Whatever you call it — military, khaki, or olive green — clothes and this color go way back. And like many icons of style, whether Burberry’s gabardine trench coat, the MA-1 bomber jacket, aviator sunglasses, cargo pants, and even the cardigan, it can be traced back to the frontline.
This particular green was first used by the armed forces as a simple, one-tone camouflage, allowing its user to blend seamlessly into the landscape. In fashion, it's been used to stand out.
For more than a century, military gear has been repurposed to fit the needs of everyday people. Now, with the fallout from gorpcore’s explosion continuing to create wild demand for tech-heavy goods, the aforementioned military items still show no signs of disappearing from the fashion ranks.
This influence goes beyond function alone, though. Dip into the archives of fashion’s most iconic brands and you’ll see that olive is everywhere. It's safe to call it one of fashion’s most enduring, and genre-crossing, colors.
Thanks to the continued rise of resale shopping and '90s and '00s IG stan accounts like @prada.archive and @endyma, olive green is monopolizing the moodboards of a new generation of grail-hunters. Prada, Helmut Lang, Comme des Garçons, and Junya Watanabe are at the forefront of this wave — with escalating prices to match.
For these 'anti-fashion' designers, both form and function of military wear made perfect sense. As well as sturdy fabrics and serious pocketing, these designers paid attention to military palettes, too, making olive green a mainstay of their collections. One of the Austrian creator's most iconic pieces, Helmut Lang unveiled his 'bulletproof' vest on the runway of his 1997 collection, resplendent in — you guessed it — olive.
Helmut's ballistic vest was replicated by Prada at the end of the decade and a long list of brands since. Miuccia was clearly hooked by military influence, with the label's Fall/Winter 1998, 2000, and Miu Miu 1999, shows leaning heavily on these references and colors.
Throughout the '00s, these references went nowhere. Master of appropriation and utilitarianism, Junya Watanabe made several game-changing collections while working as lead designer at Comme des Garçons Homme, having honed his skills as a pattern cutter under Rei Kawakubo.
Junya's 2006 collection, one of his most celebrated, cast olive green as the star of the show. Taking style inspiration from Scorcese's Taxi Driver, and its use of military fabrics, looks arrived on the runway pretty much head-to-toe in olive. Below is a pair of reconstructed cargos from the collection.
At street level, it's impossible to discuss such influence without mentioning Japanese labels like WTAPS, Kapital, Neighborhood, Engineered Garments, and Porter. Japan was one of the first to introduce western military apparel to streetwear, and these brands continue to fly the olive flag.
The fact that brands continue to drop new pieces in the shade is a testament to olive's timelessness. Not only is it steeped in style history, but it simply looks good when worn. It's fun to style and layer with and it provides great contrast with tones like brown, off-white, and even purple (see Needles IG).
With olive green on our minds and timelines, we picked out some of our favorite pieces in the color, both new and from the archive. From Helmut grails to new goods from the likes of Snow Peak and Acronym, invest in this enduring shade below.
Scroll for our favorite olive green clothing of past and present.
Maison Margiela Utility Vest
Often cited as an honorary member of the "anti-fashion" Antwerp Six, the enigmatic and elusive Martin Margiela handed over the reins of his house back in 2009. The period before he stepped away from Maison Margiela is still lauded, and this archive vest comes from that very period.
Darryl Brown Military Sweater
Darryl Brown was once stylist to a certain Kanye West. Before that, he worked various industrial jobs and on the General Motors production line. During that time, he got a far better grip than most on what was really needed from workwear. Channeling that understanding into timeless and super high-quality pieces, his eponymous line just dropped its latest collection. This olive green sweater is a stunner.
Prada 1999 Wader Trousers
Prada Sport, now Linea Rossa, launched in 1998 and brought a level of function to high fashion that the world had never seen before. From its second year in the game-changing business, these nylon wader pants are so good and so relevant.
A.P.C. x Carhartt Pants
The best collections of the '90s and '00s can be used as evidence to the claim that simplicity spawns timelessness. The A.P.C. x Carhartt collab serves up a supremely clean pair of pants that you'll wear for years to come.
Engineered Garments Tote
All good olive green outfits need an accessory to finish things off. We had to stay true to one of the most trusted in the field when it comes to khaki — Engineered Garments. Simple, but beautiful.
Yume Yume Hiking Sandal
Coming courtesy of Japan, again, Yume Yume is making some of this year's best summer footwear options. Olive green mesh dresses this hiking sandal's upper while tonal green rubber at the toe and sole give it some nice weight.
Neighborhood launched in 1994, fusing American military, biker, and rock n roll aesthetics with Japanese streetwear. The label is still doing that today. Case in point: this camo hat from this season.
New Balance x Snow Peak Niobium Concept 1 Shoe
Military influence manifested itself as function in fashion and the effect is still felt today. Built for all types of terrain and weather, the New Balance x Snow Peak Niobium Concept 1 is a beast at first glance. Delve deeper, though, and you'll realize it converts into a cute house slipper.
Want to keep browsing? Head to the Highsnobiety Shop for more products that we love. Highsnobiety has affiliate marketing partnerships, which means we may receive a commission from your purchase.