Many if not most of the best looking pieces of classic menswear have evolved from military dress. And that makes sense. Military uniforms have always helped give the wearer a strong look while remaining functional. Land was never defended and empires were never conquered by men wearing snuggies and crocs.
The military is also a bastion of discipline. And frugality is one subset of discipline. Good looks, low cost, and the quality needed to keep up with a soldier’s use is a pretty solid combination. Lucky for us, the manufactures of these goods are happy to sell off the leftovers to us civilians. Five items to look for follow, with pricing examples found during a field trip to the surplus store closest to the Dappered home offices.
#1 Hats and Scarves: Wool Scarf – $5.97, Wool Watch Cap – $5.97
Stunningly inexpensive. The scarves are probably the best bet and the quality of the wool is second to none. The watch caps are obviously plain, but the wool is thick, warm, and will keep you from losing too much heat even if they get wet. The hats are pretty bulky and will itch more than most other hats.
#2 Sweaters: Acrylic Commando Sweater – $34.97 (wool will be a little more)
You probably won’t find a sweater you can wear to the office, but weekend sweaters (especially if you like to get outdoors on your time off) are easily had for $50 and under. Everything from bulky wool sweaters made to take a beating, to slim fit commando style sweaters with shoulder and elbow patches.
#3 Boots of most shapes and sizes: Logger Boots – $95.97
You’re not as likely to find a boot that’s slim through the toe (and thus would be easy to dress up with a blazer and jeans) but if you want real tough boots made of good quality leather, than one of the best places to find the lowest price is at a surplus store.
#4 Wool Pants: Made in Canada Wool Pants – $24.97
These aren’t suiting wool by any stretch. This is the real deal. Thick, flannel type stuff. Tough as well. You should be able to find pants from the US, Canada, Germany, and all over the globe. Cuts can vary, but for an initial cost of around $25 then a trip to the tailor is a small extra investment.
#5 Wool Peacoats: Short Style – $139.97, Long Style Bridge Coat – $159.97
The sign above says “finest quality” and they’re not kidding. These are the real thing. 75% wool with some nylon mixed in to keep the water from soaking through. The longer coat does look a little costumey with the buttons, and it’s probably not the best idea to wear that around unless you’re actually in the service. But a tailor can easily replace those with something more subtle. Both are made in the USA.
BONUS #6 Thick Leather Jackets: Full Grain Leather Jacket – $129.97
Pretty sure this jacket weighed at least 10 pounds. You’ll find plenty of odd finds and other unusual stuff in surplus stores. You might have to sacrifice a little when it comes to looks, but expect a lot when it comes to the quality.
A sincere thank you to all the Dappered readers who have served or are currently serving in the military. The enormous benefits we run of the mill civilians get to take advantage of thanks to your sacrifice are greatly appreciated. And know that most of us realize those benefits go way beyond a stray watch cap or peacoat.