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NOVEMBER 15, 2021

SINCE 1965

The M-65 field jacket is one of the most enduring outerwear pieces in fashion history. Worn everywhere from the jungles of Vietnam and the deserts of the Middle East to iconic Hollywood movies and high-end fashion runways, field jackets have left an enduring mark on fashion history. Not much has changed in the original design, which was first created by Alpha Industries in 1965, but throughout the decades this jacket has come to represent many facets of American culture in surprising ways. Civilians who don the M-65 — among them movie stars, hippies, and activists — have fashioned it into a bold statement, while the jacket’s emphasis on functionality ensures that it never goes out of style


The first field coat, created in World War II, was the M-41 — named, as all later models were, after the year it was first produced — which functioned as part of the combat uniform in the early years of the war. The jacket was also unofficially referred to as the O.D. Cotton Field Jacket, after the material and olive drab no. 2 shade it was produced in. As the first military field coat, the M-41 was based on the design of a typical civilian windbreaker, a type of outerwear that was meant to protect the wearer against wind chill and light rain; however, the M-41 included more insulating features such as a cotton poplin outer shell and wool flannel lining, button closures at the neck and cuffs, and a button-down storm flap over the front zipper closure. The M-41 eventually gave way to the M-43, which was extended to hip-length and included a detachable hood, drawstring waist for a tighter fit, and produced in the much darker olive drab no. 7 shade. It was made in cotton sateen and was used as part of the standard combat uniform for the rest of World War II. The subsequent M-51 model updated the design to include snap button closures as well as button cuffs and a button-on hood. Made of a cotton sateen fabric similar to the M-43 and distributed in the shade OG 107, the M-51 became part of the field uniform for soldiers in the Korean War and the Vietnam War’s early years.


Alpha Industries was the first to produce the iconic M-65 field jacket. The company had officially begun contracting for the Department of Defense back in 1959; by the mid ‘60s, Alpha Industries had produced N-3B and N-2B parkas for the Air Force as well as the famous classic, the MA-1 bomber. In 1965, Alpha gave the military field jacket an upgrade for the times, starting with a more advanced blend of nylon and cotton sateen called NYCO that significantly improved the jacket’s wind and water resistance. This new model was known as the M-65. The M-65 also switched out the button-on detachable hood for one that could be hidden away into the collar with a zipper enclosure. The button cuffs were replaced with velcro and snap closures were added for the storm flap. One of the key features of the field jacket that was consistent across the different iterations was its boxy silhouette, which was structured to allow room for layering underneath in cold temperatures. This was particularly prioritized in the design of the M-65, which included interior buttons to attach a warm liner. Along with the jacket’s four front pockets — two at the breast and two at the hip — the field jacket’s new and modern design ensured the utmost capability in transitioning between changing weather patterns, an imperative in unpredictable environments such as Vietnam. The jacket’s sleek combination of functionality and versatility made it a staple of the U.S. military field uniform for decades. The M-65 field jacket was so enduring, in fact, that very little changes to the design have been made throughout the course of its lifetime as a military uniform, until it was retired in 2009.


In the 1960s, military clothing took hold as a mainstream style trend, which was a result of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and, subsequently, the availability of military surplus garments for civilians. Field jackets, as well as bombers and fishtail parkas, could be seen on the streets as the latest fashion of the new generation. The M-65 field jacket also came to be seen as a symbol of the activist movement against the Vietnam War. It was famously seen on Navy Lt. John Kerry in 1971, when he gave a public address to speak out against the war he had just returned from, as well as anti-war activists and celebrities like John Lennon and Jane Fonda. It was in the ‘70s that the M-65 also made pop culture history through Hollywood movies like Taxi Driver, where it was the defining piece of actor Robert DeNiro’s iconic look. It also appeared on Al Pacino in Serpico, Woody Allen in Annie Hall, and Arnold Schwarzenegger in the first Terminator movie.


For Fall/Winter 2021, Alpha Industries is bringing back the M-65 with an update for more contemporary times. The new M-65 Mod Field Jacket builds on the earliest design with an optional hood that can be concealed in the collar when not in use. It’s made of a polyester/cotton blend that’s both sturdy and weatherproof. True to its military roots, this M-65 Mod has retained all of the best aspects of the original field coat. The hidden snap-down button closure gives a clean, minimalist look, and multiple pockets exterior and interior pockets hold all your essentials while on the go. Plus, adjustable cuffs and drawstring details at the hood, waist, and hem, ensure a snug fit to trap heat and keep out the chill. With a boxy fit that’s perfect for layering, the M-65 Mod is the perfect outerwear piece for casual nights out and windy days. Field jackets are a wardrobe staple that are here to stay. With an easygoing style, a timeless aesthetic, and an ability to protect against a wide range of environments, the M-65 Mod Field Jacket has everything you need this winter season.


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