For the up and coming spring/summer season military style clothing as well as sandy, desert inspired colour palettes are going to be big news – beige and browns, khaki and olive, camo, field jackets, functional military style bags and safari prints should all be on your fashion radar this summer! Many of the menswear designers who are leading the way with this trend are naming the legendary Desert Rats of 1939-1945 as their source of inspiration, bringing a more than well-deserved spotlight on their heroic story and history.
‘The Desert Rats’ was a nickname adopted by the British 7th Armoured Division who formed in the desert of North Africa just before the Second World War. The division was led by Major General Percy Hobart whose aim was to train them to thrive in the desert rather than fight against it. In 1939 General Hobart’s ideas were put in to practice as the division headed in to the western desert to build themselves up in to becoming ‘desert-wise’, training to be able to live, fight and win battles in the harsh conditions of the desert. It was later that year (1939) that war broke out and the recently trained Desert Rats took a position on the Egyptian-Libyan boarder where they watched for signs of Italian activity. In June 1940 the Italians declared war and by this point after months and months of training day and night, General Hobart had a determined, smoothly functioning fighting division under his command that before his arrival were a group of scattered units with obsolete equipment and a sleepy routine. The division, who became known as the Desert Rats were highly praised by Lieutenant-General Sir Richard O’Connor, commander of the western desert force of 1940, who called the division “the best trained division I have ever seen”.
One of the SS16 collections that took inspiration from the remarkable history of the Desert Rats came from one of our favourite brands, Belstaff. The brand ventured in to new territory this season with a concept based on desert exploration, while still managing to maintain its motorcycling DNA. The collection consisted of luxurious takes on the Desert Rats’ attire including wax field jackets that would look right at home on the backs of the 7th Armoured Division.
“The Men’s 2016 summer collection develops the concept of the great British desert explorer, an intrepid and adventurous figure, motivated by the desire for discovery in the world’s most hot and unforgiving of landscapes.
In keeping with Belstaff’s history as supplier to the British forces, a strong military influence pervades the collection, with more than a nod to the Desert Rats. This is interwoven with other references from Belstaff’s archive and heritage, such as explorers old and new who have worn the brand; namely Lawrence of Arabia in the 1930s, to those of the present day such as Levison Wood (Walking the Nile) with whom Belstaff has worked on a customised explorer jacket for SS16.” – Belstaff.co.uk
If you’re feeling inspired and think that the desert/military trend sounds fit for your wardrobe then check out our outfit selection below that has been based around the Leighwood Russet Brown Field Jacket from the Belstaff collection, or have a scroll through our key pieces for a heads up on how to get the desert explorer look.
Have a look at the full range of desert tones here.