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A guide to help the average man... look less average

Essential Outerwear: The Field Jacket

Mark Kwak

So we're onto the second installment of the Essential Outerwear series, and today, the spotlight is on the field jacket, or sometimes more broadly called, the utility coat.


So what in the world is a field jacket? Well I'mma get descriptive on you: field jackets are jackets that are inspired by a type of outerwear design worn by soldiers during World War II, usually characterized by a rugged look made of waxed cotton or some sort of synthetic, donning multiple pockets, and generally in an olive green or khaki color, just like the military men wore it. To see a couple classic field jackets, check out the M65 or M43.

I love field jackets and utility coats, and they've become quite popular in recent years. I swear every other person on the street is wearing some sort of olive green canvas jacket, whether guy or girl, old or young. Good news is that this ubiquity has made this jacket a very seamless one to wear in any situation. You can be in casual sweats, and a field jacket won't look out of place. I've also seen the other end of the spectrum where finance folks from London are layering their Barbour jackets over their pinstripe suits. I might add that it's not a bad look.

If you're going to get one, I would recommend getting a field jacket/utility coat in a neutral color. Think olive green, khaki, navy blue, black, gray. They look best when they're a bit distressed or wrinkled, and they should fit well at the shoulder, but it's not 100% necessary for them to fit too snug. For example, the Barbour Bedale is one of my favorite field jackets, and it's actually cut in a more classic form to help make sure your movement is unrestricted while you're hunting that deer, or grappling a bear.

These jackets can also act as great rain coats. If it's made of waxed cotton, it's actually meant to be worn in the rain, as the wax keeps the jacket protected from any rain damage. I will have to warn you though, they usually aren't as warm as wool or puffer coats, and hopefully you didn't expect them to be. They work well in the winter time, but not in below zero degree weather.

Here are two of my field jackets, one being more classically field-like (the Barbour one), and the other being a little out of the box (the Banana Republic one). I like them both a lot though:

field1 field2I love the corduroy detailing on this particular jacket. field3Wear these jackets with a scarf if your neck gets cold. Looks great in my opinion. field5Here is the most common color that you'll find a field jacket in. Olive green. field6This one has no lack of detailing either. Leather on the collar. field7 This is actually the jacket that Bond wore in the main battle scene of Skyfall. Couldn't resist getting it for myself as a result. field8

Sweater: J.Crew | Scarf (blue): Todd Snyder x Gap | Scarf (black): Prada

Jeans: Rag & Bone | Jacket (blue) : Banana Republic | Jacket (black): Barbour

Now, I normally say you should spend the extra dollar in getting a piece, but honestly, with field jackets, you can find some great ones for a little less at your mass retailers like Gap or Uniqlo. Penfield also makes some less expensive ones (though they're going to be more than what you find at Gap or Uniqlo).

In the case that you do want to spend the extra dollar, I'd say look for jackets from Barbour, Filson, or Pendleton, GANT, or Jack Spade, in that order. Nordstrom has a great filter where they show only utility coats, so I'd check that out as well.

Either way, a field jacket / utility coat is a great piece that you'll own for quite some time, perhaps even for the rest of your life. I recommend getting one sooner rather than later, and wear it throughout the entire year. Love the ones I have, and I don't regret a single cent in those purchases.