DISCLAIMER: I'm not part of the military. I come from a military family with my two older brothers in The Marines and Army and cousins in various branches as well.
Little is known about the military history behind what we wear. If not everything, the majority of menswear has it's origin in the military dating back hundreds of years. Just to name a few things that we wear that have a military background:
1) Double breasted jackets
3) Chukka boots (boots in general)
4) Bomber jackets
6) Trench coat/ peacoats
7) All things camouflage.
So suffice it to say, since the military has greatly influenced men's fashion as we now know it, there are a few things we can learn from them.
My brothers aren't into fashion like I am but having a front row seat to them being service members and they way they conduct themselves, they have more style sense than the majority of guys out there. Here is what I've observed.
Attention To Detail.
My brothers have told me about the intimidating inspections they went through at bootcamp.
From cleaning up the squad bay to cleaning their rifles to marching in cohesion to making sure their uniforms are crisp and on point and their medals are x millimeters apart, those Drill Instructors and Drill Sergeants made sure attention was paid to detail.
Based what they've told me (and the youtube videos I've seen) I've taken that same approaching with my clothing.
The details: shoes have to be polished, belt and shoes have to match, pocket square has to be folded properly, limit accessories, tie and pocket square shouldn't match, add prints but not too much,if you can't grip the bottom of the coat it's too long or short, break or no break? cuff or no cuff? pleats or no pleats? etc etc etc (too many things to name).
The point is, paying attention to the detail says you didn't just wake up and throw whatever on. Even though a segment of menswear, sprezzatura, looks like a nonchalant style, they still put some thought to it, they just make it look effortless.
When people see that you put some thought into what you wear and there's a flow to your style story, you get admired and set yourself apart from everyone else because trust me, majority of guys out there don't care about what they wear.
Now, many men might call you metrosexual or may see grooming as unmanly but it isn't about standing in front of the mirror more than your woman, it's you actually giving a damn how you look.
In the military you have no choice. From bootcamp onwards, there is high emphasis on grooming. The stories my brothers told me of the whole squad getting punished because one guy had dirt underneath his nails shows how serious they take grooming in the military. Your hair has to be regularly cut, facial hair has to nonexistent (at least when you're stateside), hygiene has to be on point, failure to make grooming a priority had severe repercussions, during and after bootcamp.
"Man, the best fitting suit I ever wore were my dress blues, that thing fit perfectly on my body" That was a quote from a cousin of mine in the Army.
Indeed, those dress blues they wear are the best fitting suits because they were custom made. In bootcamp (and I'm sure after bootcamp) those military tailors literally tailor their dress uniforms on their bodies.
As a man that's into fitness, tailoring is a heck of a difference. Almost everything you wear will have to get tailored and that makes the difference between looking sharp or looking sloppy.
"Don't judge a book by its cover" is a cute little phrase that works well in an ideal world. Problem is, we don't live in an ideal world and people will come to conclusion about you within seconds of seeing/meeting you.
The discipline of the military is transferable from their decorum to their appearance. You know when a service member stands before you. Even out of uniform, there's something different about them from the rest of us civvies.
Did I ever mention in a past blog how I got hired at JCPenney? If not, I wasn't the only one getting interviewed that day but I was the only one who got hired. While everyone was in T-shirts and cargo pants, I had on a shirt, tie and slack and this was pre-style enthusiast Ian. Upon entering the room, before I sat down, Ameena the hiring manager looked at me and yelled, "I know exactly where to put you! Jewelry Department!" Boom, I got hired and my appearance played a significant role in that.
Look, the way you present yourself matters. People WILL respond to you based on how you look, fair or unfair, that's how it is. I know this being a black man in America, I get treated a certain kind of way by some people. But I can't control this overflow of melanin I got (thank God!) but you can certainly control what you wear and how you wear it. Show some pride in what you wear.
So much more we can learn from the military such as discipline, camaraderie, courage and more, things that can makes us overall better civilians. With its roots deep firm in the military, I believe men's fashion need to show more appreciation to the military and not treat it as a separate unrelated entity. Now these four things aren't all there is to it, I'm sure there's more but I hope this can spark the thought to look to the military as inspiration for what we wear and how we wear it.