10 Classic vintage military pieces from the US Armed forces
The military has been infiltrating street fashion for as long as anyone can remember.
Streetwear is a more recent development, arriving in the 1990s.
The origin of military-inspired streetwear can be traced to New York after the War in Iraq. The rise of hip-hop coincided with cheap military surplus flooding the streets.
Nowadays, the military aesthetic is featured regularly in streetwear brands’ collections.
Camouflage prints now infiltrate all corners of commercial fashion, even the catwalk with top designers heavily using the constantly evolving print.
Bomber jackets, parkas, trench coats, M65 Jackets, cargos, military boots – these have become cornerstones of contemporary fashion, not only streetwear.
Several of the brands in this list began life as a dedicated streetwear brand with a love for the military aesthetic.
Others became ‘streetwear’ brands almost by accident. Military apparel or work uniform suppliers that became popular in a subculture, as was the case with Timberland and Rothco.
Streetwear inevitably draws inspiration from numerous sources and subcultures including punk, surfing, skateboarding, and Japanese street fashion.
Few streetwear brands in this list focus purely on military-inspired apparel apart from Rothco.
However, these street official brands have a reputation for military-inspired collections.
1. US NAVY N-1 DECK JACKET
Is there a label more known for camo than BAPE? The Japanese clothing brand founded by Nigo in Ura-Harajuku in 1993 began life, as a store in Harajuku Japan called ‘Nowhere’.
A Bathing Ape has also collaborated with a who’s who of global brands and international artists.
To its fans, BAPE is more than just a brand. It's an obsession and a subculture of its own.
The brand is known for its iconic BAPE camo, which the label continues to experiment with.
To see BAPE's latest collections click here.
Supreme came from humble beginnings, being an American skateboarding shop and clothing brand established in a small store in New York City in April 1994.
Today, Supreme is a billion-dollar brand and one of the most sought-after streetwear brands on earth.
Like other ‘it’ brands like A Bathing Ape, Supreme under-produces respective to the demand, resulting in a huge resale market and the air of exclusivity that sees collections to sell out fast.
Supreme is also known for its many collaborations with some of the world's leading brands across the fashion spectrum.
Outwear labels like The North Face, premium fashion houses like Luis Vuitton, and athletic apparel giants like Nike and Adidas have sought to collaborate with the Supreme team.
This diverse strategy has helped the label find new markets. Recently, the label teamed up with Italian fashion label Stone Island for an impressive military-inspired SS019 collection.
Supreme is known for its frequent usage of camo prints. One of the labels most successful lines was the ‘box logo’ hoodies, available in snow camo, woodland camo, and cow camo.
To see Supreme's latest collections click here.
3. Alpha industries
Alpha Industries is an American clothing manufacturer founded in 1959 in Knoxville, Tennessee. Initially as a contractor to the United States military, the company grew into an international commercial seller of American military style apparel and eventually streetwear.
Alpha Industries was awarded it’s first U.S. Department of Defense contracts to manufacture Air Force N-3B parkas and Navy shipboard shirts in 1959.
But it wasn’t until 1963, Alpha Industries was awarded its first contracts for outerwear styles, including the MA-1 jacket and N-2B Parka.
These military jackets have become iconic cornerstones of contemporary street fashion and remain a staple for the company.
Alpha’s iconic military silhouettes have grown in popularity with other fashion market leaders taking notice and seeking collaborations.
Some of the partnerships include Stussy, Vetements and Hurley. While collaborations with fellow heritage brands Breitling and Palladium helped reinforce Alpha's genuine military credentials.
While not a dedicated streetwear brand, Alpha Industries has branched out into fashion-forward apparel.
To see Alpha Industries latest collections click here.
The strict design ethos of Japanese streetwear label WTAPS is ‘military redefined’. Even the name “WTAPS” (pronounced ‘double tap’) is derived from a military term meaning two shots to end it.
WTAPS was born from the Harajuku streetwear scene of the 1990s, when designer Tetsu Nishiyama (pictured above left), known simply as Tet, established his first brand.
WTAPS philosophy is also based on the work of traditional Japanese carpenters known as 'Miya-Daiku', who are regarded as highly skilled and efficient with resources.
