Since Eagle Eyes Optics owes its existence to technology developed at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, initially closely aligned with the United States Army before coming under the purview of NASA, we got to thinking about what other wearable items had their beginnings as military innovations. Turns out, there’s a lot!Aviator Sunglasses
We couldn’t start this list with any item other than our favorite: Aviator Sunglasses. Initially developed by Bausch & Lomb for the United States Air Force in 1929, the design aimed to cover as much of the field of vision as possible, to provide protection and clarity to the vision of Air Force pilots. After iconic images of General Douglas A. MacArthur wearing the sunglasses began circulating, the glasses became a sought-after fashion item, eventually being trademarked and sold commercially.
Having survived the ups and downs of becoming the go-to fashion for both dads and hipsters, Aviator sunglasses now feel timeless. Add NASA-developed optic technology to the mix, and you have yourself a classic accessory that feels like it’s straight out of the future.
The T-shirt is an item of clothing so ubiquitous, it’s hard to imagine that it ever didn’t exist. But it makes sense that something as practical as the T-shirt had military origins. Originally issued by the U.S. Navy, white T-shirts were worn when performing dirty tasks (so as not to soil their uniforms), and when on submarines or in tropical climates, so as not to sweat through their uniforms. The T-shirt took off as a popular item of civilian clothing after Marlon Brando sported one in “A Streetcar Named Desire” in 1951.
Initially worn by British soldiers in the late 1930s, the cargo pant as we know didn’t evolve until the 1940s, when American paratroopers had an extra-large pocket added to each of their pant-legs, to carry large radios and extra ammunition. The style was “reclaimed” in the 1990s as a functional fashion for both travel and everyday wear, and it has been a staple ever since.
Bomber Jackets originated at a time when plane cockpits weren’t enclosed and pilots needed clothing that provided sufficient warmth. The solution: heavy-duty leather; high, wrap-around collars (often lined with fur); a wind-flap over the zipper; and snug at the wrists and waist. The romance of pilots led to its initial popularity, but the functionality and warmth of the jacket has led to its longevity.
The pea coat’s familiar silhouette seems so suited to fashion that it’s almost surprising to learn that it originated as a Dutch Naval jacket (though much less surprising when you consider the warmth and water repellency of a proper pea coat). The name originates from the Dutch pij, referring to the coarse kind of twilled blue cloth from which the jackets were made.
Though worn in military settings as far back as ancient Rome, the necktie as fashion traces its roots back to the late 17th century, when a Croatian regiment, fighting in service to the French during the Thirty Years War, appeared at the court of Louis XIV, wearing their traditional, brightly colored neckerchiefs. Louis XIV was so taken by their attire, that he began wearing a lace scarf tied around his neck, beginning a fashion craze that spread throughout Europe. The style became known as a cravat, a corruption of the phrase à la croate, or “in the style of the Croats,” and evolved into what we know today as the common necktie.
We already mentioned our favorite military fashion innovation—hey, how could it not be?—but we’d love to know which of the above suits your fancy. Let us know on our Facebook page! And let us know of any military-inspired fashions that we left out.