Men are creatures of habit and occasional innovation. We will continue doing what we do for as long as it works, then modify to make it work again. Mens jackets are a case in point, with certain established styles being tweaked and improved decade after decade. It could be argued that every possible style has already been created and named, and we’re just endlessly remixing within the limited confines of taste and fashion. An admission of defeat for the menswear designer? Will everything for here on out be a variation of the pea coat, the duffle, the mountain parka, the blazer and so on and on?
The Mackinaw is a case in point. Legend has it that the original design stems from the straits of Makinac in what is now known as Michigan in the USA. In the early 1800s the army required short wool jackets, blue of colour, with a belt and either single or double-breasted front. As the story has it they made them in blue as long as they had the fabric, and then in various other colours, including plaid.
And from army use they spread to hunters and loggers, becoming a practical workwear staple of the region. And from there into the wider world, as a style that has gone in and out of fashions, been changed and renamed as seen fit.
Another example of slightly more recent creation is the Jeep Coat. Developed during WW2 as a coat suitable for use while driving a Willys Jeep, it is more of an overcoat for use in a semi-open vehicle in poor weather conditions. It was made with duck outer and a thick wool lining, with a double-breasted front. The full name it was known as was the Mackinaw Jeep Coat.
By this time though it was a longer jacket, with a canvas outer, double-breasted with a big collar. And quite commonly a belt to snug it up. Quite a long way from it’s origins, right?
Natural Selection Denim is one of the new breed of British menswear companies. Starting out small, doing things right and aiming at men that know that quality and style has a certain price. The name comes from their aim to evolve style, in a Darwinian way. They started out as a denim company, but have added further lines to their selection season by season.
This jacket, their AW13 Mackinaw is described as being inspired and named after the Jeep Coat mentioned above. As we see, the style is very much taken from the WW2 edition, with the length and double-breasted front. The shawl collar has been reduced in size, to a size more in accordance with todays style, and no doubt also to be more practical when worn turned up.
While a huge collar could also be worn up, you would be less inclined to do so if it comes up to almost eye-level! Unless you were blasting across France in a Jeep, dodging potholes during a dark and cold winter night, delivering important messages to the Allied Command.
Natural Selection have taken a good look at what the Jeep Coat added to the Mackinaw and added a rear double vent to the design, dropped the belt and kept the length of Jeep Coat. And then taken it back in the direction of it’s roots by dropping the canvas outer and making it in luxurious Yorkshire wool.
The collar also has a throat latch to really buckle up in the cold, a handy feature indeed. The pockets have a nifty dual feature, whereby they can either have the flap buttoned on the outside, or the flap can be tucked inside. The pockets are generously sized and perfect for warming your hands while keeping an alert eye out for Jerry, or the next bus, as the case may be.
With the collar up and latched, and that double-breasted wool front, hands deep in pockets, I think this will make a splendid jacket for the chilly, dry days of winter.
The main fabric is a 1000gram wool melton by Moon Brothers of Yorkshire. Incidentally the same fabric as used in the Royal Navy Pea coats. Impeccable provenance indeed.
As a bit of a nerd when it comes to buttons I was hugely pleased to see the effort that has gone into the buttons used on my coat. Natural horn, polished and embossed. Proper buttons indeed. And those lovely buttons sure come to their right when arranged in a stunning array on the front of this jacket in two rows. Each button different, each a natural, polished little round beauty. Set off wonderfully by the tweedy wool background.
The lining is the usual viscose you would expect to find in a quality jacket. The low friction of the material greatly assists when putting it on, and ensures it hangs right on you when worn. The contrast fabric on wear surfaces is a cotton twill that works well with the wool outer.
At the end of the day, when it comes to classic menswear designs such as this, it all comes down to quality, both in materials and workmanship. As far as I can tell Natural Selection have done a sterling job in the selection of the material, with the wool melton being a great choice. Try as I might I could find no flaws in the workmanship either. A credit to the “Made in England” production.
A stylish, quality classic, good for many seasons of wear without losing integrity or looks, and good value as well! Especially as it was currently on sale on the Natural Selection website. Was available in both grey and navy colours, now only navy.