Like most big streetwear brands, WTAPS are also known for frequent collaborations with other fashion brands like Supreme, Stussy, and Vans.
To see WTAPS latest collections click here.
5. Stone Island
Stone Island began life as a diffusion line of Massimo Osti’s - an Italian garment engineer and fashion designer.
The fledgling label specialized in surface treatment of fabrics and innovative dyeing techniques.
Now head of the label, Carlo Rivetti (pictured top middle) originally met Osti when Stone Island was only one year old.
Back then the label experimented with a special fabric called ‘Tela Stella’ - a cloth that had a different color on each side and which was used to make truck tarpaulins.
The effect created was so impressive, Osti decided to do create a special collection of just seven jackets with the fabric.
The collection strongly referenced military style and featured the now iconic badge inspired by military insignia and was wildly successful.
The military aesthetic remains a strong influence in Stone Island’s collections to this day with the label continuing to experiment with different fabrics and prints.
One notable recent example is a futuristic camouflage print (bottom left) that morphs and changes in different environments.
To see Stone Island's latest collections click here.
6. G-Star RAW
G-Star RAW (commonly called G-Star) is a Dutch designer label, founded by Jos van Tilburg in Amsterdam in 1989, which is known for urban apparel and raw denim jeans.
The Inspiration behind their designs actually comes from vintage military apparel from around the world.
An example of this design aesthetic can be seen in the brand's refurbishment of a classic Amsterdam canal boat (above). It can also be seen in the garment's details like military lettering, special pockets constructions and the use of trims.
G-Star also specializes in making raw denim, a hard wearing unwashed and untreated denim.
With the military a cornerstone influence of this brand's designs, G-Star often features camo prints and military designs.
The brand teamed up with musician, artist, and designer Pharell Williams, a partnership that saw Pharell become a co-owner in the company.
To see G-star RAW's latest collections click here.
Superdry began life in 1985 conceived in Cheltenham England from the coming together of the brainchildren of two separate brands, Julian Dunkerton and James Holder.
Julian actually began his career in fashion with a clothing stall at the Cheltenham market. His passion for tailoring, high-quality fabrics, and vintage washes matched well with James’s love of typography and graphics. The idea for the brand was born following a trip to Tokyo, Japan.
Superdry started out with an initial collection of only five t-shirts, including Superdry's most iconic shirt, the Osaka 6, notably worn by ex-footballer David Beckham.
Today, Superdry is sold in more than 100 countries. Julian and James' love of the military aesthetic is also clearly apparent with the brand dropping military-inspired fashion in numerous collections.
Superdry usually stocks bomber jackets, parkas, military shirts, military-style parkas, cargos and lots of camo.
Still operated from Cheltenham, Superdry is known for its well-tailored apparel with reinforced stitching in key areas of wear and comfortable resilient fabrics that fade.
The only problem can be finding your favorites in stock, with collections rotated often.
Among the highlights of the current collection are a series of winter coats and cargo pants.
To see Superdry's latest collections click here.
Vetements began life as a French clothing and footwear 'design collective' founded by Georgian fashion designer Demna Gvasalia and CEO Guram Gvasalia in 2014.
The philosophy of the label is more pragmatic than most with down to earth designs inspired by utility, the uniform, and the military.
The label has garnered a cult following for its tongue in cheek designs incorporating mass culture and for holding runway shows in unlikely places like inside a McDonalds and the Natural History Museum.
Vetements SS19 collection (above) was inspired by founder Demna Gvasalia's experience of growing up in war-torn Georgia.
The terror of that upbringing was relayed in a collection that resembled a militia with masks, black flak jackets, and desert camouflage.
Vetements rise has been rapid, going from virtually unknown to world-renowned in only three seasons.
To see Vetements latest collections click here.
Founded by James Bond and Eddie Cruz, Undefeated (UNDFTD) is a premium sneaker boutique and brand based in Los Angeles, California.
This James Bond was actually a video editor and not a spy, before coming up with the idea.
Undefeated was one of the first ‘sneaker boutiques’ to sell limited and customized sneakers to a then niche market in 2001.
Undefeated regularly features military-inspired designs and has become known for its signature military olive and tiger camo.
