A Review of the J56-S (RAF)
Just got this in a few days ago and I'd like to share my initial thoughts on it. I specify that this is a review of the RAF J56 because there's a few small details that are unique to that version, and I am of the opinion that the RAF J56-S is not only the final form of J56, but the best jacket that Acronym has released in the past two seasons.
I bought J56-GT when it was released. I liked it. Didn't love it. I liked the design, but I always thought that GT Pro was too stiff a fabric for a jacket like the J56. The J56 design-wise is simply a modern take on the M65. Even the numerical name is like taking the 65 and twisting it around. I may be reading too much into the numerical significance of Acronym's naming of the 56, but my point is that it's a reworked 60's Vietnam-era military garment and GT (at least the GT that Acronym uses) isn't the proper fabric for a jacket like that. Ventile, a classic military fabric that seems more appropriate.
RAF tapes - The RAF J56 is the first jacket to employ RAF green forcelock and logo tapes. It's a minor touch, but a nice one since you can use these RAF tapes with all of your other jackets.
The chest pockets - This right here is the jacket’s identifying feature. They are conspicuous and give this jacket as a distinct “Acronym jacket” look. Voluminous, symmetrical and ergonomic top waterproof zip-access pockets. Even though they're detached from the jacket, they're easy to unzip and zip with one hand due to the way they are sewn to the jacket. These are the same style pockets as the cargo pockets on the P24A and the 3A-MZ3. They can hold quite a bit and still not interfere with the lines of the jacket. In fact, the jacket looks better when the chest pockets aren't deflated and have something in them. In addition to the top access, you can access behind the entire detached pocket from the side in the style of a hand-warmer pocket. I find this to be the singular flaw of the jacket. Those side-pockets are awkwardly accessible and you look awkward when you have your hands in them. That part of the chest pockets is mostly unusable, unfortunately.
The bottom two front pockets - waterproof zip access as well and have average volume. Suitable for easily accessible items and suitable for hands (I personally prefer to pocket my hands in my pants pockets when wearing this jacket, but the bottom pockets are certainly an option as well). Overall the jacket has an abundance of storage space that, when filled, doesn't negatively affect the look of the jacket.
Gravity pockets, interops, detachable hood, internal or external jacketsling - We are all familiar with these Acronym staples so I won't get into them in the review. They are all accounted for and certainly add to its appeal, but they are not a unique facet of this jacket. The liner-compatible zip, which appears to be the new standard for Acronym, is present as well.
Cinches - As with J56-GT, there are SpeedLock cinches at the bottom of the jacket, however the J56-S adds an additional cinch inside the back of the jacket at the midsection. I don't think they mentioned anything about this in the pictures or description, so it came as a pleasant surprise.
This may seem a minor addition, but it significantly increases the versatility of the jacket. When cinches are loose and wide open, the jacket is suitable for a liner or warm layering. When midsection is cinched and bottom is as well, the jacket turns into a more fitted and sharp looking field jacket.
Closure - I'm sure that there were some people initially turned off by the fact that this jacket utilizes snaps & buttons as its closure. As referenced in its official description, this is a "contemporary nod to tradition" and I personally appreciate that Acronym approached the snap/button closure in a unique and functional way. The snaps attach by folding the right side out towards the inside of the left side of the jacket, creating a windproof closure. The big buttons close the front. All but one button in between the top of the chest pockets are hidden behind a flap. A nice detail - the fabric that lines the interior of the flap is a soft touch, felt-like fabric. On the RAF version, this fabric is a contrasting black color. I personally don't mind all the snaps and buttons, but I can see how someone would find the whole process annoying.
As with most Acronym garments, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. You really must wear the jacket a while to really understand how nice it really is. I really can’t recommend this jacket enough. Grab one if you can.