Known worldwide for its iconic appearances in mainstream media and countless after-market commercial reproductions, the M-65 field jacket has flawlessly integrated into the world of modern fashion. Its utilitarian and simple, yet stylish design appeals to a vast audience from casual vintage fashion followers to military enthusiasts alike.
The M65 was first developed in 1965 and had a lengthy service life before its recent departure from US military service. Since then, numerous other militaries have adopted and copied the design for their own use. More recently, a handful of British news correspondents and Ukrainian servicemen have been seen wearing M65s in Ukraine, meaning this timeless jacket can still hold up to the challenges of the modern battlefield.
The overall form of the M65 is akin to its predecessor and many of the characteristics of the M-1951 jacket were carried over into the newer model. However, the use of ‘hook and loop’ fasteners (Velcro) in place of buttons is one of the defining features of the M65 and is what really sets it apart from older field jackets. Furthermore, the M65 eliminates the necessity for a separate detachable hood by integrating one into a zip-fastened compartment inside the collar. The M65 also has attachment points that accommodate a removable quilted liner and an external fur-trim hood for colder weather. The shell is made from a midweight NyCo blend wind resistant sateen, fully lined with a lightweight NyCo blend wind resistant poplin.
Since its initial development in the mid-60s, numerous minor updates to the design have taken place. While these changes bear little improvement to the practicality or ‘look’ of the M65, they can serve collectors and military hobbyists who wish to identify when their jacket was produced. While contract labels will always offer an exact two digit date code, if the labels are missing, one may use these particular nuances to their advantage.
Contract Labels are undeniably the best way to ‘date’ any piece of US Military uniform or equipment. They contain tonnes of useful information that one can use to determine the authenticity of their jacket, find sizing information, etc. M65s will have a contract label inside the jacket, under the collar, or on earlier models, on the lining, under the bottom right pocket. Early contracts will also have an instruction label which can be found in the same place.
Top left to bottom right: 1966, 1967, 1970, 1977, 1980, 1989, 2008, Alpha Ind. Civilian Copy (note the 'RN' number which indicates non-government issue)
While we won't be diving too deeply into the intricacies of contract labels and numbers in this post, there are a couple of easy ways to identify the period of manufacture from the label. Firstly, the contract number (beginning with DSA, DLA, SPO, or SPM) will contain a two digit date code. This date code is not necessarily the exact calendar year of manufacture, whereas it is the fiscal year that the contract was awarded to the contractor (manufacturer). Some contracts lasted numerous months and sometimes even years until the contract was fulfilled, so the two digit date code may not correspond with the exact date of manufacture.
The title of the garment may also be used to identify the time period of which a jacket was manufactured. If the contract number is illegible, the title (at the top of the label) may be used to roughly date an M65. Below are two examples of how OG-107 M65s were titled within their respective timeframes.
1966-1970: COAT, MAN’S, FIELD, WITH HOOD, NYLON COTTON SATEEN, OG-107
1971-1991: COAT, COLD WEATHER, MAN’S, FIELD, OG-107
The surest way to quickly identify an early M65 is by looking at the zips on the main closure and behind the collar. Chromed alloy zips were used from the very first contract in 1965 until 1971 (which conveniently coincides approximately with the end of US involvement in Vietnam). If you can be sure that the zip hasn’t been replaced, all ‘chrome zip’ M65s may be considered wartime and are generally much more desirable than later production models. From 1972 onward, M65s were manufactured with brass zips until 1986 when they were changed again to plastic.
1966-1971 Chrome (left), 1972-1986 Brass (centre), 1986-2008 Plastic (right)
Two types of cuff adjustment options may be found on M65s and the change was made only a few years into production in 1968. The first type which may be seen on 1st and 2nd pattern M65s has an additional piece of poplin fabric (same fabric as used on the lining) sewn between the ‘hook-and-loop’ adjustment tabs. This allows the cuff to be opened up without distorting the shape of the lower arm. This feature was removed on all M65s with 1969 contracts onward.
Type 1 bellows cuff (left), type 2 straight cuff (right)
The rarest and most desirable iteration is the 1st pattern M65 which is very easily identifiable by the lack of epaulettes on the shoulders. This model was produced only during the very first run of contracts in 1965 and 1966. They were made in very limited numbers in comparison to later contracts.
1st Pattern (top), 2nd Pattern (bottom)
The US Military adopted numerous camo prints between 1965-2008 - three of which transferred onto the M65.
The first camouflage pattern to be officially printed on US issue M65s was the Woodland camouflage pattern (commonly referred to as M81 Woodland). The first Woodland M65 contracts were awarded in FY1980 and final contracts were awarded in FY2001.
For use in Iraq and Afghanistan, the ‘3-Colour Desert’ (DCU) camouflage pattern was printed on M65s. The first contracts were awarded in FY1989 and the final contracts were awarded in FY1999.
From our research, we have only found UCP M65s with contracts in FY2006 and FY2008, making it the shortest-lived camouflage pattern to be printed on M65s.
Left to right: Woodland, 3-Colour Desert, Universal Camouflage Pattern
Three official types of liners exist for the M65 jacket, the first being the rarest and most desirable with double quilting and the last being the most versatile with a three-button-up front closure.
Left to right: 1st Pattern, 2nd Pattern, 3rd Pattern
A 1st pattern liner fitted to a 1st pattern jacket (left), a 2nd pattern liner fitted to a 2nd pattern jacket (right)