I’m the first to admit I’ve probably got more Second World War ‘ephemera’ than is healthy, whether it machine-guns, long leather Wehrmacht greatcoats, or too many British gas mask bags. One part of the collection that is turning a little dangerous, though, is my mounting number of US WWII jackets. Of all the wartime uniforms, these are just about the only ones that can be worn on an everyday basis without looking a complete idiot. The point, I suppose, is that most were originally designed using pre-war civilian jackets as their start point; in other words, they look military, but not overly so. The M-41 Field Jacket, or Parsons, as it was known, was even sent to the fashion desk at Esquire magazine for their views and opinions, and was based on a pre-war civilian wind-cheater.
I’ve tend to wear my US jackets whenever I’m doing TV work and have had a fair number of emails etc about the ones I’ve been wearing in Cold War, Hot Jets. So here’s the collection and what they are:
US NAVY N-1 DECK JACKET, 1943
These were worn by the US Navy all around the world and a later version, the N-2, was still being used in the Vitenam era. My one is, if anything, a tad big, and is dense cotton twill with a serge lining. It’s my absolute favourite and I wear it a lot.
M-41 FIELD JACKET LONG, 1944
This is a long version of the original Parson’s jacket and is pretty rare as they weren’t issued to all. Like most US jackets, it’s cotton and serge lined. I’m a big fan of this one.
US EARLY WAR MACKINAW, 1942
This is the smartest of my US jackets and is made of thick cotton twill and serge lined, with the lining extending out onto the collar. The Mackinaw was also known as the Jeep coat, and having been driving around in an old 1944 Willys recently, I can see why they made these. I recently interviewed war photographer Walt Halloran and he showed me a picture of him wearing one of these.
US LATER WAR MACKINAW, 1944
This is another favourite. I’ve got several of these, but this is the only one that fits properly and I found it quite by chance at this year’s War & Peace Revival in Kent. I snapped it up for a bargain, too. It’s the same as the early war version in cut, but of a lighter cotton and without the serge collar.
US NAVY PARKA, 1943
This was a Godsend when we were filming Cold War, Hot Jets, because it was mostly done last March and it was absolutely freezing. I remember doing a late shoot at Coventry cathedral and I was very glad to have this Alpaca-lined beauty!
US M-43 FIELD JACKET, 1944
This old friend has been half-way round the world and on more battlefield tours than I care to remember. Made of tough, durable cotton, it’s got bags of pockets, is surprisingly warm in winter and not too hot in summer. It’s had a huge amount of wear. No wonder it was such a popular wartime jacket amongst the troops.
BRITISH MACKINAW, 1944
This is a British version of the Mackinaw, or Jeep Coat, and is another much-treasured jacket. Serge-lined, it’s nice and warm, with a generous collar and pockets you can sink your hands into. A little battered, I wear this on cold winter walks, not when I need to look respectable. But another cracker.