Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Sunday Re-Run: Sartorial Elegance

Our tongue is firmly in our cheek with that "elegance" bit.  That said, we do have our own personal style in garments.  From November of 2008:
We’re currently in the midst of a pretty good cold snap, as noted elsewhere and below. I kinda like that because this is the time of year I get to drag various coats and jackets out of the closet and renew my acquaintance with ‘em… an acquaintance that goes back over 20 years in two cases and nearly that amount of time in one other.
Like most guys, I don’t own a lot of outer garments. As I matter of fact, I have five…which is probably a little bit more than most men. But two of those garments are relegated to storage; I wear three outer garments on a regular basis. Strangely enough… all three are military-issue items. Today was the first day of the winter season that I wore my favorite jacket… an M-65 field jacket. (Full disclosure: I actually have two field jackets, only one of which is still serviceable enough to wear in public. The other is really worn… ripped here, torn there, the Velcro is gone, and it has all sorts of grease stains and such on it. It’s worn as a work jacket… if it’s worn at all, given as how I don’t do much “work” these days.)

My daily-wear M-65 was issued to me in 1984, the year before I retired from the Air Force. I knew I was gonna go, my retirement papers were in and approved, and I wanted a new field jacket to last me into retirement, as my old one was looking a lil bit the worse for wear. So… I beat feet down to supply, requested a new field jacket, got it, signed the receipt, and was on my way, a Happy Troop if there ever was one. I’ve worn that jacket every winter since. You cannot beat the thing for utility, what with its four large cargo pockets, collar-concealed hood, a button-in polyfil lining that keeps you oh-so-toasty, and the fact it’s waterproof… provided you give it an annual spray-down with Scotchgard. And when it gets dirty? Just throw it in the wash. That’s it. The M-65 looks damned good, it’s utilitarian, and it’s low maintenance. What else is there?
(Me and my M-65 in Yellowstone, May of 2000. It was frickin’ cold that day… and I was on the bike, too. But I stayed warm.)
Well, it turns out there IS something else. The M-65 is casual. VERY casual. For more upscale occasions I wear my pea coat. (Don’t laugh… it’s true. And I’m weird, I’ll freely admit.) My pea coat is The Real Thing and not some sort of knock-off (one sees a tremendous amount of knock-offs advertised as “Navy Issue” or some other such blather. Most aren’t even close.) And how do I know my pea coat is real? Coz it used to belong to SN2 when he was on the E-side of the Navy house (Pea coats are only worn by enlisted sailors. Ossifers wear Bridge Coats [scroll down for pic]. I’m serious.). He gifted it to me the year he was commissioned… the culmination of literally years of me badgering him to “get me a pea coat!!1!!” And so he did.

I love this coat. It, too, is quite versatile, and being 100% heavy wool it’s also very warm… especially with the collar turned up. I’ve been wearing my pea coat for about 15 years now, assuming I’ve done the math correctly. From the looks of things I’ll probably get at least another 15 years out of it… maybe more. The thing simply doesn’t show wear at all.
(Pic: Me, Grandson Sean, and SN1 on San Francisco Bay… an appropriate milieu for a pea coat, no? c. 2001.)
Last, but not at ALL least… My A2 flight jacket is perfect for Spring/Fall weather and is the jacket you’ll see me in most frequently. My A2 is over 20 years old and was made by Cooper, a firm that’s out of business now but was the official supplier to the USAF, back when the Air Force re-authorized the A2 for wear in the 1980s. The A2 I own is made of goatskin and is the “older” design, which precedes newer gub’mint-issue items manufactured after 1987. You can still buy the older model here (from Cockpit USA (formerly Avirex LTD), the current manufacturer and supplier of the A2 to the Air Force). Or… if you prefer the current, updated model (which is visually identical to the original A2 but has internal pockets)… you can buy that here.

Digression: The Second Mrs. Pennington about had a cow (man!) when I told her I wanted this jacket in the way-back. She looked at the price and flipped out… being the frugal woman she was and probably still is… telling me I could get something “just as good” for about half the price at any six stores in Detroit. But that wasn’t the point, I countered… “this is an official Mil-Spec A2!” And so it went… back ‘n’ forth. I obviously won the battle (I lost the war, but let’s not go there) and I feel somewhat vindicated, too. The jacket has lasted lo these 20+ years and looks just as good as the day I bought it. Better, even, since it’s acquired that patina one sees in old but well-kept leather. Besides that… It’s Teh Quality, Gentle Reader.
(Further digression: TSMP and I had a “one hundred dollar rule,” meaning consultation was required prior to purchasing anything over that amount. That’s a really good rule to have in a relationship, btw. It stops a lot of arguments… not to mention regrettable impulse-buys… dead in their tracks.)

(Pic: Me wearing my A2… somewhere in the Wilds of New Mexico (which is shorthand for “I don’t remember”), c. 2004.) 
And those other two outer garments? One is a Yuppie-looking windbreaker with an oh-so-discreet EDS corporate logo embroidered on it. It’s nice but it’s not me. I wore that thing rarely… most often to casual corporate events back in the day where it was de rigueur to fly the flag. I don’t know why I keep it. Souvenir value, I suppose.

The other item is a Burberry trench coat, another relic from corporate days. It, too, is most versatile, warm (with the liner zipped in), good looking in a “Bond. James Bond.” sort of way, and probably never will go out of style. I love that thing (as much as anyone can “love” an inanimate object), but it doesn’t quite go with the levis and tee shirt ensembles that are en vogue around here. But: I can’t bear to part with it and who knows? I may have to go to a funeral in a cold rain some day. And if that happens… I’m ready. 
Well. That was much ado about not much, eh?
I said we had style.  I didn't say we had GOOD style, yanno?


  1. I always kinda thought it was up to the individual to determine the style.

    Which would explain a lot. (IYKWIM)

    1. Well, you're right. I suppose we all have choices, no?

  2. my M-65 is of the Woodland Camo varity and still going dstrong after 20 years. then there is the Winter Parka, that wa at least 10 years old when it was issued to me. at turn in time they told me to keep it. it would have ended up in the dump. :-)

    1. I wish I could have kept my parka... that was the absolute warmest jacket I ever had. I had the short parka that was waist length, the one with the zip-apart, two piece hood. My supply troops weren't EVEN gonna let me keep that. I did the math and my M-65 is 30 years old this year. Talk about great clothing!


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