[DEEP DIVE] JUNGLE FATIGUE JACKET
Welcome back to "DEEP DIVE" where we take a look into the inspiration behind some of our favorite Engineered Garments pieces. In this installation, we are featuring the "Jungle Fatigue Jacket", a reinterpretation of an era-defining military jacket, marking its debut for the Spring Summer 2022 season.
In 1961, newly elected President John F. Kennedy and his Defense Secretary Robert McNamara - the architects of U.S. involvement in the Vietnam Conflict - initiated a gradual increase of American military personnel as a bid to shore up support for South Vietnam’s Anti-Communist Diệm government. These groups included signals intelligence units to support elite Vietnamese ARVN rangers and in 1962, Army Special Forces to conduct covert operations of their own.
The troops of this first wave were issued OG-107 Utility Uniform - Type I, a shirt and pants set constructed from sturdy cotton sateen, leftover surplus production from the Korean War 10 years prior. This plan ran into issues in the sweltering and humid tropical climate. The surplus uniforms were hardy, but proved too heavy for Vietnam’s blisteringly hot weather. In 1962, following repeated requests from troops on the ground, Army Materiel Command requested defense contractor Natick Labs to design a custom uniform for US Special Forces in Vietnam.
The Tropical Combat Jacket “Type I” (often referred to as the Jungle Fatigue Jacket) first saw use in 1963, borrowing its design from the 1942 U.S. Airborne Jump Suit, but loose cut to promote ventilation, simultaneously keeping the wearer cool while adding quick-dry capabilities. The first version was constructed from 5.5 oz wind-resistant cotton poplin, and sported epaulettes, side take up tabs, and a gas flap to protect from chemical attacks, alongside two slanted bellows-type breast pockets and two bellows lower pockets on the coat, forming the core characteristics of the jacket.
On the heels of its introduction, Army Materiel Command ordered a revision to the design in August 1964, creating the “Type II” model which covered the exposed buttons which often got snagged on undergrowth with flaps, and slightly increased the weight of the fabric to 6 oz, for improved durability. Finally, the “Type III” model - which would endure for the remainder of the war - was ordered in late 1967, removing the side take up tabs, gas flap, shoulder epaulettes, and was made in even sturdier cotton ripstop.
Growing up in Aichi, Japan, the sight of U.S. servicemen was familiar to Engineered Garments designer Daiki Suzuki, whether on the T.V. program M.A.S.H. where the actors were clad in M1952 OG-107 jackets, or the U.S. Army surplus stores in the area where he lived. In those days, there was no awareness of military items as fashion, so he would spend hours poring over the various models and equipment on his own - a habit he eventually made a living from, working as a buyer in the 1990s. He traveled across America, searching high and low for high-quality, deadstock fatigues.
In order to sell these products in Japan, he needed the knowledge to discern which items were worthwhile. Instead of feeling like a tedious chore or cramming for a test, Daiki enjoyed studying these goods, learning the precise changes between models, and reveling when he found a batch of rare fatigues, like a box full of BDU Jackets constructed from 100% cotton - an uncommon haul.
In fact, the Jungle Fatigue Jacket has a close relation to the BDU Jacket (fatigues adopted by the US military in 1981), sharing some of the same details, including the signature inside gas flap. Initially preferring the BDU, the idea of experimenting with the Tropical Combat Jacket grew on Daiki as he sought to make something new.
The Engineered Garments Jungle Fatigue Jacket is a version all its own, as Daiki employed his vast knowledge to pick and choose his favorite details. The epaulets are removed, while the gas flap, side taps, and concealed buttons remain. In a show of eminent expertise, pen pockets inside both the left and right breast pockets are present - a detail found only on the first batch of the “Type I” issued in 1963. Of course, the Engineered Garments collar tab makes an appearance as well. Though not an outward embellishment, the proportions of the jacket are revamped - made to be slightly cropped and boxier for an updated look.
The Jungle Fatigue Jacket represents a tumultuous period in American history, with its clear-cut utilitarian design belying the maelstrom of chaos in which it was used. Here, it is reimagined - given new life and a new purpose. No longer confined to the battlefield, Daiki has found a place for it to exist in modern life. One of the defining pieces from the Engineered Garments Spring Summer 2022 collection, don’t miss your chance to grab the Jungle Fatigue Jacket.
The Jungle Fatigue Jacket is available in the following fabrics:
- Black Highcount Twill
- Dark Navy Highcount Twill
- Khaki Highcount Twill
- Navy Nylon Ripstop
- Olive Nylon Ripstop
- Olive Cotton Ripstop
Available in-store and online at nepenthesny.com