool trousers from outfitters like Thomas Farthing. And I enjoy hunting around in second hand stores for some fun rare items especially in Japan like US HBT overalls or “pinks” which always go great with a chambray shirt.
Another post here also mentioned watches, you can also mention shoes too. Regimental ties? I’ve bought more in Japan from Japanese and Italian high end brands that are exact copies of British regiments and thought nothing of it. However, known insignias on ties start to become tricky for me
As long as it’s mixed well and tastefully with normal items, I’ll continue to do so, and I always receive appreciative comments about my attire.

John Bryan Hopkins

I read your blog to honor mens fashion and see your interpretation. Sometimes people speak of a high – low balance of an outfit, like bespoke worn with found clothing kinda thing. I thought the strength of vintage military clothing was its place in the lexicon of menswear. ‘Soldier wear’ meant the very best without the pretense but with the same importance. That’s why when I see a military jacket worn with a fine suit makes a perfect informed balance. This is far from soldier cosplay.

Rodrigue Ayotte

To echo another commenter, impersonation is beyond the pale. And the fashion items aping the real thing seem more costume than clothing, and rarely practical or tasteful. After that? This may be a little off-topic for Permanent Style, but for the field sports, surplus military gear is often not the best choice. Good modern civilian outdoorswear or commercial-off-the-shelf clothing aimed at the military or law enforcement sectors is usually superior to surplus military clothing and equipment in most respects and cases. Civilian camouflage patterns are generally better in the field too, being designed for specific seasons and environment.

Which then leaves wearing military or military-inspired clothing in the city, for stylistic reasons. That’s not for me personally – I’m not a member of any scenes or subcultures where this is a signifier (anymore), but I’m not going to throw any stones, having loved several surplus items when I was younger.

Prince Florizel of Bohemia

Reading this interesting article and equally interesting comments make me think about colonial inspired clothes, as there are few ones quite fashionable now – safari jackets, ghurkas, perhaps camp collar shirts.


Although it’s less considered in the discussion, the question of (reppe) ties in the UK opens a whole other issue of belonging. For decades, the colours of a tie in the UK have frequently indicated membership of a particular group. That may indeed be military (the Guards regimental tie, for example, is said to represent the blue blood of the Royal family, and the red blood of the Guards), or it may represent a particular school or club. I would say there are very few Englishmen who would knowingly wear a “membership” tie of, say, Eton, the Guards or the MCC, unless they were actually a member – and that they would be deeply embarrassed if someone entitled to wear that tie struck up a conversation on the assumption that they were a fellow member or alumni. That’s obviously different to “generic” military designs without a specific national or regimental association, but people might like to compare and consider their reaction to the assumption of genuinely entitled wearers in both cases.


There is nothing wrong with liking something and wearing it without knowledge. I am pretty sure Military ties or close approximations thereof, which are worn by the unknowing and with no malintent are unlikely to incur the wrath of those entitled to wear it. The conversation would end with “oh, I did not know I just liked the colours.” Anything after that is ham-fisted and the offended is wanting to be offended.
It does and can happen. I had a tie that was nearly the exact colours of a Junior School tie. At 30 or so, I was not pretending to be a 10 year old nor trying to gain kudos from being an alumni of a unremarkable junior school.
It is the fraud who is likely and rightly to be exposed.


Given the majority of modern outerwear has its roots in military clothing that has been repurposed for civilian wear I do not find it too problematic that Ralph Lauren takes a field jacket and flirts with the military origins of the jacket by using similar materials or fake patches. Likewise, I have no problem with the fact Burberry took a piece of clothing in the Trenchcoat and made it something completely different in terms of significance within the wardrobe of the modern man or woman. I think my point is that basically all roads lead back to military origins when we look at the history of outerwear so it does not bother me too much how much brands want to play on that historic connection or not. I am not sure if it was intentional or not but I love the PS trenchcoat in olive for the reason that it feels quite true to the military roots of the coat compared to the more common tenchcoat models in beige.
I do agree with your point Simon about wearing items which are actually made for the military with first person phrases that have relevance only for the people who served…that seems wrong on a number of levels.

Eric Twardzik

I’m not sure if this is limited to the United States, but here many naval veterans, particularly older ones, will wear baseball caps embroidered with the name of their vessel or the conflict they served in. I have seen some brands make mock “fashion” versions of these hats, which I’ve found quite distasteful. Maybe in part because the veterans who wear them tend to be blue collar, and that the style is being appropriate by presumably better heeled consumers with a sense of irony.


I think you have a point with this topic. Just yesterday i had an argument about replicas of german “Fliegeruhren” from world war two. There are some companys that sell them. And one gives their replicas a patina treatment and the original nazi-Luftwaffe code on the case. In the end these watches pretend to look like the tools that helped to erase coventry. The same problem occours with guys who attach fascist “DecimasX”-buckles to their Panerai watches. Disgusting. The watch industry is all about heritage but claims only the parts it could use for marketing.
P.S. Just to let all readers know: IWC pilot watches originally did not derive from british military but from german “Fliegeruhren”. IWC only masters to hide their origin from 1936…


Hit it in the head! The exact reason why I have always steered away from “Pilot watches”. They are all derived from the German “Fliegeruhr” developed by the Luftwaffe.


Did Hugo Boss not supply uniforms to the SS? I would need to fact check.

Mercedes Benz to the Nazis…

I mean at some point you decide whether it’s personally something you want to entertain but to me it’s exactly that – personal. I shouldn’t tell my neighbour not to buy a Merc because of it, I can educate him and he can make his own mind up. Can I judge for it? Sure.


Yes, Boss did supply uniforms to the SS and later the German Wehrmacht, which were – a common misconception – not designed by them. The founder of the company, Hugo Boss, was also a very active member of the NSDAP. Interestingly, this is still quite seldom discussed in Germany/Austria and a lot of people wearing Boss are not aware of this connection.


I would never have made a connection between the inconspicuous IWC – a Swiss, not a German company – and the Nazi Luftwaffe, and I don’t think anyone with extremely few exceptions would either. So I don’t see that as problematic. It would only become problematic if right-wing extremists discovered IWC watches as a symbol, as they have done in Germany/Austria with the British brands Lonsdale and Fred Perry


It’s just clothes. Sure, don’t wear medals, don’t wear patches, don’t wear a full uniform. Don’t act as a pretend soldier, why would you? But other than that, I don’t see the issue. The only time anyone ever said anything about my jacket (80’s French army, apparently) was that one guy who was curious, since his father apparently had the same one. Then again, I’ve never been in France. If I were, then perhaps I would take a different jacket, just to avoid having to explain anything. Or perhaps not – I didn’t buy it because it was an army jacket, I bought it because it was solid and cheap.



As a teenager in the late 70s/80s I used to wear boots (Dr Martens) and military jackets from Army & Navy stores. It was cheap and practical. At that time I could not afford clothes from.the Kings Road.

Forty odd years later on I wear peacoats, M65, deck jackets, jungle jackets without logos and mostly made by The Real McCoys. I do not wear them because I wish to look like a service man but wear them because they are practical, stylish, and look good.




I came of age in ’70s New York City when 18 year old males were required to register with Selective Service. Back then I wanted nothing to do with the military industrial complex. Fast forward to 2020 when for reasons unknown I was all in for milsurp, specifically Real McCoy’s. I was aware of the stolen valor issue so the stuff I got had no logos, names, etc…I didn’t want to pretend I served my country, I simply like the ruggedness and practicality of the pieces. Americans can be quite vocal when it comes to the military, but I’ve never had any confrontations when I was wearing my M-65 or utility pants or Mitchell camo jacket or N-3B parka. As long as the gear is generic with no markings, people are chill with that.


Very interesting discussion. I was in Clutch Cafe recently and noticed this piece:

The Chinese text on the back is encouraging foreigners to go to Taiwan to fight the communists. Wearing this would attract alot of negative attention from Mainland Chinese people, and wearing this here in China would likely find you facing a serious police charge (deportation for foreigners).

This is a classic example of why you must understand what you are wearing, and what it could mean to others. Then you can decide whether that is a statement you want to make.



The meaning behind the Chinese text on this blood chit should be “we hope the Chinese people can help those American pilots who were unfortunately shot down in air combat and parachuted into enemy occupied territories” during the period when China was fighting against Japanese invasion in WWII. The literal words do not contain any anti-communist messages. I also agree that it is necessary to understand the background and origin of clothing before wearing it.


