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  • Writer's pictureNeha Ogale

Do You Remember the Green Military Jacket?

Put on your velvet choker, Lip Kit, and handle it.

 

L-R: Alexa Chung, Lily Donaldson, Gwyneth Paltrow

Spring has finally sprung. For outerwear enthusiasts, it’s a great time of year to break out those jackets that don’t really do much besides looking good. One might think of jean jackets or cropped woolen bombers. What comes to mind for me, though, is their distant cousin: the green military jacket, which has ostensibly receded from view. 


If memory serves, green jackets were thrust into the mainstream around 2016 and retained their chokehold on the average consumer through the early 2020s. Less than a decade later, people cannot expel them from their closets quickly enough. Consignment giants like ThredUp and Poshmark are teeming with what might as well be a relic from the days of yore. 


Green jackets, it must be said, were never a fashion statement. Their quiet simplicity was overshadowed by more salient trends; they lacked the audacity of neon clubbing attire, the grandeur of royalcore, and the grittiness of festival garb. These jackets instead morphed into a civilian analogue of the military uniform, which can be conceptualized as a malleable blueprint for outfit building. In the 2010s and early 2020s, uniform dressing was typified by jeans, T-shirts, and white sneakers. Green jackets, subsequently, were layered over striped tees; tied around skinnies or mom jeans; and thrown over casual dresses to curate uniforms of their own.


Part of the mass appeal of these jackets came from being designed with wearability in mind. They were sold in a subtle yet wide variety of silhouettes, fabrics, and tones. Many were hewn from cotton or lyocell, others from nylon or Gore-Tex; they came lined or unlined, drop-tailed or straight-hemmed. They were perfect for transitional seasons, with plenty of room for sweaters or fleeces underneath. For a type of jacket that doesn’t do much, the green jacket really did a lot.


Former First Lady Melania Trump photographed in 2018.

The popularity of green jackets was even more remarkable in historical context. The year 2016 will be remembered as a corrosive one, to say the least. The events that unfolded over those 365 days brought to a head many of the tensions that had long been simmering beneath the ragged terrains of our sociopolitical landscape. Amongst a bitter race for the White House, the deadliest mass shooting in United States history, the Flint water crisis, and the rise of the #MeToo movement, the very infrastructure of this country and its institutions seemed poised for imminent collapse. 


Green jackets were a sartorial constant during an era rife with civil unrest and uncertainty about the future. Politically indiscriminate and universally flattering, they represented a rare beacon of solidarity among women from all walks of life during a period when the United States appeared to be more polarized than ever. 


I recall a time in college when I spotted a classmate in an outfit that could have been whisked out of my own closet: green anorak, navy striped shirt, skinny jeans, and a pair of Vans. The moment would have been inconsequential if not for the peer in question, who was an opinion columnist at our campus newspaper and, at that time, one of two staunchly conservative crusaders on staff. Her flaming red hair was rivaled only by the incendiary ideas that poured from her mind, penning column after column against reproductive rights, funding for transgender troops in the military, and other progressive issues. 


Seeing her cross the grounds in an ensemble that I would have worn left me dismayed — in much the same way one might feel when someone they dislike says something irrefutably funny. On reflection, the idea that I actually had something in common with someone whose entire worldview stood at odds with my own reinforces one of fashion’s blithe powers: setting a standard that transcends individual differences in philosophy or personal ethos. 


As Troy Patterson wrote in The New York Times Magazine, “...the army green jacket could variously represent the shell of a loner (Robert De Niro in “Taxi Driver”) and the skin of a neurotic (Woody Allen in “Annie Hall”), the badge of the last honest man (Al Pacino in “Serpico”) and the sign of a rebel’s toughness (the guys smoking cigarettes in your high-school parking lots).” Anyone can slip into a green military jacket; all it signifies is that they like it and have good taste.  


L-R: Emma Roberts, Alessandra Ambrosio, Vanessa Hudgens

The many parallels to be drawn between the sociopolitical climate then and now are only too obvious. If 2016 was a turbulent year, it barely hinted at the severity of the turmoil that was to come in the new decade. The 2020 election yielded a narrow victory for the Left and the new administration fought to restore a long-lost dignity to the Oval Office — a feat doubly impressive given that it was accomplished on the heels of an insurrection. However, any sense of cautious optimism quickly dissipated as COVID-19 began its rampage and the country found itself plunged into a state of even deeper crisis. 


I would trace the green jacket’s decline back to this point in the early 2020s. Global lockdown orders and the transition to remote work left many of us unmoored. As life grew less structured, many wardrobes followed suit, ushering in a new era of athleisure and oversized everything. The green jackets understandably lost their status; we weren’t going outside, let alone into battle. With the tentative return to normalcy — current political climate notwithstanding — I had hoped they would make a comeback. I still have mine, a mossy-hued number to which I have sworn fealty. Even today, I find myself reaching for it over its denim and leather friends. Uniform dressing certainly seems to be regaining traction, with the capsule wardrobe concept once again circulating online, so maybe there’s hope.


Trends have always moved with the times and are, more often than not, cyclical. After all, green jackets as civilian garb stretch back to the Vietnam War era; their immense popularity has been remarkable because of their ordinariness, not in spite of it. Wherever we come from, wherever we go, certain pieces will always have a place in our closets. 🌀


 

Neha Ogale is a twenty-something freelance writer, recovering coat hoarder, and indie film enthusiast based in NYC. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @urbangremlin.

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