FLIGHT JACKETS TODAY: THE LEGEND CONTINUES
Inasmuch as leather flying jackets are at least as old as the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903, it’s impossible to guess accurately how many of the many versions of the flight jacket have been made since then. During WW II, however, the U.S. Army trained approximately 200,000 pilots which were joined by roughly 400,000 flight crew (bombardiers, gunners, navigators, etc.). And that’s only the Army Air Force. That’s well over half a million leather jackets, most of which followed their owners home to become favorite, and often admired, clothing items in postwar lives. Those original jackets set a standard for what constituted stylish (in a military sort of way) sporting wear that eventually gave birth to an industry that saw ex-military jackets as something worth replicating for sale. All one needs do is search on the Internet for “leather flying jacket” to behold a bewildering array of suppliers. Virtually all jacket manufacturers and suppliers, whether USAbased or made overseas, are guaranteed to have at least the basic A-2 Army and G-1 Navy jackets in their inventory. There’s a difference, however, between “look-alike” and “are alike” jackets. The military followed exacting specifications, and if authenticity in what you’re wearing is important, be prepared to pay a slightly higher price for both authenticity and quality. For the record, it’s almost impossible to wear out a leather jacket; one will last a normal lifetime. So you might as well avoid cutting corners. The A-2 and G-1 jackets may be the mainstays of every manufacturer, but there are a dizzying number of variations on the military jacket theme. Prior to the A-2/G-1, there were some wonderfully “different” flying jackets, and manufacturers, such as flightjacket.com, make them, sometimes on a one-off basis. These might include the button-up (no zipper) A-1 or the square-cuff (rather than the knittedcuff) G-8. Then there are the true bomber jackets, like the B-3 and B-6, that utilize sheepskin (fleece-lined) rather than leather. Or the fabric jackets, like the 1944 B-10, or the wide variation of postwar nylon jackets, all of which are functional in the extreme at a good price. Flightjacket.com (U.S. Authentic Mfg. Co.) also offers repair services for original jackets. Then there are stylistic spin-offs on the flying-jacket theme, such as “modern-era” flight jackets, which is an area in which companies such as Alpha Industries specialize. Your jacket is out there and is only as far away as your keyboard. You may not own a warbird, but nothing says you can’t look as if you do.