Leather flight jacket

Leather flight jacket

 

 

 

The beginnings. Leather flight jacket

Leather flight jacket

 

The development of motorized military units and aviation required new protective equipment against cold and wind; this protection should not excessively limit the movements of soldiers. Consequently, armies around the world began to introduce the use of leather overalls and jackets to their organizations.

Aviation pioneers adopted long coats and thick sheepskin jackets, but this equipment was often an obstacle to placing the parachute between the legs and made movement in narrow cabins quite difficult.

Leather flght jacket

Manfred von Richthofen | Leather flight jacket

The German Army is officially credited with introducing the first leather uniform for its pilots in the First World War. As early as 1915, Manfred von Richthofen, the famous “Red Baron”, wore a black leather jacket with a fur collar and fitted waist. In World War II, the German war machine turned black leather uniforms into an instrument of power.

In the early 1920s, the US Air Force invented the first thermal suits for its pilots, they were skin-lined overalls they called B1, but these suits were very thick and made mobility very difficult. Consequently, specialists developed a light and functional leather garment, the A1 jacket, began to be used from 1927 and was very popular among pilots of that time. Even Charles Lindbergh used it when he performed his feat across the Atlantic.

The German Army is officially credited with introducing the first leather uniform for its pilots in the First World War. As early as 1915, Manfred von Richthofen, the famous “Red Baron”, wore a black leather jacket with a fur collar and fitted waist. In World War II, the German war machine turned black leather uniforms into an instrument of power.

 

 

The legendary A2 jacket

Leather flight jacket

 

In 1928, the zipper produced a revolution in the textile industry and began to be used in A1 jackets, which some pilots still wore at the outbreak of the Second World War. In the early days of the war, the American government commissioned the manufacture of 200,000 zippers.

Leather flight jacket

Pilot of the Second War World | Leather flight jacket

In 1930, the US Air Force began the development of a new pilot jacket, which would become an iconic garment and continues to be produced to this day, the legendary A2 pilot jacket, which was put on in service in 1931.

The jackets were tested and manufactured under exacting criteria of altitude and temperature and assigned identification letters, the letter A to be used in summer and the B for winter and high altitude.

The sturdy and functional A2 jacket was made from brown horse leather, with a khaki cotton lining, epaulets, two front pockets, a high collar, and fitted at the waist and wrists to prevent cold wind. More than 200,000 of these jackets were manufactured in the United States between 1935 and 1944. They became the loyal companions of many World War II heroes.

In 1930, the US Air Force began the development of a new pilot jacket, which would become an iconic garment and continues to be produced to this day, the legendary A2 pilot jacket, which was put on in service in 1931.

 

 

The B3 “Bomber” jacket

Leather flight jacket

 

The famous B3 bomber jacket, with its thick sheepskin lining, was adopted by the United States Air Force in 1934, replacing the A2 flight jacket for cold weather. Its creator was Major Malcolm Grox, a physician and member of the Alaska Corp. Feeling very uncomfortable in his usual leather jumpsuit, he had the idea to cut it at waist level.

B3 “Bomber” jacket | Leather flight jacket

Made of upside-down leather, the B3 bomber jacket was worn throughout the war by General George S. Patton and became a classic garment. The “Bomber” jackets would later be developed by brands such as Avirex, Mac Douglas, Schott and Rodson.

In May 1943 it were replaced by a jacket whose slimmer fit was better suited to the narrow cabin space.

The famous B3 bomber jacket, with its thick sheepskin lining, was adopted by the United States Air Force in 1934, replacing the A2 flight jacket for cold weather. Its creator was Major Malcolm Grox, a physician and member of the Alaska Corp. Feeling very uncomfortable in his usual leather jumpsuit, he had the idea to cut it at waist level.

 

 

Much more than military equipment. Leather flight jacket

Leather flight jacket

 

Soldiers who returned from the front turned their leather jackets into leisure clothing and increased their popularity in post-war America. Along with Virginia tobacco, nylon stockings, and gum, the leather jacket became one of the iconic symbols of a victorious America.

Although it retained many users and fans, the leather jacket would disappear for many years from military equipment. During the Korean and Vietnam Wars, it was replaced by jackets made of thick cotton, nylon, and later by uniforms and equipment made from technologically developed fabrics. It was only in the mid-1980s that the U.S. Air Force began ordering leather jackets again.

Like sailors and ex-convicts, leather jackets became marks of identity for pilots of that time, who personalized them with symbols, drawings and inscriptions. For pilots and aviators in the 1939-1945 war, their jackets were much more than just clothing, they were companions in suffering and hope.

Many pilots showed off their exploits by adding a small bomb to their jacket after each mission. On some WWII bomber jackets, the painted swastikas counted how many German planes had been shot down.

Leather flight jacket

Gregory Peck in Twelve O´clock High | Leather flight jacket

Many of Hollywood’s biggest stars wore the flight jacket in some sixty movies depicting the heroism of flyers and fighter pilots, all made between the late 1930s and the 1960s. Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy in Test Pilot (1938), Errol Flynn in Dive Bomber (1941), John Wayne in The Flying Tigers (1942), Gregory Peck in Twelve O’clock High (1949), and Steve McQueen in The War Lover (1962).

While motorcycle jackets, which are from the same period, would develop a more transgressive reputation linked to a rebellious and ruleless lifestyle, the flight jacket would represent the American dream. Movies like The Right Stuff (1983) and Top Gun (1986), which made Tom Cruise a star, suggest that the hero-pilot mystique was not yet gone.

Soldiers who returned from the front turned their leather jackets into leisure clothing and increased their popularity in post-war America. Along with Virginia tobacco, nylon stockings, and gum, the leather jacket became one of the iconic symbols of a victorious America.

 

 

 

 

 

Source: “The leather book” of Anne-Laurie Quilleriet

Klauer & Iannuzzi | 2020 | Leather flight jacket