Personally, I doubt many people are using authentic or replica vintage military pieces as part of their personal style in an effort to “steal valour”. Here in the U.S. at least, there are groups with certain political leanings that seem to like to cosplay as mercenaries from some paramilitary operation (a “tacticool” combo of camo cargo pants, boots, bulletproof vests, Oakley sunglasses, and lots and lots of pouches hung from webbing straps). In my opinion, they are far more guilty of trying to steal the valour associated with actual military service for the purpose of self-aggrandizement, which probably explains why their outfits are so frequently mocked..

Having said that, I think a big part of choosing to wear vintage or replica military pieces must be an intentional effort to evoke a certain feeling with one’s outfit. Especially with iconic designs like an M-65, MA-1, leather jackets like the A-1 and G-1 or fatigue pants. Those designs have seen so many “civilian” interpretations that selecting an option that’s original (or as close to original as possible) is a statement in and of itself. It’s like the guy wearing Red Wings and a vintage Woolrich mackinaw to go grocery shopping. Maybe instead of “stolen valor”, a better way to think of it would be “borrowed character”.


Why would you want to dress up like a soldier when you’re not one?
I wouldn’t wear a stethoscope around my neck because I’m not a doctor, nor would I wear a tape measure around my neck because I’m not a tailor.


Nobody is dressing up as a soldier…. This is taking it entirely out of context.

I don’t believe anyone in the comments is endorsing wearing medals. We are talking about single pieces of functional clothing.

I wear denim but I’m not a miner.


I have an N1 Deck Jacket, made by Buzz Rickson, and I love it. It has a USN stencil on the left side of the chest, and I’ve decided, if I’m ever asked what USN stands for, I’ll say Unique Simple Nerd.
Interesting thread. I agree about medals and insignia, and personalised mottos.
Maybe it’s a small example of Swords Into Ploughshares?

Richard Essery

I’ve had a fascination with military clothing since school, which began with the M-1951 parka’s and MA-1’s worn by the mod and skinhead revivalists, then the M65 worn by Sylvester Stallone, in Rambo: First Blood, and later Woody Allen in various films. I still have an M65 and an MA-1 now, at the tender age of nearly 52. As stated in many other of the comments here, the military influence on fashion is not to be underestimated, and has likely endured owing not only to its looks but the practicality and durability that other “fashion” items often lack (and I don’t mean having an orange lining in your MA-1, so you can be found in the snow!). This is similar with other “work wear”, like fisherman’s jumpers and beanie hats. However, most sane people would agree that wearing medals or full uniform (unless one’s own) is disrespectful and/or plain odd, but it does happen, as in the recent case of the Chief Constable from Northamptonshire wearing medals from the Falklands war, despite having been 15 years old at the time. I think my line is drawn on clothes with people’s names on (definitely nothing with badges or patches), but I generally feel similar about large logos. I might wear a watch cap, but definitely not one with US Navy emblazoned on it. Anyway, I am rambling. Interesting article. Thank you.


I don’t wear military clothing myself because I don’t like the associations.
But out of curiosity, can you explain this paragraph?
„And it seems both distasteful and odd when you have a military jacket with ‘R Lauren’ on the breast and some made-up lightning insignia on the arm.“
Couldn’t you argue that by wearing a Ralph Lauren logo you are at least openly showing that you are wearing the clothing for fashion reasons? Seems rather honest to me – as opposed to a reproduction that pretends to be an original (I have no problem with reproductions myself).


Ah, I see. I was assuming a polo rider. Now it makes sense.

Jasper Smit

I understand it can be I difficult subject but I have military clothing for practical use because you get quality for a good price. I’m not talking about the super hip USA vintage pieces that you see on this site. I have a Dutch army jacket made from canvas, very heavy. Great quality. It looks pretty non military and was 20 euro’s. Same with camo trousers made from goretex. Very handy when you are on your bike with lots of rain. It does not have to be about fashion, it can be for outdoor/practical use too…


My two cents is that it’s all contextual.
I have never served, but I own and wear all sorts of military vintage from different countries and periods. I have an intuitive sense of what feels acceptable for me. If I had to break it down though, I always come back to occasion, location, audience.
Do I understand where I am and who I am to others in that place?
For example – though I am a civilian I work a lot with military and regularly visit military facilities. I would be strongly hesitant to wear any vintage military items at such a site. I feel it gives a false impression. At the same time… I might wear something military inspired to play on this precise (false) association and help close the possible perceived gap between myself and my military counterpart.
Another example – I work all over Africa in countries experiencing war. There are many landscapes of cultural significance for military clothing across Africa. A sociology of the topic could easily fill a book. Just the historical dimensions are complex. It’d be in poor taste to wear vintage South African military garb in Namibia or Mozambique. In Nigeria anything vintage American wouldn’t even be noticed – but in nearby Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Côte d’Ivoire it might not go over as well. Congo has so many layers of military mishap that it’s better to avoid the look completely. I remember a period in South Sudan when it was (briefly) illegal to wear any sort of military clothing (my vintage field shirt was confiscated on the street) – the law was short-lived as many (ex-)soldiers didn’t own any other clothes… and went back to fighting shortly thereafter anyways.


I think we’re talking about two different things here. Stolen valor is an attempt to get credit for something you didn’t do by representing yourself as someone who served. For that you need an attempt at age appropriate uniforms along with medals, unit patches, and name. If you’re the age of a Vietnam vet, you’d need to be wearing Vietnam era stuff. Since the stolen valor types didn’t serve, their uniforms are almost always off in some way that only a service member would notice, but they’re mainly trying to trick civilians, so they don’t need to be perfect. They’re usually exposed by someone who has had to use a ruler and brush to get their dress uniform ready for inspection.
The other part of this, which is what most commenters are discussing, is about whether or not its ok for civilians to wear a piece of military clothing. In the US the correct answer is always yes. It is, after all, a free country. In my experience, there’s a certain type of individual that gets worked up over someone wearing a piece of military clothing as part of an outfit, and those individuals will also get worked up over a whole host of silly things related to military service. Their service in the military defines them, and because of that they are more sensitive to the idea that someone else might get the same respect or admiration without having earned it. For most veterans I know, time spent in the service is just one part of a lived experience and it’s not worth getting worked up over a civilian wearing camo. That’s certainly the case for me.


Spot on


As someone who lives in N.Ireland, although the political climate has “thawed” somewhat, I’d still never ever be seen wearing anything remotely resembling military or ex military apparel of any sort, eg .old camouflage or ex combat stuff.
I an not just speaking about Northern Ireland here and I’m not a service or ex-serviceman either.
That said,if I have a blazer and maybe even a medal ,certainly I’d wear that no problem on the correct occasion(s).
That leads me to a question??
What is the correct civilian blazer or whatever for wearing with any decoration civil or military?


What a fascinating post, so many interesting views and comments, lots and lots to think about. On a simple level I find jackets like the Aspesi and others M65 copy so practical, reflecting their good design for their original use.
The comments about watches, especially the origins of IWC are interesting and I would have thought as much anyway. I have my eye on a current Top Gun model, and the back story with those is they are provided to the (real) Top Gun pilots in the US. Interesting that they have made that link.
The counter culture connotations and the Mod roots of Parkas (I was once a Mod, in fact the essence of the style has never left really) are also interesting.
I have worn uniform as an Air Cadet (not the most stylish) and loved the M65 I had back then for the outdoor walks / exercises, not sure what happened to that.
I also have other more modern military clothing, worn for Airsoft, which I knew nothing about until less than two years ago when my son read about it. It is now a hobby we both very much enjoy, sort of next level paint ball. You don’t have to wear camouflage or similar but obviously it makes sense in terms of the game. And some attendees approach it in an authentic manner, probably approaching cos-play but with genuine respect for those that originally wore it, from what I can gather. Plus some ex serviceman are involved in the hobby, which was interesting to note. It can feel a little conflicting wearing the clothes and all the accessories, but as I said it is practical for the purposes of the hobby. And it can be great fun.

P.S. I hope everyone enjoys the opening drinks tonight, unfortunately I am not in Central London today, I had hoped to attend.


Simon, where is the bracelet from? I love it.

Peter K

I don’t wear any military clothing but I would wear a Canadian army jacket to honour the soldiers who died liberating my parents in occupied Holland during the second world war.


I enjoy wearing militaria but prefer it without any insignia, both aesthetically and to avoid looking like i’m playing pretend. I went so far as to remove the airman’s stripes from my vintage jungle jacket (though had it been a named item I probably would have left everything attached out of a sense of respect for the previous owner). I’m sort of on the fence about a flight jacket with unit patches – I think it’s up to what the wearer is comfortable with, but I kind of feel for myself that it would lean towards a costume piece. As a general rule I feel like wearing rank insignia as a civilian is going too far.
Time period plays a part as well. I feel comfortable wearing surplus or repro uniform pieces or t shirts from the WW2, Korean War, or Vietnam conflict era, but wearing something from within my lifetime seems in poor taste.


