Flight Journal - - FLYING JACKETS -

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.

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