The iconic M-65 Field Jacket is legendary for its rugged, time-tested military design and classic look. Perhaps that's why the M-65 has been featured so prominently in such blockbuster films as Taxi Driver, Rambo, Terminator, Robocop, Dead Man Down, Serpico, Lethal Weapon and Goldeneye, among others. Developed for the US military under the MIL-C-43455J standard, the M-65 was initially produced by Alpha Industries in olive-green. Today it can be found in dozens of variations, colors and patterns. For a quick tour of some great takes on this classic piece, check out this slide show from GQ.
The popularity of the M-65 design is due in large part to its masculine aesthetic and simple functionality. A properly sized M-65 fits like a suit of armor - tough and somewhat rigid, yet comfortable and equally suited for rainy spring mornings, cool fall afternoons or cold city nights. The hidden hood, tall collar, optional cold-weather lining and massive pockets are supremely utilitarian, making the M-65 it the ultimate go-to jacket for the modern guy. Read on to find out how to keep it looking sharp for years to come.
FOR A VINTAGE LOOK:
I own an Alpha Industries M-65 in olive-green that is 100% cotton. This is the most classic variation available but is prone to pilling (The formation of little fuzzy balls on a fabric surface caused by the rubbing off of loose ends of fiber too long or strong to break away entirely.)
How you care for a cotton M-65 depends largely on the look you prefer as well as the material you're working with. Cotton, while comfortable, does not retain dye as well as nylon or polyester and fades rapidly when subjected to regular machine washings. Washing regularly will also soften the cotton resulting in a more 'broken in,' vintage look.
Vintage M-65 field jackets can be found online, at Army Surplus stores and thrift shops in nearly every corner of the globe. If you prefer buying your own new jacket and want to break it in quickly however, there are two easy ways to do so.
- Fill a large bucket with water and 1 cup salt. Mix thoroughly.
- Add the jacket to the saltwater solution. Submerge completely.
- Let soak for 72 hours, then wash regularly and line dry.
The result will be a noticeably softer feel and faded color. Once your jacket has reached the desired color and feel, treat it with ScotchGuard to prevent further wear and staining.
Alternatively, you can fill your washer with cold water and add 1.5 cups of rock salt followed by your jacket. Wash on the longest cycle, then line dry and repeat as necessary.
KEEP IT LOOKING NEW:
If vintage isn't your thing, you may want to preserve the crisp 'new' look of your favorite jacket. In my case, I have one jacket (olive green) that's my broken in 'vintage' jacket. I keep a crisp black M-65 on hand for occasions when I need to dress it up a bit.
To keep your jacket looking new I recommend starting with a cotton/poly or cotton/nylon blend as these are more resistant to fading and tend to wrinkle less. You may have to purchase a brand new jacket to get the blend you want.
Polyester shares many attributes with nylon but retains dye better. Additionally, polyester fibers do not absorb water and thus will dry faster and transfer moisture away from your body.
To maintain a crisp new M-65:
- Treat your jacket with ScotchGuard. This will add a layer of stain protection while also making it water (and blood or urine if you live in NYC) repellant. Be sure to treat the hood, hidden inside the collar and pay special attention to the pockets. You wouldn't want your iPhone getting damp the first time you find yourself running through the rain to catch a cab.
- Dry clean annually. Dry cleaning uses chemicals instead of water to remove dirt and stains. This process is much more gentle on fabrics and keeps them looking newer longer. Spending a little more on a well reviewed cleaning service is worth the investment, especially since you're probably only doing it once a year. Depending on how frequently you wear your M-65 and under what conditions, you may not even need to do this step but a once-yearly dry clean with mild starch will help maintain that crisp, new look.
That's it! Like your favorite jeans or a great pair of boots, an M-65 only gets better with age. By applying these simple steps you can expect years (or in many cases decades) of wear. As always, if you have questions please don't hesitate to ask in the comments section.
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