How Military Style Can Level Up Your Closet: The Complete Guide for Men

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by  Savarone Ammann | Last Updated:  Apr 28, 2021

The trials and tribulations of war are not for ordinary men.

Yet, most of us ordinary men wear styles that were first introduced on the battlefront.

Bomber jackets, crew-neck tees, chinos, boots, watches, hats. These garments were first built for function and utility. Today, they’re iconic, everyday staples.

The bomber jacket has risen the ranks as one of the trendiest garments in contemporary men’s fashion—and for good reason. This style of jacket, along with other military essentials, can keep you looking timeless, tasteful, and dare I say—even a bit rugged, in a Daniel-Craig-as-Bond kind of way.

And looking like that is never a bad thing.

4 Military Style Essentials You Need to Know About

Here’s five standout garments that have traversed oceans and continents to add style and utility to both military personnel and just the guys down the street at your local watering hole. 

  • Jackets
  • Watches
  • Hats
  • Boots

How to Pick a Military Style Jacket

Man crouching in front of graffiti in bomber

It might surprise you, but there’s a number of variations to consider when purchasing a military style jacket. You’ve got field jackets, flight jackets, naval jackets, and crew coats.

At The Adult Man, we’re avid fans of each of these. Truly. Yet, the top three military style jackets I’ve picked out for you here are either a field or flight jacket. These two styles capture the idyllic blend of military and street styles.

Field jackets are terrific. They typically have a well-worn, functional look which makes them the best choice for casual, outdoor wear. Field jackets have tons of pockets for storage and leave a little space around the torso and arms so you can layer up underneath. 

Man in bomber jacket on train tracks

A cool fact about field jackets is that they come with a coordinating number attached. This represents the year it was released. So M-51, for example, means this jacket came out in 1951. 

You might be thinking “why don’t I see bomber jackets on this list?” They’re here! Bomber jackets are synonymous with flight jackets. They’re the same thing.

You might only know them as “bomber” jackets and not “flight” jackets because of how brands advertise them today. For the sake of consistency, I’ll refer to them as “bomber” jackets in this article.

Man in grey bomber jacket outside

Bomber jackets were designed to keep pilots warm while frigid, whistling winds whipped through their cockpits. That’s why they often come equipped with insulated materials and tight closures around the waist, cuffs, and neck. 

In modern men’s fashion, this makes for a dappered down look. A jacket that hugs your body firmly in some places but leaves a little room in the torso for whatever you throw on underneath. And while you may not be sitting in a 1900’s tin can barreling through clouds at boot-shaking speeds, bombers will still keep you warm in weather on the ground, too. 

Our 3 Favorite Military Style Jackets

Alpha Industries L-2B CTN Bomber Jacket
Man in black bomber jacket

Alpha Industries L-2B CTN Bomber rocks it in every way possible. The L-2B flight jacket came out in the 1950’s as a lightweight alternative to the iconic MA-1 jacket issued to Air Force pilots. 

Alpha Industries’ version features a garment-washed 100% cotton shell, making it an adaptable option to wear out to dinner over a button-down or v-neck, as streetwear, and with almost every outfit you can think of. It has durable metal zippers that feel substantial and are long-lasting.

Man in black unzipped bomber jacket

The L-2B is lightweight and warm at the same time with a snug fit around the waist and cuffs. The collar is practically non-existent, which is my favorite feature in a bomber. This allows the jacket to lay smoothly against whatever shirt you’re wearing underneath and beats out clunky collars in my opinion.

Alpha Industries L-2B CTN Bomber

This Alpha Industries piece is a lightweight alternative to the classic MA-1 issued to the Air Force. Rather than a nylon or polyester shell, it features cotton, which gives it a different, more relaxed vibe.

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Tom Becke Tensaw Jacket
Tom-Beckbe-tensaw jacket on model

Quite the opposite of the minimalist bomber is the Tom Becke Tensaw Jacket. This field jacket has a bulkier, rugged appearance that’s going to serve you for years to come. 

The Tensaw teeters on the brink between a full-on working man’s jacket and civilian wear—and we can get onboard with that. This jacket is made with 8oz washed shelter cloth that gives it durability and allows for a patina to develop.

