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The Influence of Military Styles on Civilian Wear

Military clothing is quite adaptable to civilian fashions. Throughout the centuries styles of clothing and accessories from the military have found their way into clothing worn by people who would never shoot a gun, much less participate in a war. Some of these are easily identifiable, but others take a little investigation to reveal their military origins.

One of the most readily recognizable military influences on fashion is camouflage clothing. Often, camouflage patterns intended for civilian use are more obviously decorative. Military camouflage, especially modern MARPAT and other 21st century designs are highly functional and effective at breaking up a soldier’s outline from a distance or at close ranges, and in a variety of hues of terrain. Civilian camouflage often has patches reminiscent of the large swatches of color common in mid-20th century camouflage, and often incorporate colors such as blue or orange that would be highly impractical and inappropriate for the military.

Another recognizable military influence on shoes is the desert boot. The shape and silhouette is reminiscent of the combat boots of the troops who fought in the sands of northern Africa in World War I. Modern desert boots are probably far more comfortable than those made in the 1910s and ‘20s, but the timeless look has remained.

Other aspects of military fashion are much more subtle. Khaki pants are quite common in business causal wear, and don’t seem like they have much of a military influence at all. Unlike camouflage or other militaristic styles, which are often associated with a particular subculture, khaki pants are simply seen as mainstream, conservative wear for nearly any occasion. However, they began as a part of the uniform in India during the first World War. “Khaki” means dust in Hindi, and the color was used as an early camouflage in the deserts of north Africa.

Other designs such as military style coats or overcoats are warm and cozy in winter and look sharp. When used as part of a uniform, navy pea coats and army trench coats feature medals, ribbons and other military honors make the coats quite distinctive. For civilian wear, the absence of such decorations mean that the coats appear much more conservative – they go with nearly any outfit.

Top Rank Vintage specializes in these articles of clothing and many others. While many places sell second hand clothing, Top Rank’s vintage military styles are often unworn surplus in new condition. For a distinctive, timeless look and highly durable vintage wear, look no further than Top Rank Vintage.