Smithsonian Museum Of American History

Even back in ‘Nam, the beloved poncho liner was a favorite among troops — or at least among one.

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I’ve written a lot about civilian businesses hawking overpriced tacticool swag over the years, from mil-spec sneakers and kicks to dress blue knockoffs and buffalo jackets to a pinstripe vest that’s more pocket and magazine pouch than article of clothing. But I never thought I’d see the day when the one piece of military gear most likely to get you an ass-chewing for not wearing, would go for $30 at a trendy clothing outlet.

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Task & Purpose photo illustration

Tactical gear — packs and clothes that are 90% pocket, camouflaged, and covered with straps and buckles — are all the rage among civilians right now. This should surprise no one given American society’s years-long love affair with “military-style” anything, but this trend has become especially egregious in recent years. Just take a look at how prevalent MOLLE has become.

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Since the first Revolutionary-era militias were born, the American troop has sought to be the best-equipped, best-trained, and most effective troop ever. Weapons, munitions, food, water: The average U.S. hero can pack most of it on their body for a day off the post, or a week rucking through the mountains.

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Task & Purpose photo illustration/U.S. Marine Corps/Cpl. Dusty Kilcrease

In 2002, Jeff Morin was a young lance corporal, just two years into a hitch in the Marines, when he struck on a business idea that combined his pride and his artistry: designing challenge coins out of his Camp Lejeune barracks. Morin would purchase generic Marine Corps commemorative coins in town and sell them on eBay for a little profit. Morin’s peers took a fast interest in his wares.

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