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Trends & Subcultures

16 February 2017

Rule like a master: Military fashion

AW16 was all about ruling military fashion like a master. From Burberry’s timeless trench coats to Alexander McQueen’s dress-uniform suits, the military trend was prominent for both men and women. And while the style was embraced in full on certain catwalks, and given a subtle nod on others, there was still a feast of gilded trim coats, sharply tailored jackets and officer-stripe trousers to choose from.

military style clothing

Form follows function


Many menswear items were primarily created with the battlefield in mind, but their resulting sartorial elegance has stood the test of time – and influenced the female fashion sphere in the process.


Nothing embodies the military style trend more than outerwear. Season after season, we see greatcoats and bombers on the catwalk in various guises. Second World War-style silk trophy cover-ups dominated menswear in SS16, while AW16 was all about the minimalist field jacket. Womenswear was no different in the latter season, either, with Tibi and Burberry showing red-trimmed overcoats in thick battle-ready wools.


Alexander McQueen also put forward a lesson in ruling military fashion like a master. Heavy-duty cloaks were embellished with medal-style badges, while peacoats were emblazoned with gilded stitching. Subtle yet powerful, the label’s designs provided the perfect fusion of style and practicality.


In AW15, Altuzarra coats took a nautical turn, with burnished gold buttons and sharp tailoring. Preen by Thornton Bregazzi offered a contemporary yet feminine take on the classic greatcoat in the same season, with asymmetric detailing and sparkling embellishments.


The original trench


The military fashion trend never strays far from Burberry CEO Christopher Bailey’s mind – and for good reason. The historic label was commissioned by the War Office in 1914 to produce an officer’s coat adapted to the new battlefield conditions, and thus the iconic trench was born. Once the war had ended, stars such as Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart brought the design to the public’s attention in classic films such as Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Casablanca, respectively. Since then, the style has been adapted innumerable times to fit contemporary fashion. From cropped women’s military jackets to biker styles, the simple trench has become a wardrobe staple.


Although Burberry was first to discover the power of a sharply tailored trench, it wasn’t long before the rest of the fashion industry caught up. Several haute couture houses added their own sophisticated spin to the iconic design: Herno coats are a perfectly balanced combination of utilitarian style with a refined outlook. Experimental labels such as Yohji Yamamoto have given the traditional aesthetic a conceptual spin with pocket details and oversized silhouettes.


Lanvin coats for women capture the label’s subtle decadence while staying true to the sleek lines of the original trench. The brand’s AW16 collection saw looser fits and minimalist detailing, reflecting its Parisian roots.


It’s all in the detail


From high-shine brass buttons to intricately woven trims, a new-season take on embellishment ensures the military fashion trend remains popular. Gucci embraced it with rope-braid cropped blazers on its AW16 women’s catwalk, while Givenchy jackets offered contrasting trim and full-impact epaulets.


When it comes to menswear, appliqué has long been favoured by designers. Louis Vuitton added patches to its outrageously orange bombers in SS15, while Alpha Industries was approached by Kanye to customise approximately 100 flight jackets for himself and his Yeezus tour staff in 2013.


It isn’t just outerwear that receives the military treatment, however: womenswear is often treated to uniform-style embellishment. Having studied under the dark romance of Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci, Joseph Altuzarra combined the fruits of his education with khaki-inspired elements to create his eponymous label’s collections. The brand’s AW15 show saw utilitarian dresses with canvas-style pockets and functional poppers take centre stage with its women's military style.


For AW16, Haider Ackermann created a military-influenced show from rich velvets and jewel tones. Models walked the catwalk with gold-braided hair and stripes shooting down the sides of their slim-fitting trousers. Zuhair Murad, meanwhile, took inspiration from Georgian-era uniforms, decorating its clothing with subtle embroidery and sleek gilding.


As the old saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention, and it rings true every season as the catwalks brim with Army-influenced clothing. Decades may have passed since factories were churning out greatcoats and flying jackets, but military style remains a popular choice. Opting for an all-out assault on the trend may not be your preference, but you can still make sure you’re ruling military fashion like a master with a hint of gold trim and a flash of a brass button.

military inspired clothing
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