Roberto Viscomi looks at the genealogy of the field jacket.
Man’s development has always focused around a few essential elements: one of these is certainly, conflict. The history of classical clothing has its roots in three types of conflict that have accompanied human life since its dawn: military combat, sport and hunting.
The military has had a huge impact on men's clothing: not only through its canons of rigidity and traditionalism but also through the fabrics that have changed with changing times.
After the French wars of America, the British army had already understood that the famous "scarlet redcoats" needed to turn towards darker, camouflage colours: grey, green and khaki start to appear in with the first Napoleonic wars.
Slightly later, in the mid-nineteenth century, Prince Albert, a man of considerable taste but clearly with a practical side as well, together with his wife, Queen Victoria, agreed to eliminate ‘frills’ from the uniforms of British troops and to adapt them to a style more suited to the Indian countryside; cotton drill begins to appear together with the bones of the superb multi-tasking garment that will finally become the safari jacket.
The field jacket too originated from combat. Sartorially speaking, the safari jacket can almost be regarded as a shirt, but there is no doubt, however, that the field jacket is ajacket,to all intents and purposes.
The field jacket as we know it began in the 1940s with the creation of the Denison smock, a piece of outerwear designed for Commonwealth airborne units to wear during the Second World War. Just a year later the M-43 jacket was also introduced for European forces – a hip-length style with a four-pocket front, cut from a heavy olive drab fabric.
Moving into the 1950s, and the US military required a jacket for infantry that was technical, comfortable and with convenient pockets for any number of essential items. The next stage in the evolution of the field jacket, therefore, came with the campaign in Korea and the development of the M-51 jacket – a successor to the M-43 – before progressing further into the 1960s with the Vietnam War.
So conflict and combat have given us clothing: the hope is that in life, as in clothing, we can learn the lessons of handed down from the past.