It’s well known that many garments within our wardrobes have a strong and steadfast military lineage. Whether it’s the duffle coat, khaki chino or bomber jacket, it’s surprising how many menswear classics were born on the battlefield. But when we look at the original use of these garments, it’s easy to see why they remain popular today in the civilian wardrobe. Take the peacoat for example, with a double-breasted front and ulster collar to keep out the harsh winds of a raging sea. This is a garment which is just as at home in the Windy City against a Great Lakes winter breeze or along the boardwalk of Coney Island on a fall day. Or the MA-1 Flight Jacket, arguably the most recognizable ‘bomber jacket’ of the twentieth century; originally designed for US Air Force pilots and ground crew in the 1950s, it featured a sage green outer shell which was reversible to a bright Indian Orange in order to assist downed pilots. An undisputed classic, this is a garment you’d be hard pressed not to find on the streets of NYC during fashion week.
With us firmly in the throes of winter in the Northern Hemisphere, we thought a concise run-down of some iconic US Military cold weather jackets would be a fitting tribute to fighting the cold. So read on and decide which garment is best to battle the winter.
USN N1 Deck Jacket
With the truly global scale of World War Two, the United States Navy developed a specific cold-weather uniform for sailors and ship personnel. Comprised of a deck jacket, brace overalls and a soft ‘helmet’ with a peaked front, the jacket rose to prominence and became known as the ‘N1’. Arguably the most popular jacket utilized by the Navy during the war, the N1 was designed in late 1943 and constructed of a hard-wearing corded cotton ‘jungle cloth’ outer shell. Originally manufactured in dark blue and later khaki, the jacket featured a warm alpaca lining, storm cuffs, and a hidden chinstrap collar. Often marked with the sailor’s name or ship on the reverse, the jacket’s life lasted far longer than the war years and was adopted by Hot Rod racers of the 1950s and motorcycle riders of the 1960s due to its practicality and iconic style. To read more on the jacket’s history, design and development read our garment profile here.
Here’s our line up of modern interpretations of the N1 Deck Jacket:
USAF N-3B Snorkel Parka
Originally issued in 1958 by the United States Air Force, the N-3B, commonly known as the ‘snorkel parka’ due to a small opening when the hood is fully zipped, is one of the most recognizable military heavyweight parkas. Designed to offer warmth and protection in even the harshest cold weather environments, the garment has changed very little since its inception, a testament to its timeless design and functionality. It featured storm cuffs, two waist pockets, two chest pockets, reinforced elbow patches, a full-length storm flap, synthetic fur hood trim, a nylon outer shell, and polyester inner lining. Originally produced in an olive grey, the garment saw use throughout the second half of the twentieth century and remains reliable to this day.
Here’s an offering of current and vintage N-3B parkas:
- The Real McCoy’s
- Buzz Rickson’s William Gibson
- Alpha Industries
- Saunders Militaria
- Brut Clothing
USAF N2B Parka
The sister to the N-3B parka, the N-2B was introduced around the same time as a shorter waist length variant. Primarily issued to aircrews assigned to troop transports, helicopters, and strategic bombers, it’s said that the jacket was temperature rated to −60 °F. Adopting many of the same features of the N-3B including a nylon outer shell, polyester lining, storm flap, fur hood trim and chest pockets. However, the N-2B also adopted a knit waistband and cuffs, split hood with zipper and ’pass-through’ pockets to enable pilots to reach their pants without exposing their hands to sub-freezing temperatures. Military giant Alpha Industries manufactured the garment for the Department of Defense (DOD) from 1963 until 1996, as well as offering a civilian model in the late-1980s due to the popularity of the jacket.
Check out some contemporary interpretations of the N-2B below:
USN A2 Deck jacket
The US Navy had a hard act to follow as a result of the N1 Deck Jacket’s success and mass appeal. It had all the hallmarks of a well designed and functional garment. But by the 1960s, construction methods and fabrics had developed, the N1 was no longer being manufactured for the military and changes in garment shape informed the development of a new deck jacket for the US Navy. The A2 Deck Jacket was introduced and quickly became a fitting tribute to its ancestor’s longevity. Not to be confused with the A-2 Flying Jacket, the deck jacket was made from a mid-weight olive drab cotton outer shell with a synthetic pile lining. With two hip pockets, side adjusters, zip closure and a distinctive left chest pocket, the garment remained simple yet effective. Like its predecessor, the A2 came to be another iconic piece of cold weather clothing, being worn by shipboard sailors to mechanics and support personnel. With a more contemporary fit and softer synthetic lining, the A2 is still overshadowed by the N-1, but really should be viewed on the same pedestal.
Here’s a selection of new and vintage A2 deck jackets:
US Army ‘Tankers’ Jacket
Officially designated the ‘Jacket, Winter, Combat’, the US Army’s ‘Tanker Jacket’ was often worn by Armored personnel and coveted by other branches of service. Being obtained through unofficial channels by Marines, Paratroopers, and Infantry, tank crews in Northwest Europe made the garment look iconic and recognizable. With an elasticated collar, hem and cuffs, the first model Tankers Jacket featured two patch pockets, a full-length zipper, bi-swing back, and wool lining. The short waist length style and boxy fit made the jacket popular with all ground troops, arguably more so than the ‘Field Jacket’ or ‘M41’ as it became commonly known. As with most Army outerwear of World War Two, the shell was a light khaki with a darker olive drab lining. The second pattern of the jacket remained largely the same as the earlier variant, only the patch pockets were replaced with internal hand warmer pockets. The garment was so popular that soldiers often had Tankers Jacket custom tailored well into the 1950s when they were on station in Korea and the Far East.
If you’re wanting to channel Brad Pitt in Fury, shop the following:
US Army Mackinaw Jeep Coat
The US Army Mackinaw or ‘Jeep Coat’ as it was commonly known, was issued in the late 1930s as a cold winter coat for troops who did not engage in much movement, including rear echelon support, drivers, and often senior officers. The Jeep Coat went through a number of visible changes since its introduction in 1938. Initially made with a heavy cotton duck outer shell and an olive drab wool lining, it featured a double breasted front, distinctive shawl collar, two hip pockets and a belt around the waist. A defining characteristic of the first pattern was also the visibility of the blanket lining which extended out onto the exterior of the collar, a feature which was done away with the second pattern of the Mackinaw. The third pattern was developed further and featured a notched collar, rather than the rounded shawl collar of earlier patterns. In addition, the outer shell was an olive drab cotton poplin, as opposed to the heavier cotton duck used on the first and second patterns.
From vintage to contemporary interpretations, check out the following selection of mackinaws here: