Run Through the Jungle: Our Take on a Timeless Classic

Run Through the Jungle: Our Take on a Timeless Classic

 

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. 

 

When we came to create our own take on this timeless bit of outerwear, we knew we had to adhere to this anti-design spirit and change as little as possible. So, the Drake’s version hews pretty closely to those hard-to-beat Vietnam-era originals. We’ve subtly refined the fit to create a more flattering and deliberate silhouette (as lovely as those vintage versions are, they can be a little too shapeless), enlarged the pockets a touch, and accentuated the pleasing curve of the pocket flaps (which fasten with hidden poppers, rather than buttons, it should be mentioned). 

And then there is the fabric. We wanted something which felt authentic, and true to the garment’s roots, but just a little bit elevated. What we eventually happened upon was this beautiful ripstop cotton from Japan. At a glance it doesn’t look dissimilar to what any other jungle jacket is made from, but what the pictures perhaps can’t convey is the gorgeous tactility and substantial hand that set this cloth apart. It’s the same fabric we’ve used for this season’s Mk. II Games Blazers and matching trousers, and as you might be able to tell we’re rather smitten with it. It’s unfussy and hardwearing, but feels luxurious and will age beautifully. 

Above all, we think this will become an endlessly useful jacket for the Drake’s man. Wear it over an oxford shirt on those cooler evenings, or layered with a v-neck jumper if the temperatures dip. And despite its distinctly rugged aesthetic, the Drake’s Jungle Jacket isn’t resistant to being dressed up a touch, either. ‘I’ve actually taken to wearing mine as an alternative to a tailored jacket,’ says our Creative Director, Michael Hill. ‘I wear mine with a button-down shirt and a knitted tie, maybe a bit of knitwear, too. There’s really no end to its uses, and best of all it’s machine washable, so it really is a hard-working piece of outerwear.’ 

For cutting a swathe through the urban jungle, no jacket is better. 

 

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