I’m a big fan of military surplus stores to find casual pieces for my wardrobe. I don’t wear “casual” stuff very often, so I prefer that they be cheap and hard-wearing if possible.
Typically, when it comes to outerwear, military surplus stores do the trick. I’ve previously posted about some spring-summer military surplus outerwear I picked up, and I returned to my local Army-Navy Sales store in Chicago to get some cold-weather gear.
First up was finding a M-65 field jacket. This has been copied a lot by other brands and designers and reinterpreted for slimmer fits recently (and the price has been increased accordingly), but I’m going to make the argument for the original.
While I can understand the temptation of a sleeker M-65-styled coat, I actually prefer mine a bit larger so I can wear a sport coat or blazer underneath. Admittedly, this look is ripped from Josh Peskowitz at Park & Bond, but I’ve tweaked it a bit.
I went with navy chinos instead of khaki to avoid looking too military with the coat zipped up. I also added an OCBD instead of a spread collar to keep it more casual. I did stick with dark chocolate suede shoes though.
But the above look would actually be somewhat rare for me. This look below is more likely. A chunky knit shawl-collared cardigan over a casual, tie-less button-down shirt. I picked the red gingham to break through with some color amid all the neutral tones.
The jacket goes rather easily with denim and the chelsea boots make this an outfit you can throw on in a hurry to get out the door to run errands and still not look sloppy.
I wasn’t expecting to pick up this next piece, but I stumbled across this navy acrylic sweater. It has a great texture and a henley-styled buttoning that lets you put it over an OCBD and still let your necktie peak through.
It’s casual, but could easily be worn in a business casual work environment with some flannel trousers and loafers as I’ve done here. Chinos would work well, too, with some chukka boots.
Want to layer it up? Throw on a tweed jacket. This is fairly basic and would obviously work well for when temperatures outside aren’t quite cold enough for an overcoat, but still cold enough you want some bit of warmth.
I prefer to add a silk square with tweed, just to offset the textures. It helps if you make the dominant colors of your square the minor, highlight colors in the jacket (in this case, gold and blue).
While you could purchase this stuff online, I find that sizing is almost impossible to determine without trying them on. The jacket I got is a “medium-long”, so its length covered my blazers. The sweater is a 38-40 medium, but rather form fitting.
The prices are definitely attractive — at least to me. $70 for the jacket and $25 for the sweater. If you don’t live in a major urban city, you might very well be able to get similar items cheaper. I’d recommend taking a trip to your local army surplus store and seeing what they have in stock.
I’ve been looking for some outerwear for this spring and summer, but didn’t feel like throwing down lots of cash for these items. I typically wear sport coats or blazers most days and I’ve already got some overcoats (tan mac-style and navy trench-style coats) to wear over those more “dressy” items.
But as far as going casual, I didn’t really have anything to pull on over a sweater or oxford shirt. I’d been looking for a while, and there’s some great stuff out there, but I settled on a trip to the local army surplus store to get what I needed.
The first jacket is a cotton rip-stop poplin tropical coat. I guess it’s originally meant for tropical climates, which will work just fine for summer when I need a light windbreaker. The jacket’s a bit longer (I got a size “small-long”) and has two sets of pockets on the outside and a button front. It’ll probably hold up to a light rain, but nothing heavy.
This jacket came in other colors (tan, camo, navy/black), but none of them had slant top pockets and the arms were much wider. What drew me to this jacket over others was the lack of epaulets on the shoulders.
I wore this jacket twice over the weekend. On Saturday night, I wore it with a white OCBD, raw silk tie, brown tweed vest, navy chinos and boat shoes.
For running around on errands on Sunday, pink OCBD, navy linen tie, khaki chinos and sand suede desert boots.
The second jacket I got was a raincoat. The exterior is rayon, the interior is rubber and the jacket claims it’s “100% waterproof.” I don’t believe it’s military surplus since it’s actually made in Korea, but it feels up to the job. The armpits have ventilation holes and has two exterior flap pockets and a zip front.
This jacket is sized “medium, 38-40,” which seemed about right. It’s not trendy slim at all, but it’s got room for layering underneath and snaps on the cuffs to narrow or widen them.
The hood is a simple drawstring. Nothing amazing, but I’m fairly confident it’ll keep me dry. My only gripe is that it doesn’t have an interior pocket at all for a phone. I wonder if I can find a way to attach one on the inside somehow?
Together for both jackets, I paid $60 with tax and that’s about half what you’d pay for one of either type of jacket brand new from companies such as Penfield, Norse Projects, etc. Good enough for me.
I’m not one to typically wear “military-inspired casualwear,” but the price and functionality of each of these was attractive to me.
If you’re in Chicago, then you can check out Army-Navy Surplus, which is where I picked these up. For those of you not in the Chicago area, they also have a webstore that’s got a rather large selection.