The brand is also Famous for signature collaborations with apparel giants like Nike and adidas, who recently released the Undefeated x adidas Technical SS19 Running Collection (top right).
Beats By Dre also teamed up with Undefeated for custom camouflage co-branded products.
To see Undefeated's latest collections click here.
In 1953 in a small loft on Great Jones Street in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, Milton Somberg began Rothco, then known as Morris Rothenberg & Sons began selling used clothing from World War II army surplus.
Military fatigues were soon adopted by New York street culture, Rothco quickly outgrew its small loft and moved to a larger warehouse on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, New York.
Today Rothco is one of the foremost suppliers of military, tactical, outdoor clothing and gear in the world.
The brand's BDU (Battle Dress Uniform) pants have been used by military personnel and tactical operators over three decades.
Rothco has stayed true to its roots, resisting the urge to follow its contemporaries into outright streetwear.
That doesn't mean Rothco isn't still popular in streetwear circles. BDU pants are more popular today are arguably more popular as streetwear than they have ever been.
Rothco has also collaborated with other brands including New York footwear labels Supra and Pony.
To see Rothco's latest collections click here.
Timberland is a genuine heritage brand having made shoes and outdoor wear for nearly a century.
Established way back in 1928, the company has done well to not only stay relevant but to become one of the most dominant brands in its industry.
The original Timberland's didn't come along until 1973, when company founder Sidney Swartz introduced one of the first waterproof leather boots of its kind featuring premium full-grain nubuck leather, thick rubber lug soles and unprecedented craftsmanship.
This boot came to be known as 'the yellow boot' but Sidney called it the “Timberland.”
It was in the 90s however, that Timberland really rose to prominence when a who’s who from hip-hop adopted the shoes into popular culture.
Biggie Smalls, Tupac, Wu-Tang, Mobb Deep, the list is long of rappers who championed wearing ‘Tims’.
For Spring 2019, Timberland has introduced some contemporary military-inspired apparel that shows the brand is still innovating to this day.
Recently, the brand has been producing different styles of footwear. For SS19 the brand produced canvas sneakers with a camouflage print and a contemporary take on chukka boots, which historically were called ‘desert boots’ and worn by British soldiers in the Western Desert Campaign of World War II.
To see Timberland's latest collections click here.
Like Supreme, Kith began life as a boutique for men’s sneakers. Clothing was added a year later followed by womenswear in 2015.
Established in 2011 by Ronnie Fieg, Kith is known for its ground-breaking flagship stores, which provide customers with a unique shopping experience.
Adding to Kith’s cult appeal is the fact they are slightly secretive and release weekly drops rather than four seasonal collections of high fashion brands.
Kith offers a range of premium products from an in-house label to a curated selection of multi-brand apparel and footwear including military-inspired items.
The SS18 collection had its big unveiling at New York Fashion Week and featured a military aesthetic.
Collaborations with everyone from Alpha Industries to Off-White, Champion, and Nike have only enhanced the label’s appeal.
In 2018, Kith collaborated with Timberland for a military-inspired capsule that featured Wu-Tang Clan MCs Ghostface Killah and Raekwon the Chef (above).
To see Kith's latest collections click here.
13. Schott NYC
Another New York original, Schott NYC (Schott Bros) is an American clothing manufacturing company founded in New York City in 1913 by brothers Irving and Jack Schott.
The two brothers peddled their fur-lined raincoats and leather jackets door to door in the Lower East Side of New York City.
Schott NYC was the very first company to put a zipper on a jacket! Quite the claim to fame would have been a hell of a patent.
They are also the brand behind the classic motorcycle jacket (perfecto) seen on Brando in The Wild One (1953).
The jackets were actually banned by school systems around the US because they symbolized rebellion.
Schott is also a former supplier to the US military and manufactured the wool naval pea coat for the US Navy during World War II.
Being a former military supplier, Schott’s collection regularly features military-inspired apparel.
The current collection has a range of military-inspired jackets including MA-1 jackets, pea coats, flight jackets, B-3 Bomber Jackets and the occasional camouflage coach jacket (above).
To see Schott NYC's latest collections click here.