By Bob Reinert, USAG-Natick Public AffairsSeptember 20, 2012
NATICK, Mass. (Sept. 20, 2012) -- When it comes to fashion, America looks to, well, the Natick Soldier Systems Center, as it turns out.
At least that's the argument made by GQ. In an article entitled "Natick, Massachusetts: America's Fashion Capital," the venerable men's fashion and style magazine states its case for the home of everything U.S. service members wear.
"If America has made any lasting contribution to men's style, its (sic) utility: functional clothing," GQ wrote in a story posted to its website, Sept. 18. "And no one issues a louder clarion call for 'function' than the five-pointed Department of Defense."
GQ pointed to "the combat boot, the fatigue shirt, the camouflage print and the campaign desk, all items of veneration. We also got the T-shirt, popularized after the Spanish American War (1898). Today, we're calling attention to the G-1 flight jacket, first flown in the Korean War and delivered continuously to market ever since."
"Nearly every New York fashion house produces a version of the G-1, but these are interpretations at best, and imitations at worst, of an American classic," GQ continued. "None is quite comparable to the leather original born four hours up the road in Natick."
High praise, indeed, but such compliments are not the main reasons those at Natick design apparel for America's heroes.
"Of course, everything designed for our war fighters must be fully functional," said Annette LaFleur, team leader of the Design, Pattern and Prototype Team at Natick Soldier Research, Development and Engineering Center. "The goal is to design clothing that enhances the user's ability to perform their mission, quality of life, and protection/survivability."
Yet, LaFleur admitted that style is a consideration, even for the military.
"Image also is very important for acceptability of an item," LaFleur said. "If we are designing a protective item, we want the user to want to wear it; so the truth is, it has to look good and have that 'cool factor' to it."
LaFleur added that it takes "a huge team effort" at Natick to create those functional, acceptable items.
"Every day, it is something different for the war fighter," LaFleur said. "We make many design improvements to already fielded items and design brand-new clothing and items using written requirements and feedback from the field."
As to GQ's point about DOD's ability to produce functional clothing?
"Why wouldn't the general public want to have utility and functional clothing?" LaFleur said. "Utility in street fashion may serve many different purposes from how our war fighters need utility and function in their clothing.
"It is neat that the fashion designers and people on the street want to emulate the look of our finest men and women in uniform," she said.