I Wrote This: Military Matters

I can write about fashion, too.


IT LOOKS as if military style is staying put. Stores were overrun with military chic near the end of last year, and unlike most trends that come and go, the spring 2010 runways are still relying on brass buttons, brocade and broad shoulders. This style has been building for a while—first, long dog-tag-style necklaces were in, followed by a huge return of boots last fall. The wildly popular military jacket took off in winter 2009, and it hasn’t looked back since.

Although the trend looks as if it should be highly regimented and cookie-cutter, it’s in fact extremely adaptable. Its influence can be seen in everything from tassels and epaulets to simple nautical stripes.

Military style has been spotted on the avenues of New York and the boulevards of Paris, as well as the on the backs of numerous Hollywood starlets. Celebrities like Mischa Barton, Sienna Miller and, in a head-turning crystal-studded version, Beyoncé, have been seen on the red carpet and around town in the ever-present military jacket.

Watch out, though, because this look can get costumey pretty quickly. We advise pairing dressed-up pieces with simple separates to avoid a camo-overload. Leaner frames should try a jacket with skinny jeans and heels, while those with curves might find belted shirt dresses with leggings, or a basic tank with high-waisted shorts, flattering.

Some in the fashion industry speculate that this return has to do with the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, citing the fact that military fashion seems to spike in times of conflict (civilians donning army jackets became a form of protest during the Vietnam War). Others say it has to do with movies and television—camo and cargo pockets coincided with Saving Private Ryan’s release in the late ’90s, and M*A*S*H may have triggered a run on heavy-metal details from the mid-’70s to the early ’80s. Perhaps we are seeing what could be called The Hurt Lockereffect in action.

Department-store brands tend to produce more authentic-looking pieces in khaki and army green. However, stores and designers geared toward a younger audience have taken a more whimsical direction, like Forever 21’s extensive range of Sgt. Pepper–style drum-major jackets and vests. Italian design house Max Mara recently wowed Milan with what’s being called a “cold war chic” line—gray woolen coats, high leather boots and fur details. The look has been burning up the Euro runways for a few years now. The highest-of-the-high-end designers, Christophe Decarmin, initially paved the way for military chic with the finely detailed jackets he debuted all the way back in 2008. But, as of now, this trend has trickled down to the mall.