I have never been to Japan, but it seems to me that the main reason for the Japanese infatuation with American militaria is their eye for style, quality of design and craft (or make), just like in many other fields (music, film, etc. – if you are looking for samba on cd, chances are you will find a Japanese reissue, rarely a European or American one).


I am certainly biased because icons, stars and good looking ordinary people have been wearing American military clothing for so long.
Maybe a good theme for a post: international uniforms that can match the American classics.


I lived in Japan for almost 20 years and return often and much remains a mystery to me about the country and I cannot answer your question, Simon. I can only speculate. It seems to me that pre-WWII Japan was influenced greatly by European culture regarding food, language, science, and even military uniforms. Japan’s defeat in WWII was a reset in favor of America and continues even today even though young Japanese are not as interested in American culture as their Gen X and Boomer predecessors were.


Based on my meager knowledge of history (wikipedia), the Japanese were heavily influenced by US culture and technology long before WW2. American gun-boat diplomacy forced the Japanese to open up the country to trade, and during the Mejii restoration western-trained armies helped the emperor take back power from the shogun and the samurai. Japan even engaged in some western-style colonialism in China, and may have tried to build a country based on western technology and administration, but traditional Japanese ideals.

Japan turned away from the traditional colonial powers after their victory in the Japanese-Russian war. Despite being seen as a upcoming regional power at best, the Japanese won a great victory against the “great power” of the Russian empire. But because the other great powers didn’t want to deal with the instability of an established empire crumbling, and possibly fearing how a rising Japanese power would impact their colonial holdings in the far east, they forced a peace treaty where Japan received few gains and little acknowledgement for their victory.


This post arrived in my in box directly after one from Private White! Some sort of karma happening in Outlook perhaps?


Great article, I think military style has always exerted a strong influence in mens fashion, the Officer corps or academy were historically associated with the aristocracy and the upper class especially in Europe and hence forth in America, whilst for jurisdictions still harbouring the Royalty, often than not they are still endowed with respective ranks and uniforms.

Many of these pieces have also proven themselves through adverse conditions and time, such as trench coats, pea coats, leather jackets and boots et cetera. As long as one wears them tastefully with nonchalance, and certainly without pretence, it would most likely be known to the bystanders that these pieces are just simply utilitarian ornaments.

With respect to the subculture of some Japanese, or others from nations that have had conflict with America during one time or another, and are still admiring and wearing these USN, USMC or USAAF printed pieces, as elegance, aesthetics and great designs are timeless, and both America and Britain still largely represents a force for good, one could hardly blame anyone for coveting a lovely piece of The Real McCoy’s Type A-2 leather flight jacket, it had kept men warm in a B-17 Flying Fortress as it would protect men from the elements today.

The Major's Tailor

An interesting and thought provoking article. As one of the leading dealers of collectible military clothing this is a subject of constant thought for me. The militaria collector market and vintage clothing world can sometimes be uncomfortable bedfellows, despite being closely connected. I’m fortunate that the garments I find and sell most often find their way into the collectors market, where people appreciate them their history, rarity and aesthetic value. When it comes to clothing, I have always struggled with the term ‘stolen’. Most of the garments I find have been discarded or sold, surplussed after the war, and are finding a second life as either a collectors item or in some cases as a wearable, stolen has some very negative connotations implying wrongdoing on the half of the owner/wearer. Overtime, the frequency with which I personally wear the garments I find has certainly diminished, but largely because an 80 or 100 year old garment is delicate and deserves better than a trip to the pub followed by a spin cycle. There are certainly garments of more significant historic value, painted back A2 jackets or jump jackets that I know were worn on D-Day for example, the importance of pieces like these certainly prohibit any wearing. It’s impossible to understate the impact of military design on modern fashion design, many of the pieces I sell go to design archives where they will be cared for, and fashion designers can use them for future reference. When I sell any piece, I hope to teach the new owner about it’s history and significance, and they will treat it with the respect that it deserves, both as a piece of history and as a delicate garment that has survived for many years. But as a vintage clothing guy, in a world of dwindling resources, it’s great to see people reusing the old, and finding new life for surplus clothing.

Eric Pease

I’m an 11 year US Navy veteran and avoid wearing military wear because for me it’s just distracting and perhaps calls out too much attention to what I’m wearing. I’ll wear my leather flight jacket on Veteran’s Day but it’s way too much of a statement any other day. I prefer what I wear to not shout out “look at me” for any reason


I own some military surplus and I’m happy to wear it, with no insignia, no name, most likely never worn before being sold.
I think I’d wear a “real” military garment only if I were connected to it: of course, if I had served, I’d wear mine, and I would be so happy if I had anything my grandfathers wore in WW2. Someone else? no way, even if I understand the point of those looking out the history of the guys that served in those clothes.


Had a lot of family in the forces, and very narrowly missed out on having a career myself (minor health-related thing popped up, but that was enough to end up with a doormark on my backside). I do have some milsurp and hand-me-down stuff laying around, and have pretty clearly defined standards.

No rank, branch, or unit insignias, period. Not even a flag.

Nothing that is obviously part of a dress uniform.

As has been mentioned, things like standard issue t-shirts (no markings) are fine. Anybody that gives you crap about wearing an unmarked olive green Soffe t-shirt is probably just in a REALLY bad mood. Khakis used to be part of the combat uniform, and nobody seems to have a problem with those. I’d even say the boots are fine as long as you don’t have BDU’s rolled up at the top of them.

Camo can be iffy, especially any that have branch insignia included in the pattern (USMC did this). I have an old flecktarn German military jacket I like to wear for hunting (and ONLY for hunting). But as far as that goes… there are plenty of better options out there for camo gear that WON’T create any issue at all, so why make it harder than it needs to be?

Mohammad Reza

I think a huge part of the draw to military surplus (for me atleast) is that the garments are practical, durable and affordable. I recently bought a German M-51 style parka. I had looked at multiple other options including the Real McCoys one but I just couldn’t justify spending close to a £1000 on a replica/reproduction even if it is incredibly well made. I feel there’s more authenticity and charm in having the original article. But at no point did it cross my mind that I somehow was looking to ‘cosplay’ or impersonate someone in the military. I just wanted a hard wearing, practical coat.


Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe Ethan Newton wrote a blog post that his favourite Coat was a vintage WW2 peacoat, and strongly encouraged it for others. Praising its practicality and strength.

I noticed when my mates and I were going to a Halloween party as sailors that most of my clothes are “clothes with a purpose”. Many of my pieces were suitable for the costume in mind.

I always felt that much of menswear has it’s origins in the military. Neckties, Trench coats, Khakis.

In fact my most harmonious outfits have been ones with a common culture, ie, their origin. My sports sweaters work well with my trainers, whereas my short sleeve polos do not work with my neckties.

I did my standard military training after high-school. I quickly found myself wearing a pompy uniform on Sundays and I rather enjoyed the peacocking. This was besides the weekday fatigues. Back then the clothes served a purpose for the tasks we were performing and were deeply rooted in tradition.

Today my tasks have changed and the traditions I follow are from a different school. The clothes still reflect this hyper need to be useful and to follow a certain etiquette.

Does the fast fashion logo clothes give me any practical abilities? Does it show any fraternity?
For me: No.

I suppose my conclusion is there is an eventual tipping point.
Most clothes have an origin in these things, and wearing something with a military background isn’t too offensive. It is when it is coupled with additions that suggest a certain character it begin becoming distasteful.


Great topic. And coincidentally, I just bought a t-shirt with the logo of Fighting 31 (Tomcatters), a U.S. Navy Fighter Group, on it. The logo is Felix the Cat running with a lit bomb. I bought it because I am a Felix the Cat fan, appreciate military cartoon logos, know military history and to honor U.S. Naval veterans. However, I did not get the other t-shirt version which included the Felix logo with “Fighting 31” written underneath as I did not serve in the Navy or that group and did not want to give the impression that I did. I think that is important. I do not support wearing someone else’s military clothing if there is a name on it or has a bunch of patches on it. You should not wear someone else’s clothing who actually served and who was awarded those patches. How about an aviator leather jacket like an A-10? Yes, you should be able to wear one with your name on it, but keep the patches to a minimum and make sure they are from no later than WW II. Also, do research and know the history behand the jacket and the patches. By knowing the history, the jacket should become more than a fashion piece to you. Those guys that fought in WW 2 wearing that type of jacket were brave and sacrificed a lot. Nor do I support the wearing of medals, insignia or ranks as vintage clothing. I believe it would be a crime in the USA, anyway. Nor can I see why others wear camouflage when they did not serve, are not currently serving and do not hunt. I cannot understand wearing camouflage as fashion in an urban area.


