These days more commonly seen in the urban jungle than the depths of the rainforest, the jungle jacket remains a staple of men’s wardrobes the world over.
Of all the many pieces of military uniform to have found their way into civvy wardrobes, the jungle jacket is perhaps the one with the greatest cultural impact. Favoured by everyone from anti-war demonstrators and counter-cultural icons, to those who simply appreciate ample pocket space, the jungle jacket is a garment that’s been distilled to its essential components and stripped of superfluity. ‘Like all military surplus, US Army jackets were cheap and plentiful, and in the ‘60s became a symbol of the counter-culture,’ says Tony Sylvester, a menswear authority and noted jungle jacket devotee. ‘Students protesting the war wore these jackets, skewing the original context in deliberately provocative fashion. I always think the jungle jacket thrown over an oxford shirt and casual tie has the air of an Ivy League student reporting to the dean, having been busted for dealing pot.’ (More on that look later).
‘The Hollywood set of the early ‘70s (Pacino, Allen, and Nicholson, for example) then took them up the sartorial ladder to film festivals and galas, worn in conjunction with louche tailoring and open collars. This in turn influenced the designers of the mid ‘70s and ‘80s to incorporate them into collections.
‘It’s undeniable that olive drab – and specifically the “OG 107” colour approved by the US Army in 1952, and used in uniforms until the late '80s – works perfectly with grey flannels, navy tailoring, brown knitwear, and supports pops of colour exceedingly well. Just ask Bruce Boyer…’
It’s worth noting that the enduring appeal of the jungle jacket isn’t really the result of some particularly elegant achievement of design. In fact, the opposite is true: it feels notably un-designed. Four front pockets (the top two ever-so-slightly angled), a button fastening, a generous collar, and that’s more or less it. It’s this apparent absence of design that’s allowed the jungle jacket to transcend half a century’s worth of fashion whims, and come out the other end still looking as classic as a pair of blue jeans.