Patina is the unique worn-in gloss or sheen that appears on certain fabrics over time. Think of the classic, elegant look of a well-worn pair of jeans. That’s what you get wearing this jacket through the years.

The Tensaw, like most great field jackets, comes with large pockets for easy storage. The material is rich and offers tons of protection from weather or any brush or shrubbery you’re venturing through. 

Tom Beckbe Tensaw Jacket

Made with 8oz waxed shelter cloth and a lining reminiscent of Alabama red clay, the Tensaw field coat is Tom Beckbe's flagship product. And based on the quality, it can be an heirloom, too.

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Alpha Industries MA-1 Bomber Jacket
Man in open green bomber

The MA-1 fighter pilot bomber was the first military flight jacket to permeate civilian fashion. It’s the pinnacle bomber jacket.

And while Alpha Industries has kept their MA-1 flight as close to military specifications as possible, it feels built for city streets. Alpha Industries was founded in 1959 in Knoxville, Tennessee and began as a contractor to the US military. It wasn’t until later that the brand developed into a respectable seller of American military styles for non-military folks. 

The MA-1 comes in regular and slim fit and is made of midweight flight nylon with water resistance. I like the look of nylon because it provides a soft glimmer you don’t get with other jackets. It’s a subtle way to be bold and catch someone’s eye. 

How to Pick a Military Style Watch

Unlike luxury watches adorned with fancy jewels and glitzy accents, military watches are often minimal and to-the-point. You check the time and get back to work. 

There’s so much elegance in simplicity and that’s why military watches will always remain in demand. Yet, there is one instance when it’s okay to sacrifice minimalism when shopping for a military style watch, and that’s to add more utility and function, of course. 

Our 3 Favorite Military Style Watches

VAER C5
vaer c5 closeup on black dial heritage field watch red second hand detail

Assembled in the US with sapphire crystal and a minimalist design, VAER’s C5 is the ideal military inspired watch. This watch is not only affordable, coming in around $200, but it’s also water resistant up to 100m and comes with two straps.

Because the watch face is so timeless and versatile, you can wear this watch for any occasion. And VAER recognizes this versatility too as they include one functional silicone strap and let you pick your second ranging from leather or ocean-ready nylons. 

The VAER C5 is a wonderful first or second watch if you’re new to wristwear. It’s not going to break the bank, the materials are quality, and the style is one that will earn approval without begging for attention.

Vaer C5

Featuring a Swiss Ronda movement, domed sapphire crystal, and coming with two straps, this military-inspired field watch by Vaer is easily one of our favorite affordable timepieces.

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Hamilton Khaki Field

Want a trustworthy watch brand? How about one that’s been around since 1892? That’s Hamilton. Beyond merely a rich history, Hamilton supplied the military with watches for over 100 years. That’s one way to earn hardfought credibility in the space.

The Khaki Field features a three-hand movement that offers a power reserve of 80 hours. That’s wildly impressive in the automatic movement market. The Khaki Field is water resistant up to 100m and is made with the utmost durability. It might be pricer than other models, but you’re buying an automatic movement from a trustworthy brand. And it might be the only watch you ever need.

Hamilton Khaki Field Watch

The Hamilton Khaki Field is beloved by the watch community because it's tough, reliable, and the price is right.

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Casio G-Shock

In the watchworld, few models have garnered greater universal acclaim than Casio’s G-Shock. This watch is the tactical watch to end all tactical watches. The G-shock is all about utility, the equivalent of a Swiss army knife you wear on your wrist. 

There are many G-shock models, but most come with 200m water resistance, shock resistance, an alarm, full auto calendar, and a stopwatch capability. Many models come stacked with GPS or compass, an altimeter, barometer, thermometer, and LED backlights.

This is more than a watch; it’s a digital tool that can last through anything. 

Casio G-Shock Mudman G9300

A favorite among serious watch collectors, the G-Shock Mudman is as tough as it looks. It features a Twin Sensor, which includes highly effective direction and thermo sensors, making it ideal for sports and outdoor activities. As the older model, it has fewer features than the Rangeman.

