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A surplus of style: The military influence on modern must-haves

DesignTara R. Hunt, Gap Inc. bloggerComment

Your best wingman when it comes to style? The military-inspired looks that are subtly gracing our favorite staples for Fall and Winter.

Take a look for yourself — the utilitarian influence has gone far beyond the aviator sunglasses craze, the punk-preferred military boots and cargo wear, and the swoon-worthy flight suits Maverick and Goose wore in Top Gun.

These style fingerprints are all over the clothes themselves — bomber jackets, peacoats, trench coats and even dresses — and tucked into the details. Pocket detailing stresses functionality, and button placement and fabrics maximize warmth for the pending season change. These looks truly stand the test of time, thanks in no small part to their versatility and undeniable coolness.

Despite their appeal, their storied history doesn't always enter the cultural conversation; how easily do we overlook the bomber jacket's roots in World War II? The hottest pieces are switching up not only the material, but the body shapes they're meant for. Old Navy's quilted bomber jacket for women, in a surplus-like army green, hits mid-hip and switches up leather for quilted rayon. Gap's take on the moto jacket hits at the waist but incorporates two key trends — motorcycle-reminiscent detailing and bonded scuba material — for a completely new garment with a subtle nod to its past.

The peacoat is another ever-fashionable piece; so much so, it's easy to forget its deeply held ties to the sea. The large collar and double row of buttons that protected sailors against sea breezes still look fresh on fashionistas of all stripes — from 1960s Marianne Faithfull to contemporary heartthrob Ryan Gosling. Classically made in navy, true to the military branch it outfitted, peacoats now look great in all colors. Old Navy uses both a classic charcoal heather and a nautical blue and white stripe to update the look. At Banana Republic, slight silhouette alterations recall the classic peacoat look, yet transform each piece into something totally new. The nicely oversized cocoon coat of today owes much to peacoat styling. At Banana Republic, the modern spotted coat features a unique textural take on outerwear; and its electric blue peacoat, with slightly extended waist, brings this classic piece right into the 21st century with a jolt.

Though Inspector Gadget, the Pink Panther, and Carmen Sandiego pushed them into 20th-century popular culture, the trench coat has been around since the 1800s. It jumped to style prominence around World War I, and it's easy to see why it never left — its silhouette is streamlined, yet detail-laden, perfect for dressing up any bad-weather look. While classic examples abound (at Gap, at Banana Republic), updated versions of this silhouette feel especially fresh. A streamlined, gray-lined trench from Gap recalls the best details of the past.

Banana Republic flipped the whole outerwear theme on its head with this seaweed-hued trench dress, but the military-surplus vibe is hitting other nontraditional items in nontraditional ways. Banana Republic's take on a coolly oversized parka (with shape-hugging cinched waist) adds a rugged look to any outfit; Old Navy's canvas field jacket looks right at home in the city, the field and anywhere in between. Banana Republic's cotton hooded jacket in light khaki — featuring deep pockets and a hat-like brimmed hood — screams military, but modern; utilitarian pockets are essential for the modern woman.

Whether the influence is overt — such as Banana Republic's camouflage-print military jacket — or tucked into the details, cooler weather is a great time to start adding a surplus of style to your look.