As a vintage collector and seller of military clothing and workwear, I have no issue wearing items from, WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam War. I did not serve in the military for medical reasons, but my father did and so did all my uncles.
I don’t consider wearing a military clothing from the past as stolen valor as long as you don’t claim to have served. I view it as respecting the past and the history behind each garment and the stories behind it. I agree with others that I would draw the line of not wearing any of the medals, as that is disrespectful.
Quite frankly, military jackets like the jungle jacket and m65 are very functional and well made and can’t be beat. I own quite a few, both with name tapes and others without.


Hi Simon, good post.
I’ve definitely had a go at you on here for stolen valor before. I agree with mostly everything you said here. I think wearing Mil surp clothing without patches or names printed on them if possible is the most tasteful choice. Most camo patterns are essentially a floral print, but it’s not suited to many environments. Typical woodland Camo in the Country/some suburban areas with trees makes more sense. Camo in urban areas makes sense if it’s a grey camo pattern. Some sand colored camo could enter cosmopolitan areas. But Camo has no place in the CBD where the grey suit reigns supreme.
I still would not wear rep ties very often in public if I could help it. There are so many patterns of ties to choose from which all come in the same colours of silk/wool that can be found in a rep tie. Ideally a person should learn to find ways to wear ties without latching onto bourgeois cliches if possible. Still a rep tie with the patterns matching from the knot to the stripes on the body of the tie is a style flex, so I can forgive certain indiscretions for sartorial reasons.
Lol at the T-shirt part.
All the best Simon.


My grandfather served in WWII in the US Army. He never wore anything associated with the army nor discussed it other than in a very vague way – I have since read the history of his unit, which saw a lot of action and liberated a slave labor concentration camp.
He did, however, wear a US Navy hat referencing Guantanamo Bay. I don’t know how he acquired it. It wasn’t vintage. It was of the 90s and he wore it for about 20 years. The only linkage I can imagine is that my grandmother and her family lived in Cuba for her teen years when they were denied entry in the US when they fled Lithuania.
I don’t think anyone would question a man of the age of service in WWII when they were in their 80s about stolen valor.
That said, my science teacher in middle school was exposed as a fraud. He served in the Navy Reserve, but claimed to have been a US Navy Seal in Viet Nam and subsequently in the Gulf War and even more recently. He was exposed in a series of articles after his court martial for wearing medals he didn’t earn, which made the rounds among my classmates.


Currently serving USAF officer. I think you hit the nail on the head—the more current and specific, the more offensive. That feels intended to give the wrong impression. Awards & decs are a hard no. Beyond that, going further back gets into retro and historical territory. At that point, you start running into all kinds of other menswear traditions that started the same way. I personally like that romantic connection fostered by wearing older military style. It also serves to set a standard of sorts and an imperative to wear these items both correctly and well.


This is such a interesting topic.
I own a vintage N1 Deck Jacket with a name and some other information written on the back, which I feel okay with.
However, if those exact same things were on a vintage jungle jacket or something else from the second half of the 20th century, I’d feel very wrong wearing it.
I suppose it’s because WW2 is far enough away and most of the garments are becoming ever so slightly less associated with direct military service (except perhaps flight jackets) – jackets that look like the N1 aren’t being made by and for the military anymore.
With regards to the name of the previous owner being scrawled on the back, I think it must be accepted – however grimly – that they have likely long since passed, and to avoid wearing a perfectly serviceable jacket because it was not originally yours seems shortsighted.
Ultimately, I think time is a critical component in these discussions, as it forms the context through which these clothes are seen. No one thinks someone wearing a navy peacoat served in the navy. However, people would certainly have those assumption – or at least be a bit confused – if you wore a pair of camo trousers from Operation Desert Storm.

William Kazak

I was around when the Vietnam war was drafting my generation. I had a college deferment. Later, without it, I had a great number in the draft lotto and I was not drafted. I opposed the conflict and would have gone to Canada or jail. That was the mindset of many of my contemporaries in the USA. My dad had been a US Marine and fought on Iwo Jima. Of course he did not see things my way. I had an M65 green army jacket. It was not lined. I was really cold when I hitch hiked from Illinois to Washington DC and back. That was what we did. We hitch hiked. We had surplus stores here throughout the years. I have had my share of A2 bomber jackets. They were pretty common and came in various leathers; cowhide, horsehide and my current in goatskin. I have a navy duffle coat with toggle buttons and a navy peacoat. I once read that men’s clothing originated from sports, hunting and wars. Oh, don’t forget my two Burberry trench coats. One is double breasted. No offense to the veterans.

J Crewless

As someone who has served, it personally doesn’t offend me in any way whatsoever. Just remove all badges and insignia, and everything’s Hunky dory.
If the government is okay with selling it as surplus, wear it. You’ve been given the green light.
If ex-military types can’t handle it, then that’s their problem.


Generally I don’t wear any military clothing that is too close to the originals in colour or material. For example I have a MA-1 bomber jacket in suede and a field jacket style in brown wool. However I wouldn’t wear any of those styles in olive green cotton or nylon

I am eyeing the Iron Heart N-1 Deck jacket but I suspect I will choose it in a non-authentic colourway such as Black compared to the tan or olive green. Those also do not contain any stenciling, badges or text

Randy Ventgen

Interesting and timely. I’ve a long time interest in clothing with previous posts here and my interest in my own history and traditions have intertwined e.g. my mother’s family Monteith/Menteith Scottish heritage and recently acquired Stewart (of which Monteith is a sept or branch) kilt and attire. Most recently I’ve attended to my fifty years old US Army Reserve service and attire, particularly regarding wear on Veteran’s and Memorial Day at ceremonial events, where under current army regulations those with prior service may wear the uniform appropriately. Since I turned in all of my uniforms at the end of my service that’s entailed reoutfitting (and relearning). But it’s been interesting. I suppose this as part of this discussion could be seen as the wearing of real military clothing, which I’m entitled to do as opposed to with or without insignia/name and certainly not medals or skill badges unearned which has never occurred to me to do. The question I suppose for a completely unadorned field jacket could be whether it’s become cultural or iconic, although perspectives could vary; that wouldn’t I don’t think apply even unadorned to items like green tunics or others obviously military. Whether it’s ties or other emblems or symbols I’ve always adhered to that which I’ve earned.


There is nothing quite as cringy as Americans wearing kilts. Perhaps Englishmen wearing kilts – there I really do draw the line.

Gary Mitchell

I served 27 years; don’t have the faintest problem with anyone wearing any item of unform any more than I have a problem with the non-Scottish chaps wearing a kilt. (although I do smirk when I see them) And pretending to be a soldier? Fill your boots and enjoy yourself; your life, your choices. Wearing medals and pretending you earned them, not really on and you deserve a dry slap (not from me as they are to be pitied more than scorned) but to me that’s more of a character defect than a fashion choice. Live and let live, it’s really not so important. Many people at make a fuss will be people who never served or who did half a tomato season of time in uniform and live on the experience for rest of their days. I don’t know any ‘time served’ guys (with real time, real service, and real medals) who care half a sparrow’s fart about it. Ironically, I did a good amount of time as private contractor/soldier and even then never wore military uniform. Do people still wear trousers-mens-hairy and puttees-khaki-wraparround to the discos?


This is a really great piece.
As everyone has said, it’s all contextual. As you often point out, clothing is a form of social communication and that seems key here.
So, for example, I really wouldn’t wear some of the replica Vietnam War-era pieces that people like Real McCoy’s produce, partly around the Stolen Valour issues, but also I’d really worry about what message that was sending to someone from Asia or of Asian ethnicity. But I think the message I’d be putting out (as a middle aged white English man) would be very different to, say, a young Vietnamese woman wearing the same thing. Similarly, I wore a military surplus overcoat as a student. But I wouldn’t attend a Remembrance Day service in one. There is a lot of nuance to exactly what you’re wearing, where you’re wearing it and who you are that determines the sort of message you’re putting it out.
The other similar point, I think, is that military clothing with the badges, name tags and so forth is much more ‘dandyish’ in terms of the dandy to neutral spectrum of clothing. It’s more eccentric, more noticeable, just more. It can look brilliant when it works, but is a much more risky / hard to pull off kind of look. It’s the kind of thing I admire when I see it done well, but don’t particularly want to attempt myself.


