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Layering for the Cold with the M-1943 Field Jacket: How American Military Studies of Climates and Bodies Shaped Popular Style

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Abstract:

Few army styles have had a greater influence on how Americans dress than the M-1943 cotton field jacket. With its high collar, loose fit, ample front pockets, and cinchable waist, the jacket has survived the test of both world war and fashion runways. While military uniforms have had a vast impact on American clothing styles, little research has been done to explain how designs transferred from technologies of war to popular fashion. Historians of design have examined the social and cultural history of uniforms, but environmental historians have only begun to consider what military uniforms might reveal about state and scientific understandings of the relationship between climate, human bodies, and materials. I trace the military chain of innovation—from design to research, testing, and finally field use—that ultimately and unexpectedly led to a popular civilian style.

This history reveals how a cotton field jacket, slightly baggy and almost unremarkable to modern eyes for its commonplace appearance, was at the center of the military’s wartime debate about how to equip soldiers for battle. This debate centered around scientific and lay understandings of the relationship of cotton and wool to extreme conditions as well as the relationship of human bodies to a range of climates. The U.S. military designed the M-43 in conversation with emerging studies of global climate in Army laboratories. The military sought to construct both human bodies and the uniforms they wore as technologies of war—rational, malleable, and universal. Of course, even as conceptually bodies were pliable, they were also real, physical, and felt the cold or heat. The story of the M-43 reveals the disconnect between the ideas behind military designs and the material experiences of soldiers who used them.
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Name: ASEH Annual Conference
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http://aseh.net


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URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170777_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Gross, Rachel. "Layering for the Cold with the M-1943 Field Jacket: How American Military Studies of Climates and Bodies Shaped Popular Style" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL, <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170777_index.html>

APA Citation:

Gross, R. S. "Layering for the Cold with the M-1943 Field Jacket: How American Military Studies of Climates and Bodies Shaped Popular Style" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the ASEH Annual Conference, Drake Hotel, Chicago, IL <Not Available>. 2018-01-10 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1170777_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: Few army styles have had a greater influence on how Americans dress than the M-1943 cotton field jacket. With its high collar, loose fit, ample front pockets, and cinchable waist, the jacket has survived the test of both world war and fashion runways. While military uniforms have had a vast impact on American clothing styles, little research has been done to explain how designs transferred from technologies of war to popular fashion. Historians of design have examined the social and cultural history of uniforms, but environmental historians have only begun to consider what military uniforms might reveal about state and scientific understandings of the relationship between climate, human bodies, and materials. I trace the military chain of innovation—from design to research, testing, and finally field use—that ultimately and unexpectedly led to a popular civilian style.

This history reveals how a cotton field jacket, slightly baggy and almost unremarkable to modern eyes for its commonplace appearance, was at the center of the military’s wartime debate about how to equip soldiers for battle. This debate centered around scientific and lay understandings of the relationship of cotton and wool to extreme conditions as well as the relationship of human bodies to a range of climates. The U.S. military designed the M-43 in conversation with emerging studies of global climate in Army laboratories. The military sought to construct both human bodies and the uniforms they wore as technologies of war—rational, malleable, and universal. Of course, even as conceptually bodies were pliable, they were also real, physical, and felt the cold or heat. The story of the M-43 reveals the disconnect between the ideas behind military designs and the material experiences of soldiers who used them.


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