A once underground rebellious piece of clothing has suddenly become very sought after. Thanks to Stranger Things and the over-night heart throb Eddie Munson, played by English actor Joseph Quinn, the battle jacket is the newest must have item on the fashion radar. But what even is a battle jacket, and where did it come from?
A battle jacket, also known as a battle vest or a cut off is usually made from denim but also leather, and can be traced back to WW2 and the US military, where pilots and personnel would decorate their flight suits and bomber jackets with their squadron’s insignia. After the war, the biker culture was born and the battle jacket took on a new life with a similar meaning.
Biker gangs are well known for wearing jackets with their club logo on the back, with certain images and colour showing affiliation with different groups, which did sometimes cause inter-gang warfare. From the bikers grew the mods and rockers in the 1960s, who were not only divided by parkas and suits to leather and jeans, but also music choices.
Then, the punks whose ‘fuck pop culture’ took on the battle jacket as a way to represent their individuality and non-conformity, often decorated with pins, spikes and chains with DIY mending and anti-political statements. After came the heavy metal scene, where the full back patch as seen on Eddie was first really used in the new wave in Britain, where your cut off showed your music choices and gig history.
Leather was often painted due to the heavy duty material, but denim was easier
to work with, so the owner would often sew on their own patches and decoration which makes each one a true individual work of art. There are different styles and choices depending on your music taste and even geographical location, with a cut off going through many changes and stages throughout its life, from reworking a patch to removing collars and shortening depending on your affiliations. There has been talk of some unwritten rules floating about, mainly don’t put on patches of bands you don’t listen to (fakers can walk away) and try not to cause offence with what you display (think dodgy iconography), as well as never wash your cut off.
The cut off/battle jacket has had a long history in unconventional fashion, often being the badge of honour to people that have been seen as the freaks (see why Eddie is so loved now) as it is a way of wearing your true self for all to see, to show you belong to a gang, a club that only those in the know understand. I have already been asked if I can get some vintage ones in, and that therein lies the problem….there is an understanding that you never sell your own battle vest, it stays with the maker, and in turn you should never buy one with patches already on. So those vintage beauties are rare as rocking horse shit, as they tended to follow their owner to their maker, be that God, Satan or demobat.
Best way to get one? Start your own! Buy yourself a pre-loved second hand denim jacket, chop off those sleeves and get crafty by collecting badges that are important to you. Cos we all hate a faker, and Eddie would be disappointed in you.