Interesting discussion. I personally don’t wear military clothing, because I feel like it’s too much of a costume. It’s the same reason I avoid safari jackets. They make me feel like I stand out, and not in a good way. It would feel inauthentic. I can find other types of clothing that do the same job. For example, instead of an M65 jungle jacket, I’ll wear a Baracuta Harrington jacket, or a linen overshirt. I’m talking about actual military clothing or authentic reproductions here. Clothing that has its roots in military clothing but has undergone an evolution to bring it into the civilian world, like repp ties and suede jackets that borrow a bit from aviator jackets, are things I can and do wear. I include the PS suede bomber in this latter category. It may have its roots in Air Force bombers, but nobody would look at it and think it was military clothing, which is why I enjoy wearing it.

I’ll add that I’ve never been in the military. if I had, I might feel differently, that something like an M65 jacket wasn’t a costume on me, and that it had a much more personal meaning. I’ll also say that I absolutely don’t judge people who wear military clothing despite not having served in the armed forces. If you like the way you look in it, wear it!


I used to wear some German and US Milsurp as a teenager and in my early 20s, mainly (field) jackets. It was common in subcultures I mingled with. 90s hip hop, skateboarding and particularly in Jamaican and UK Soundsystem culture where if I think about it now military garments were and still are symbols of cultural values and language (e.g. “Jah Warrior”, “Junglist Souljah”, “Fight the Power / Babylon” etc.). Milsurp in sound system culture would make for a fascinating W. David Marx essay. In Hip Hop in the early 90s there were few dedicated “hip hop” brands like there are today – people wore a mix of reasonably affordable, utilitarian and comfortable workwear (boots, chinos, beanies), milsurp (came pants, field jackets), sportswear (file, adidas etc) and US athletic merchandise (a lot of college team caps and jacket if I remember correctly). At the time there was also a practical reality for me: milsurp was classic, kind of cool, dirt cheap, practical (pockets!), comfortable and durable and I didn’t mind if it got a little dirty or worn out. I didn’t think at the time at all that it might offend somebody who had served or been affected by conflict. Having said that I would have never bought anything with a name, medals etc on it.

These days I am firmly middle class and only have one item: a Buzz Rickson’s Jungle Jacket that I adore. It’s just a beautiful design and comfortable (particularly breathable) and useful (pockets!). I looked at modern menswear updates like Fujitso but that repro item just felt better. I would not really combine that with tailoring (have tried but it hasn’t felt right) but throw it on with chinos, a t shirt or sweatshirt and trainers to go to a gig or a night out. I totally agree that zeitgeist play a role as I happily wore it for many summers but only once since the most recent Gaza war broke out as it made me feel very inappropriate and inconsiderate at that time. Curious to see at what point I will feel comfortable with it again. That’s just me. I don’t mind anyone else doing whatever they feel is right.

John Richards

Hot topic Simon , especially considering a UK Chief Constable is suspended for wearing unearned medals.
Former Guardsman here and I stick to the unofficial rules of , brigade tie and watch strap , boating jacket with correct brass buttons . Medals when required ( miniatures etc) less is more being the mantra.
I wouldn’t deign to wear combat clothing because it looks awful to me having worn it on operations , including vintage stuff but that’s just my take on it.
I don’t even think I kept my old beret. i have noticed that a few veterans who go all out wearing patches and biking moto gear are the guys I remember who were sergeants mess waiters and weren’t very good soldiers.
all my suits have always been of a military cut , slightly slim trousers and waistlines as I liked the tailored look in the Guards although my expanding waistline proves more challenging everyday.
I certainly wouldn’t judge anyone wearing camouflage but I always thinks it looks odd/waltish if they haven’t served. Keep up the great work . PS fan since 2016


I came from a country where all able men are required to serve, and we have not fought anyone over 60 years so wearing anything military is mostly “who cares” in my country.
Though I think there is law against “pretend military” (i.e. if you look too authentic as suppose to one piece here/there)

Chris G

I feel that this debate touches along the edges of the murky world of ‘cosplay’ and even dare I say it ‘cultural appropriation’, and it really depends on your motivation for wearing it (or indeed, any other borrowed ‘look’). I’m not a veteran, and of course I would hope not to offend anyone, and for that reason I tend to avoid wearing anything of obvious military lineage. I’m not a pacifist, I just don’t think it suits me. But if it works for other people, and it is done with respect and not to try and pretend to have served if you have not, then fair enough.
On the other hand, I rather covet the PS Bridge Coat, which is very military in style. And I’ve commissioned a suit in a colour based on something Roger Moore wore in the 70s, and that is ‘dressing up’ as James Bond to a certain extent, when I’m far from a secret agent. If I wear a waxed jacket, I’m taking on the garb of a ‘country gent’ even though I’m nothing of the sort. All these are no less a ‘look’ than someone wearing a jungle jacket, it’s just I’m aping something that is less obviously polarizing than military fatigues. I think the key is to do this with a certain self-awareness and not to copy every element but ensure you are ‘inspired by’ (as the lawyers would say).


As a 40 years (active and then veteran) member of the oldest regiment in the British army (and still doing some ceremonial stuff) I can tell you that it is the tie that really winds people up. There’s a TV newsreader on a cable channel currently reading the news while wearing the regimental tie even though he has never had anything to do with the unit. It annoys quite a number of the guys.

James Bussey

That’s the British upper middle class version of ‘stolen valour.’ What might be more annoying is not that he is wearing it in order to gain the prestige associated with it – a five minute check on the googlepedia would reveal that a well-known media personality hadn’t been a soldier, but that it might be because Britain has become such a demilitarised country it was done through a complete ignorance of the traditions and current knowledge of the UK Armed Forces: they’ve always been an endangered species in Britain, and pretty much ‘extinct in the wild’ on the Red List right now, due to our recent loss of Tier One military power status. 🙄

James Bussey

I must add that up until say, the 1980s, many well-known men and women in the UK, such as TV personalities, politicians, authors* and actors would have had military service, because of the WWII and National Service eras in our nation’s history.
*The mid-20th century was a golden era in popular literature written by ex-servicemen in Britain as far as I’m concerned: no-bullsh1t writing that gets to the point and moves the story along. It the ‘man who has been there’ factor.

James Bussey

I have just seen an example of such ignorance on the BBC News website. A 2 Para Falklands and NI veteran had his medals returned after they had been stolen on his wedding day in 1984. In an accompanying photograph of him and some fellow 2 Para soldiers taken on the day, the caption describes them wearing the ‘distinctive burgundy beret’ of the Parachute Regiment. The first thing anyone with any knowledge of the British Army would know about the paras is that the colour of their beret is maroon.
It’s like saying the ceremonial headdress of the Brigade of Guards is made from reindeer skin, or the colour of the Royal Marines’ beret is British Racing Green – but they probably wouldn’t know what that colour is, either.
No wonder civvies get taken in by the stolen valour village idiots. 🙄


There’s a very good podcast called The Rest Is History which did an episode recently about the fashions of 60’s London. Wearing Victorian-era uniform jackets was very trendy, which contrasted with the ongoing decolonisation. Even today you see the American special forces look filtering into civilian life – beards, sunglasses, baseball caps with velcro patches. Military regalia as fashion isn’t exactly new, and as symbols they are very much informed by their culture.
In any case I’m in the military and don’t object to wearing unmarked vintage military clothing. To be honest, it barely registers with me as “military” because modern uniforms are just so different. Maybe in a few decades kids will be going around wearing digital camouflage and I’ll have to object purely on purely aesthetic grounds.

Peter Hall

It’s obviously all about context. Medals names and decorations are,for me,a hard no. It’s a blurry line,indeed I wear both a duffle coat and a pea coat butI certainly wouldn’t wear either if they said US Navy .

Personally, I couldn’t care less if an individual wants to make a style statement with militaria. Perhaps not during Armistice Weekend or somewhere that has suffered the impact of warfare.

The problem with any grey areas are …the grey areas. Any subjective restrictions limit personal freedoms and,as a 32 year veteran,that is the last thing I would want.

For me,a bigger issue is the perceived coolness of military clothing and think, we would be better promoting the art of style not the perceived glamour of warfare. And,when all is said and done-that’s ithe reason its worn.

Barry Jaynes

In the US context, “stolen valor” applies to a very narrow and reprehensible practice. From when the first caveman fought another ,exaggeration of one’s military heroics have taken place. In the last 30 years in the US persons dress up in military uniforms with medals and falsely claim their heroics in combat. By doing so they undermine the real heroes. The 2005 Stolen Valor Act was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in Alvarez v US.
A replacement act was passed in 2015. Other than medals there is no prohibition of wearing clothing. The military has had long and broad influence on civilian clothing. I purchase replicas of WWII US Army officers wool shirts and cavalry twill trousers from your Eastland Company because the quality is spectacular to what is otherwise available. Camo has ceased being a military only commodity. Military clothing is normally well designed and made, and functional. I note though when a middle aged chap walked into Quaglnos wearing the Tom Cruise Top Gun flight jacket my companion a Navel Reserve F-18 pilot had to be restrained!

