From The Front To Casual Friday

Catherine Traywick is unfazed by the Army’s recent foray into fashion licensing, arguing that the launch of Authentic Apparel “underscores both the public’s boundless appetite for military-inspired garb and the surprising extent to which military accoutrement has already been absorbed into popular culture”:

Wristwatches, for example, were a military tool during World War I, when the U.S. Army used them to synchronize precision attacks (they were easier to consult than the more ubiquitous pocket watches). Similarly, RayBan aviators were designed for U.S. Air Force pilots in the 1930s, as a way to prevent headaches and altitude sickness caused by sun glare. They became a household a name two decades later, when Hollywood’s leading men adopted them as an accessory. Trench coats were developed for the British Army in the 19th century, and took their name from the grimy trenches in which soldiers fought and died during World War I. Even the iconic Burberry trench has military roots: In 1901, Thomas Burberry submitted to the British War Office an officer’s raincoat design made with his own proprietary water-resistant fabric.

And khakis, now a staple of casual menswear, were a product of colonial India. In 1846, a British district officer in charge of a troop in Peshawar realized that the soldiers’ white cotton uniforms proved easy targets for snipers. So, his troops began dying their uniform with tea (or mud, depending on whom you ask), to better blend in with their surroundings. Ten years later, the Magistrate of Meerut, a city in Utter Pradesh, adapted this discovery and formed the Khaki Risala, or “Dusty Squadron.” Since then, khaki has trickled down to every branch of the U.S. Armed Forces.