Designer Kunal Rawal on how men’s fashion trends owe so much to military outfits.
A lot of menswear fashion has its origins in the war era, when clothes were created for utility rather than for appearance. Think suits and coats belonging to the French Revolution, undershirt from the US Navy, to bomber jackets inspired by the uniform of the fighter pilots. In my experience, military influences show up regularly in menswear. The trend is easy to interpret in off-duty looks as there are many different ways to wear it.
The military palette, whether worn head to toe, or broken up in different shades, or teamed with black or white, all make for a great look. If the greens (forest or olive) are too out there for you, pick khakis, browns, and charcoals. Fun fact: khaki is an Indian term which means dusty. The Indian army wore white uniforms that they used to mud up to camouflage better. Today, we have fashion techniques and washes to replicate this look.
A lot of military- inspired jackets are available in the market. For a cleaner look, opt for elements like loops, shoulder flaps and military pockets. There’s no better way to wear this look than having pieces with utility pockets or badges. However make sure that you do not get carried away with too many of these elements (like I sometimes do).
Cargo pants are yet another casual and easy-to-wear piece of clothing; we all have at least one pair in our wardrobes. Go for slimmer cargos as the pockets add bulk. These work well with boots and tee for a classic rugged look. Most fashion labels do a version of the over shirt (a staple in my wardrobe) every season. This trend works well in a city like Mumbai, compared to the bulkier pea coats and parka jackets.
Combat boots have been a staple in men’s footwear for as long as I can remember. When paired with just denims and a tee, it can take your fashion game notches higher. Accessories like berets and military caps can also be added to complete the look. Though the military trend is casual-friendly, you can dress it up with safari suits or even an olive or khaki-coloured suit.
FINDING THE RIGHT CAMOUFLAGE PRINT
The camouflage is the poster print of military fashion. This motif gets reinvented by everyone in fashion. Elements like block prints in shapes similar to camo, tonal or over-dyed camos, pasting a print on camo (similar to last season’s Valentino star camo) are the different ways in which the print has been reinvented. Those looking to make a bold statement can wear the print without tweaking it, for the rest of us camo works well as trims and on accessories.
Since camouflage is such an iconic and strong print, even a small dose of it is good enough to create an impact. For instance, try camo trucker caps, printed sneakers or a simple a camo collar. The print can also be tweaked into embroideries for festive wear. For my kurtas, I’ve found inspiration in military, whether it is epaulets, utility pockets or metallic buttons, emblems, insignias. Also, I think my feelings for this trend are quite evident in my designs.
Kunal Rawal is a leading men’s fashion designer. He tweets as @kunalrawalvibe