James Bussey

When I was in the military we used to swap items of clothing and field equipment with our allies: now I’m out of the forces I wear army surplus clothes from all over the place either for my outdoor work or as either smart or casual wear. Some of it has national insignia on it still, but so long as it isn’t that of our enemies I don’t care.
I’d only wear unit insignia if it is either a swap from my time in or the tier of unit is equivalent to one I was in: I was never special forces or a marine or paratrooper, so I wouldn’t wear anything associated with them. I was in infantry and engineer units during my time in, so I’d wear a T-shirt with a badge on it from a unit I’d served in.
I’m not bothered by civvies wearing military gear or even unit badges: it’s pretty obvious they’re not veterans by the look of them, and are just wearing it for fashion. The fashion industry regularly rips off the military or naval look, often making direct copies of classic military clothing.
Wearing unearned medals or qualification badges is out for anyone, of course.

James Bussey

I wear old cammo clothing only as workwear: I work in the countryside sometimes in my trades, and round our way we have professional deer stalkers and gamekeepers who wear cammo clothing made for those professions, or army surplus items, so it’s nothing unusual round my way.
It’s obvious replica cammo jackets are just fashion items worn in cities, even with badges on them – most of the badges are from conflicts that are ancient history now, and the badge designs are pretty cool looking anyway. If you’re wearing only the jacket, then you’re not going into ‘stolen valour’ territory.
Name badges worn above the breast pockets are more of a US Forces than a European military thing – you’d find them permanently sewn onto older US issue items such as the OG107 shirts (think early ‘Nam/Incredible Hulk-era US Army fatigues) the M65 jacket or early 1980s woodland cammo BDU. On later uniforms the name patches were stuck on with Velcro, so probably were removed when handing in the uniform. I’ve got an OG107 wool shirt I acquired and wore when I was in the military, and still wear now, but I wouldn’t want some other guy’s name on my chest, or even my own, for that matter: it must be the British aversion to people knowing your name without a proper introduction.
I’m convinced a lot of people join the military primarily because the uniforms, weapons and gear look really cool and badass – ditto for historical re-enactment groups, and the full-on ‘stolen valour’ military impersonators. WWII and Vietnam seem to be the favourites for re-enactment, even amongst the defeated armies (Wehrmacht and US Army and USMC in those cases)
They might have lost their wars, but at least looked stylish in the process. A mate of mine went to a re-enactment event and got a WWII German re-enactor to admit that he liked the uniforms: the Third Reich will indeed last ‘for a thousand years’ – there is Viking and Saxon re-enactment from a millennia ago, after all. Not many people re-enact the Red Army, because the uniforms are so drab and nondescript, whereas the WWII US forces introduced many clothing items that are fashion staples eighty years later. Much of that comes from army surplus gear being dumped onto the clothing market at knockdown prices for both retailers and consumers in the post-WWII years, and from ex-GIs keeping hold of it after demobilisation. Ditto for firearms, jeeps, motorcycles and aircraft.
The stolen valour crowd can really only impersonate War on Terror veterans, those being the most recent large troop deployments – they’re welcome to it, badges, medals and all: I was in the Gulf War, later Kuwait and then Iraq myself, but not Afghanistan. The former conflict is still dragging on in one form or another, and the latter was a defeat for the good guys, so not much to celebrate there unfortunately. 🙄

Annag Chandler

A first comment would be that a hard-and-fast rule about buying and wearing military clothing from a surplus/used clothing store would devalue the kit that former serving members may want or need to sell in order to have ready funds for more pressing needs. Second, as a daughter of a WWII veteran, I sometimes wear a piece of his insignia or one of his ribbons, as a memory and as a tribute to him. No one is going to think that I’m a serving Army major, but just as I wear his wedding ring on a necklace, I wear one of his badges in honor of his decades of service. And you can be sure that if someone asks, I know what the ribbons mean!


A lot has been said so it is difficult to add much. I just find interesting that most people approach this from the perspective of offending the potential “heroes” rather than the potential “victims”.

I don’t and wouldn’t wear vintage/current military clothing because I don’t like the concept of wearing something that has been designed to be used in the context of lethal conflict between humans. I remember being into camouflage when I was a kid and begging my mum to buy me camouflaged clothing. She never did 🙂


Interesting topic. Not former military myself, but I have a deep respect for those willing to put their lives on the line to protect loved ones.

Having said that, so long as lies aren’t intentionally told or implied, it seems fine to me to enjoy military garb. I don’t endulge myself, but I generally have faith our boys are a little tougher than to get upset over a hat or a jacket.


Simon, if you think it’s both distasteful and odd to see Ralph Lauren with some made-up military insignia, just wait until you see what he has done with Native American symbols in his Western wear.


I wore European military surplus when I was an active duty U. S. Army officer – I remember the super heavy wool Belgian Army trousers being a favorite. Would someone seriously suggest I was trying to impersonate a Belgian soldier? I had a full time job as an American soldier, why would I want to „steal Belgian valor.“ Ridiculous. Unless someone is attempting to put together an actual, full uniform, which can be quite complicated if you don’t have the current instruction manual, they’re just articles of clothing. Often, extremely well-made and durable clothes. And frankly, when someone is trying to „steal valor“ by putting on a uniform, anyone who actually wore the uniform detects the deception right away, even if we can’t immediately identify what detail gives it away. The only people they might fool are civilians.


Medals are a no go, morally and legally. Outside of that, I can’t see that wearing a BR M65 is any different than wearing All Stars or a polo shirt. I’m not intending to look like a basketball or tennis player respectively in those, any more than I’m trying to look like a soldier in the M65. And how far do you take it – EG say Galways are from a WW2 officer’s boot they made. Should we stop wearing those too.


I wear daily a US ww2 tanker jacket version 1 and I put my own skull and Crossbones patch on it as a fan of skulls. It keeps me warm I wear a camo scarf with ballcap or baker boy cap and tiger combat trousers as a mix. It’s all part of that milplus look I enjoy. I don’t tend to wear unit patches unless it’s got some skull and bones design as I like them… They tend to be not active for decades and it’s more for the design than anything else. I wanted a peacoat due to the design and I find military coats more grand looking than civilian style ones.

Dr Peter

This is a topic that crops up from time to time on many websites and blogs. My own position is that, as long as one is not trying to steal someone else’s identity or valour, it is perfectly acceptable to wear military clothing. They are often high quality clothes and last for a long time. As long as there are no medals, decorations, or perhaps identity tags/patches, these items ought to be fine for civilian wear, especially because the military authorities have released them as surplus for sale to the general public.

We must also not forget that practically every item of men’s clothing has stylistic origins in military wear. A sports jacket or suitcoat is simply a tunic with the top front opened up — the flaps thus opened to the sides eventually became lapels. The khakis that are ubiquitous came out of military cotton drill clothing. These items, though, have been long removed from their origins, so we don’t perceive the connections very quickly. I have several jackets, overcoats and trousers that are military surplus including a Swiss Army greatcoat and French Foreign Legion khaki shorts. And of course, numerous items from US military surplus. I wear them all happily and have never had anyone comment negatively or ask me if I was a member of any of the services.


I don’t have much to add to what has already been said about stolen valour as such. But it is IMHO only one half of the equation when it comes to wearing military clothing. The other half is the ironic counter-cultural appropriation of military uniform. Many people wearing M65s were essentially mocking the military connotations or wanting to look like a deserter not like GI Joe. Same (mutatis mutandis) with military greatcoats in the punk era (retreatign from Moscow? hopefully in 1812 not 1944), the cover of Sgt Pepper.
It’s not easy to tell sometimes which side of the line someone falls on, and maybe there is a form of stolen victimhood going on sometimes. (Stop the cavalry video?)
This may be offensive. This may be intentional. But but now it may be too commonplace to be noticeable, even by the wearer.

Tim G.

