The M65 Field Jacket: Your Spring Style Secret Weapon – How to Wear + Picks

The M65 Field Jacket: Your Spring Style Secret Weapon – How to Wear + Picks
Modern field jackets inspired by the 60 year old military original.

I’m not sure how it works around the rest of the country, but in Pennsylvania, this is the time of year when the weather has an identity crisis. Two days ago it was thirty-three degrees and snowing; yesterday it was fifty degrees, and today it’s seventy. Oh, and it’s going to be thirty degrees again tomorrow. See what I mean? 

Luckily I work indoors with a consistent temperature all day. Sweaters, blazers, sport coats, I’ve got it covered. The problem is knowing which jacket to wear outside when the elements are so mercurial, especially since we’re heading into spring, which means cold mornings, fair afternoons, and brisk (and often wet) evenings.

M-65 Field Jacket
A modern field jacket with traditional M-65 details

Of course this isn’t a new problem. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. military recognized the need for an upgraded jacket, one that could withstand the elements, allow for layering if necessary, and carry a serviceman’s necessities. 

With these criteria, Alpha Industries (who had previously made standard-issue military jackets) designed the M65 field jacket, the “65” denoting the year in which it was created, replacing the M-1951 jacket that came before it. The M65 was made from NYCO, a new fabric which blended cotton and nylon, giving it greater resistance to wind and moisture than standard cotton alone. 

the label of m-65 field jacket

A tuckable hood, velcro-cuffs, and a button-snap storm flap were pragmatic design elements to keep a soldier dry and comfortable, and since (like a Pennsylvania spring) the jungle was often wet and at times chilly, the M65 had a generous cut to allow for layering. The M65 field jacket remained in service until the 80s where it was replaced by the Battle Dress Uniform (BDU) which was subsequently succeeded by the current Army Combat Uniform (ACU).

close up of zipper collar of a m65 field jacket
Traditional field jackets based on the M65 feature a hideaway hood that zippers into the collar

Fast forward five decades, and the modern, derivative field jacket hasn’t deviated much from the original M65. Primer style contributor Daniel Baraka shows us why it’s still an outstanding choice for a versatile spring jacket.

The Field Jacket is Pragmatic

Daniel consistently reaches for the field jacket because “First and foremost, it’s a practical garment.” 

man wearing field jacket over top of denim jacket with t-shirt
Daniel wears the J.Crew Military Mechanics Jacket – See below for in-stock picks / Trucker Jacket / Striped T-shirt

Function precedes form: Chores call for a chore coat; a suit calls for an overcoat, and an unpredictable spring day calls for a coat that’s ready for anything. And since some field jacket fabric is weather-resistant, and the hood rolls into the collar, you don’t need to worry about getting caught in the rain without an umbrella. 

For the guy on the go, the pockets on the field jacket aren’t just for show: phone, keys, wallet, camera, you have stuff to carry. And if you’re a dad, you can throw a fruit and veggie pouch in there as well (and if you’re me, your wife is going to ask you to hold her phone). 

The boxy, below-the-waist cut works to your advantage in terms of maneuverability and layerability. Daniel explains, “The best field jacket has some room to be layered over some heavy knits, but it’s also not so big that it can’t be worn over a t-shirt.” 

a man wearing a layered outfit with a field jacket, a denim jacket, and a shirt
Denim Jacket: Levi's (Similar) / Deck Striped T-Shirt: J.Crew / Chinos: J.Crew Factory / Watch: Baltic

The Field Jacket is Versatile

Because the field jacket is the epitome of practicality, it complements any outfit you put together. Daniel says, “I’ve yet to come up with an outfit where the field jacket didn’t feel at home.”

In this particular outfit, Daniel pairs the field jacket with a t-shirt and vintage denim jacket. Thanks in part to the field jackets looser fit, originally designed to be able to attach an optional liner, the M65 style jacket is the rare outerwear that looks sharp layered on top of another light jacket. Doesn’t that just epitomize the craziness of spring weather.The field jacket looks perfect over a t-shirt, a button-down flannel or white oxford like in Andrew’s outfit below. 

Man wearing field jacket with white dress shirt and grey dress pants
J.Crew Mercantile Jacket / Amazon Essentials Oxford Shirt / Linen Pants (similar) / Thursday Sneakers

Andrew’s outfit is inspired by a European take on including a field jacket into your style, which for decades has been used by well-dressed men to add a dash of edge to more formal clothing. Layered over a more refined, dressed up base, the M65 jacket is a perfect example of using a casual element with dressier clothes to create a clear rakish feel. With just the jacket, oxford shirt, linen suit pants, and brown leather sneakers the look is minimalist but full of nuance and detail.

And since the field jacket seamlessly dresses down with denim, it’s perfect for a smart casual look.

a man wearing a field jacket with denim jeans and boots
Levi's 501 / Thursday Chelsea Boots

The Field Jacket Ages Well by Not Aging at All

Fifty-seven years after its creation, the field jacket is still a staple in the world of men’s style. Of course most field jackets today aren’t one-to-one replicas of the 1965 issue, but they all pay design homage to the original, and even other jacket styles borrow from the M65. 

field jacket with denim trucker jacket underneath

The field jacket isn’t one that you replace after a year because, like a well-worn pair of boots or that leather wallet you got in college, the field jacket develops its own patina. Daniel elaborates, “One of the advantages of the field jacket is the older it gets, and the more you wear it, the cooler it looks.”

Here are a few field jackets inspired by the M65 worth considering for this spring: 

lucky brand field jacket

Lucky Brand Field Coat $74

amazon essentials field caot

Amazon Essentials Utility Jacket $48.70

Olive green field jacket from goodthreads

Goodthreads Lightweight Military Jacket $47.30

man wearing flint and tinder fatigue jacket

Flint & Tinder Fatigue Jacket

banana republic field jacket

Banana Republic Water-Resistant Field Jacket $62.99

madewell field jacket

Field Jacket by Madewell $148

everlane field jacket

Everlane Waxed Cotton Field Jacket, $158

gap factory field jacket

Gap Factory Canvas Utility Jacket $35.99

sid mashburn field coat

Sid Mashburn Military Jacket $350

fjallraven field coat

Fjallraven Greenland Jacket $249

alpha industries field jacket

Alpha Industries M-65 Mod Field Jacket $185

Mike Henson

Mike Henson is a literature teacher in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He enjoys shooting 35mm film, restoring vintage straight blades, purchasing too many American-made goods, and spending time with his wife and their three daughters.