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How to Rock Military Style Hats

When it comes to selecting a military style hat, you have to be careful. Most models are reserved for specific branches of the military and wearing them as a civilian could come across as disrespectful. 

You also won’t find tons of military style hats on the market. Berets and other types simply haven’t infiltrated streetwear the way jackets or watches have.

That being said, there are simple army and cadet style caps that look great on some guys. A cadet cap has a more circular bucket than traditional hats and typically features a rounded brim. This is traditionally worn by cadets with a uniform. 

The cadet cap is an understated accessory and one that pairs nicely with a jacket or sweater. Admittedly, I haven’t seen a ton of guys pull off the cadet cap. But the ones that do, pull it off seamlessly.

How to Wear Military Style Boots

Tactical and combat boots have always had a variety of benefits for trudging through off-road terrain, working in a shop or outdoors, and providing sufficient ankle support. But lately, the fashion world kicked up new dirt around military style boots. It’s become a growing trend as more boots pop up on city street nationwide.

Guys have begun replacing traditional winter boots with military style boots because they provide ample weather protection, appear less clunky, and offer a fashionable edge.

Combat boots are typically constructed of leather and go part way up the lower shin. Since they fit snugly over your foot and ankle, you’ll want to pair them with slimmer, tapered pants. I like Dr. Martens 1460 Greasy Leather Lace Up Boots and Kenneth Cole 2.0 Combat Boots as iconic styles that can be integrated into any wardrobe.

Try rocking a pair of combat or tactical boots with a dark pair of jeans or chinos and see if it complements your closet. Borrowing military style boots for cold weather walkaround footwear is a simple play and pays off in both stylistically and functionally.

Dr. Martens 1460

The iconic Doc's. These combat boots span the style gap between generations.

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Military Style in Streetwear

Man crouching in black bomber

Certain military styles have been impeccably adapted for streetwear. This is most apparent in jackets and boots. Certain models don’t precisely mimic military style, but instead build off it in a way that’s fresh and something entirely of their own. 

Take the bomber jacket in all its variations: because it’s sleek and uncomplicated, it meshes well with almost every guy’s closet and can be worn over a t-shirt, polo, button down, or sweater.

A bomber adds depth to your outfit without feeling overbearing. I don’t know many other jackets that can make that claim. You can rock cotton for a more faded, blended-in look or go bold with nylon to add a sheen to your outfit. I pair combinations of bomber jackets over t-shirts or button downs on a regular basis.  

Man in grey bomber jacket on tracks

Bomber jackets and boots add swagger and flare to otherwise traditional garb. If streetwear is something you wear regularly, try picking up a bomber or pair of combat boots. It’s both safe and ambitious all at once.

Zip It Up

Did you grab any closet upgrade ideas? Military styles are cemented in mainstream fashion, and unlike fads or trends, they aren’t going anywhere.

Whether it’s a variation of the beloved bomber jacket, a minimal watch, a cadet cap, or a pair of lace-up combat boots, there’s no limit to what you can pair military styles with. So have fun with it. 

FAQs

Is military style still in fashion?

Military style will forever be ingrained in the male wardrobe. Items like bomber jackets, crew-neck tees, watches, boots, chinos, and hats all originated from the front lines and crept into everyday wear.

Are camo pants in style?

While it’s not usually considered offensive to wear camo pants, they tend to be a loud and risky style choice. Some folks may think you’re a hunter if you wear camo pants. But if you aren’t a hunter or wearing a military issued uniform, you may not want to draw the attention that comes with wearing camo pants.

Is it disrespectful to wear military apparel?

We don’t recommend wearing insignia or apparel from specific branches of the military, unless you are enlisted or served in that branch of military. That being said, bomber jackets, tactical boots, and even a military style cadet hat aren’t considered offensive and can add depth and versatility to your wardrobe.

Does grey go with camo?

If you’re going to wear camo, pair it with solid, neutral colors like black, white, or grey.

Shop This Post

Alpha Industries L-2B CTN Bomber
A cotton variant on an iconic design
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Vaer C5
A beast of a field watch
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Dr. Martens 1460
Simple, basic combat boots
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