Excellent article Simon and thank you for raising the subject on such a high profile platform, it’s one that receives much more sensitivity from one place to the other, and has left me frustrated and angry on numerous occasions. I grew up fascinated by my grandfather’s old military uniforms that I stumbled upon in his attic one day and wore them as often as I could practically get away with which, considering it was heavy and wool, and didn’t fit at all, wasn’t often. I wore it because I was proud of my grandfather and desperately wanted to serve in the military one day myself.
When my time came I served in the US Marine Corps until the end of 2015. It was impressed upon us from day one to respect the uniform, that the Eagle Globe and Anchor on the left breast pocket was held sacred in the memory of those that wore it before us, that as such we had to earn the right to wear it, and that in combination with our family name tape on the right side, the uniform demanded we conduct ourselves with Honor Courage and Commitment.
Now, as you progress along your time in the Marines this mindset fades fast, and your uniform becomes simply the outfit your are required to wear every single day. But what never fades is the personal conviction that you and your brothers and sisters earned the right to wear it. No matter how you felt about your job, or the Marine Corps as an organisation, the right to wear the uniform and call yourself a Marine was an achievement that changed you as a person forever.
I came across someone wearing Marine Corps camis at a Wal-Mart in Virginia one time early on in my enlistment. Marines aren’t allowed to wear their camouflage uniform in public so already I heard screaming in my head. The guy had made enough of an attempt to wear the entire uniform but had gotten all the accompanying rules and regulations very wrong. The guy was clearly not a Marine and wasn’t wearing any of it ironically, as a statement or for fashion or anything. He simply wanted the attention from the people around him. At the time, as a young active duty Marine in the midst of a quagmire of a conflict, I wasn’t offended, I was infuriated. And, for those that want to wear military uniforms just for fun, it’s worth remembering that the people who wore them for their profession in some circumstances have suffered and sacrificed a tremendous amount, and operate in a world of violence that civilians struggle to understand. It’s not always and ethical issue about right or wrong, sometimes you need to ask yourself who you might encounter and whether or not it’s a good idea.
I’ve been out of the military for a while now and a helpful guideline I think everything can take something from is “are there people currently in harm’s way wearing this uniform.” If the answer is no then I think most veterans can accept that their old kit becoming mainstream is just the way of the world.
I was in Amsterdam recently and a guy in a café was wearing a MARPAT blouse with jeans and some (personally) hideous sneakers. I instantly thought of a friend of mine who still wears that uniform at the tip of the spear. To be honest it ruined my day. I know eventually that uniform will fade from use and my generation will be left to reflect on their time in service instead of still actively participating in global conflicts but until that time it’s this readers opinion that respect and consideration for others goes a very long way.


Hi – yes, problem is, most surplus is so much better made than civvy stuff and so much cheaper. I see a 100 per cent wool jumper for three hundred aussie dollars, and then a surplus blue wooly pully for 50. No competition. But then there’s something like a windproof smock – it’s far superior to civilian hiking clothing but makes me look like I’m about to retake the falklands. I love it but just can’t get out the front door without feeling like some kind of fake. But m65s – no worries coz it’s so common. I think you can only get away with one piece at a time?

Jonathan Tokeley (Capt. retd)

I served ten years in the army, as an officer, and I’d venture this is the general opinion (amongst officers, both non-commissioned and commissioned):

1. Anybody can wear military-surplus clothing because, after all, it’s being offered for sale, as having been discarded as surplus by the military itself

2. Wearing ‘half-dress’ whilst still serving is forbidden–or at least regarded with disapproval–because it’s a mis-use of uniform. Wearing a combat jacket whilst off-duty, to do some gardening, doesn’t quite count, since common-sense applies

3. It follows that the American argument about ‘stolen valour’ is typically American, and verging on nonsense. We were right to reject anything similar, altho’ the following DO apply

4. Anybody who has served is entitled to wear the ‘coloured’ of his regiment of corps, as a signal to others that this WAS his unit. I wear my regimental colours for instance, on my time/bow-tie/watch-strap and occasionally socks. I do this to signal that I belonged and still ‘belong’ to this unit, and expect that others from the same unit will recognise it. These colours serve the same purpose as an Oxbridge college tie, or an old-school tie. Wearing such colours without having deserved them (having actually served in that unit, been to that school or college) is a form of fraud, and people should expect to be dealt harshly if they’re caught out.

5. Of course, so embody can play this fraud for their own advantage–wearing a Guards Division tie or an Old-Etonian tie might open doors–but they take the risk–of those opened-doors being slammed in their face. New and Lingwood recently sold. series of ties with the immediately recognisable artillery ziggurat. This was doubtful taste on their part

6. Some people who HAVE served and are therefore entitled to wear their regimentl/
corps colours are still rather pathetic. I recently met and old man who was wearing a blazer with the gunner’s badge. Yes, he had served with the artillery in his national service, back in the early fifties, for two years, so he WAs entitled. But there was still something of pathos about his identification with so thing that had happened 70 years before. He showed that when I asked him about his service, and said that I’d worked with the gunners over sometime. He was obviously embarrassed about being questioned–saw how tenuous was his claim–and I think he was correct in his embarrassment.

7. Wearing medals or campaign-ribbons which are not deserved is more serious, since it makes a claim to having placed oneself at danger, when there was no such risk.
People who attempt this will find the doors slam very hard indeed in their face.

8. Having said this, there are some notable exceptions. The Black Watch tartan is perhaps the best known of all and frequently used across the world. But ex-members of the regiment can only wear the tartan with their Colonel’s express permission, even tho’ they be in a room full of the stuff, which h is being worn by complete civilians. That’s a bit rum…


Just on point 4 but from a quick Google search I imagine many people could end up wearing a Guards Division or Old Etonian tie without knowing. I’m pretty sure Drake’s did a tie with the same colours albeit the stripes going in the opposite situation. N&L seems to have actually called it a gunners’ tie and sold it as such which yeah I agree there but I imagine for some ties it’d be pretty easy to accidentally wear a tie of a regiment or school or college unknowingly.


So many insightful comments here, love it! I’ve stumbled into a habit of wearing some old military clothes on most days, and my philosophy is to always consider how I’m using the clothes – just like any others – for my own purpose, whether that is practical or aesthetic expression. And I try to never make it look like or even come too close to a full-on uniform. For example, by wearing contrasting or complementary colors where uniforms would probably use the same color. ‘Only one surplus item at a time’ is a good basic principle to abide by most of the time but I wouldn’t hesitate to break it as long as the end product is still very un-uniform-like.
I guess there is the ‘if you know, you know’ problem as some have mentioned, but I think that for example British No. 2 wool trousers or Swedish utility pants don’t quite obviously scream ‘military’. Vintage army issue chinos you may need a sharp eye to spot. In the end I’ll wear those without any hesitation to do with their image or origin, unlike jackets. Same applies for example to US cold weather gear like ECWCS that have gotten a lot of buzz in Tokyo lately. But these surplus items I’ve mentioned usually (though not always) offer a great deal of savings over their equivalents, perhaps better quality at least in some respects, and the military story behind them just makes them more interesting.
I don’t have any clothes with names (on the outside at least!) and not very many with insignia or patches. Personally, any strong symbolism or slogans would have to be something that I’d want to represent – so I agree with Simon, anything like that “I’ve been through hell” is questionable – but I think I’d keep the names. It’s taken a while for people to catch up to the passage of a time, but they should realize if they think about it that Vietnam veterans are in their 60s at least by now, and what I’d be doing would just be giving some old clothes some more life.
Zooming out, I think it is worth considering how civilians reusing uniforms is itself a custom of sorts. The exact context for us less working-class people today is different, but it’s not like people invented the idea of wearing an old soldier’s jacket from a flea market in the year 1969 or anything like that. For decades after World War II civilians all over wore pieces from the glut of military clothes – I hear e.g. German jackets would naturally be avoided, but wool pants or any other clothing even from them would not be too strange to see worn as normal clothes. If you want to look like a civilian in 1950, something from a 1940 uniform might work.
And when you’re talking about fashions that deliberately drew on uniforms you don’t have to restrict yourself to men’s clothes or to stay within western culture. Women’s clothes from the Victorian era on took cues from sailor suits, berets, breton shirts as we all know, and for a long time women loved hussar coats; colonized people to various degrees used the prestige associated with colonizers’ uniforms for their own purposes or gave them completely new context – look at the outfits worn by Herero leaders to this day, or Osage women’s wedding coats.


I picked up a WW2 US Marines jacket. I loved wearing it and the functionality of the deep pockets. But I feel a bit too cosplay wearing it now. l sense that my relatives who served would look at me in the jacket with confusion. Off to eBay (or the donation bin) these jackets will go.



What’s that bracelet you are wearing in the final image?


Nice! Did you purchase it from Harpo or another vendor?

Joe Shmoe

It would seem guys wear military gear for many of the same reasons they wear sports uniforms and uniform replicas. Both military uniforms and sports uniforms come from a place of function, which is something guys value for comfort and usefulness. And both types of uniforms are associated with fitness and vigor, which is something guys like to be associated with . I imagine a lot of guys don’t think much farther than this, in terms of stealing valor. As a person who has not served, though, I would find stolen valor (in the sense of presenting as former military, etc.) really distasteful. I’d also like to argue on a less serious note that wearing a sports team’s uniform when the team is on trend (or about to win a championship) pretty cheesy. You have to earn your fandom through the lean years as well.

Hector Vazquez

Hello, I function as a high school counselor and have a military week program to highlight the branches and academies as post secondary options. To wear during military week my best friend who served in the US Army and my godson who served in the Air force gifted my their jackets which saw wars. The recruiters visiting our school saluted me when they saw the ranks on the jacket. Alhtough I explained I did not serve, I started to feel like an imposter. Therefore, I stopped wearing the jackets as I felt I did not earn the honor. However, I do cherish them.

Michael Powell

Let me take a look in my closet: Pea Coat, they’ve been wearing those for 300 years. Trench Coat, they’ve been wearing those since World War 1. A2 and G1 flight jackets – they’ve been wearing those for 90 years. Duffle Coat – Monty wore one. Khakis – The Royal Army has been wearing khakis for more than 150 years.
Pretending to be a veteran is stolen valor (I’m an American). When I wear my trench coat, I’m channeling my inner Bogart (or my inner Inspector Clouseau). When I wear my Pea Coat, I’m warm – and stylish. When I wear my A2, I’m cool – and stylish (and I was a private pilot). When I wear khakis, I’m just stylish. Oh, and neck ties come from the Croat mercenaries who served with Napoleon.


I don’t see the issue unless you are taking someone’s identity. Remember, we paid for those clothes with our taxes originally in the Department of Defense budget.
The fact that we paid for them again should give us license to wear what we own.


In reference to the wearing of military clothing by civilians, In my opinion that isn’t stolen Valor. I served in the U.S. ARMY for 16 years. When I see someone wearing a military jacket (with or without patches) or military pants, it doesn’t bother me one bit. It’s when an individual wears the entire uniform with combat patches and or insignias they did not earn, and try to pass themselves off as a Soldier, Marine, etc. then we have a problem.


Post WWII, military surplus clothing was cheap and readily available, in many of victorious countries. It was bought as workware, and as everyday clothing for the poor. Surplus leather jackets were at least somewhat popular as motorcycle jackets. This civilian use, combined with being cheap and readily available, led US surplus clothes showing up in iconic Hollywood movies. So today, things like service jackets and flight jackets are as much heritage workware, and/or pop culture symbols, as they are militaria.

I think many of the commonly reproduced military clothes (like bomber jackets) are following same path as the t-shirt (or, peacoat and trenchcoat), which originated with the military but has since become so commonplace in civilian clothing, that discussing their military heritage is dismissed as a strawman.

Personally I think it’s fine to wear miltary surplus and reproduction clothes so long as any military insignia or patches have been removed. Fake insignia and patches just bad taste. They scream poser.


Hello everyone,
Found this fantastic post while doing research for a book. Have found many helpful perspectives in the comments.
I have never served in the military or bought authentic military apparel. I was wondering about the M65 field jackets after 1980. As I understand it, this is when the army transitioned the jackets into camouflage patterns.
Did Gulf War era field jackets have identifying soldier name tags on the front around the breast pocket?
How hard is it to remove a name tag from a field jacket? My guess was that they would have been stitched on, right?
Does the desert camouflage print fade? I’m thinking of the beige and pinkish toned print.
Thank you for any answers!


Interesting discussion. As someone who sometimes wears a British 1960 Pattern combat jacket, and has had M43s and Vietnam jungle jackets etc, I think most ppl are sufficiently sartorially literate in the UK to know where you’re going with it – subliminally, you are channelling martial manliness, but you’re not trying to swing into the Army and Navy or march in a veterans’ parade.
However, when I put on my navy, red, navy surcingle belt, I do hope nobody thinks I’m pretending to be a former Guards officer. The antidote to that anxiety is, 1) I’m not, 2) most people wouldn’t recognise it as the colours of the Household Division…
However, re ties, when I saw a terrific, stylish young influencer (I think from Europe) wearing my Grandad’s v distinctive regimental tie, I was a bit irked! Bcs I knew what it meant to him. I suspect the influencer just thought it was a striking tie, and it is. I’m also sure he meant no offence, indeed, in a roundabout way, I suppose it was a kind of respect. Anyway, it’s all about intention, and all men’s clothing derives from military or sporting attire anyway, so as long as you’re not really trying to ‘steal valour’, I don’t care, and I dpubt many veterans do either – they’re probably more interested in the military covenant, mental health support and service housing etc. First world problem, fashion!

Arthur Bond

It depends on how they are worn. Styling and fashion are about conveying a message. If that message is stolen valor, then the message is fraudulent, a lie. But if military attire is worn in such a way that the meaning of the items are changed, then that’s not only permissible, but to be encouraged.
Subcultures are built on bricolage, on taking the stuff available, and changing what it signifies through style. If that message causes offense or outrage then that’s fine in my book, as long as the wearer is aware of the offense caused.
Ray Petri styling for The Face in the 80s often mixed military medals, insignia and flags with male models in skirts or bicycle shorts and combat boots. The effect was outrageous and thought provoking.
(Even the German Iron Cross was taken adopted by outlaw biker culture explicitly for its ability to offend. Few would argue that this image emblazoned on shirts at H&M are stolen valor or still in anyway shocking. The pickelhelm was another military item that bikers wore to shock. By the 60s this item was viewed as so cartoonishly silly as to be safe enough for children’s television characters to wear.)
It’s true that any attempt at deceit, at passing for actual military, is reprehensible. But, if one is very clever, and one doesn’t mind causing a little outrage, then anything goes, nothing is sacred. Just be sure that you are creating a discernable message or narrative through the use of these items. You must be able to defend your choices. You should also know the time and place in which to be irreverent, and when to respectful.


What an active discussion! I served as a U.S. Marine in Iraq and Afghanistan and personally have no problem with people wearing parts of the uniform. I think there’s a spectrum that runs somewhere from tastefully subtle to the ridiculous. Stolen valor is pretty obvious. I think if it has to be earned and you didn’t earn it, don’t wear it. Then there’s a grey area of wearing uniforms that look like a costume. Unless you’re a celebrity on stage, wearing a dress blues jacket or full camo just looks weird. Personally, whenever I see guys wearing too much military surplus camoflauge, I think they look like I did as a kid when I played war in my dad’s Vietnam jungle fatigues. Then there’s wearing a certain amount of surplus to be fashionably experimental. For example, when I was between deployments, I was too cheap to buy ski pants so I used my leftover issued desert digital marpat goretex pants on the slopes and got lots of compliments. A lot of military gear is just practical. You just don’t want to go too overboard with this or else risk looking like an attention seeking flashlight commando or a wannabe version of the guy with the boonie cover filled with pins that gets drunk at the VFW every day. A little goes a long way. Finally there’s tastefully subtle. I think Navy peacoats, flight jackets, and trench coats are easy to pull off and can be a great conversation starter especially if they have a connection to a friend or relative who served.


so I’ve seen some people saying that they draw the line at medals, and I would like to ask if they are okay with it if the medals belonged to a family member or if you have the permission of the original owner or a descendant. for example, I have my great grandfather’s WWII uniforms and his medal(s) too, would it be okay then? as he is not alive I cannot ask his permission.


I served and wore Vietnam era OD Greens. I earned my combat patch and CIB, I still have some of my uniforms like my field jacket.

I wore it to the VA one time and got positive response, I wore it to a base chapel and got mixed response.

One vet said, I like your jacket. Other vets shook my hand. I never mentioned my jacket to anyone.

Two chaplains responded unfavorably, one walked by me and patted me on the shoulder and said, “hey Boy.” The other came over and started asking me about my patches and where I earned my CIB?

I don’t like to talk about it, I don’t have to talk about it, I don’t have to prove crap about my service to anyone.

I feel it’s okay to wear a vintage piece of uniform as long as you earned the right to wear it as you wore it when you served, or if someone has not served not make claims they earned it (which is stolen valor).

The only major issue so see is people focusing on me or anyone who wears such articles of clothing and making a big deal about it without getting to know the person. A perfect stranger coming up and grilling me is not going to get far.

I say if it’s in your DD-214 and it’s vintage, then no problem, just make sure it’s not for financial gain.

And those who I would see purposely using it to deceive others for whatever reason, NO, it is wrong.