Written By: Mary Page
The private luxury plane industry developed from the Air Force because it provided special escorts for politicians and celebrities. Civilians admired admired the leather flight jackets pilots wore during flight. In a short time, bomber jackets became a fashion item. More than that bomber jackets projected a visual imagery that matched how brave, how strong, and how patriotic these men were.
Leather jackets were not designed for looks but for their functionality. Planes at that time were basic. Many in the early years had open cockpits .No matter how warm the day, flying in an open plane sky high would give chills or beat the pilot with wind forces.
Leather clothes in the aviator troops became standard issue during World War I. Leather had an uncanny ability to resist wind blasts yet let body sweat escape. The jackets became comfortable after continuous wear. Eventually, the jackets became a basic item in the male wardrobe.
How It Began
In the early 20th century, leather jackets became available for the troops both in wartime and peacetime. Again, the jackets were practical and versatile, which served well for the task at hand. The design of the A-2 jacket changed the garment into a romantic dashing piece. The new feature added was a zipper. It oozed swagger, daring, and mission. It embodied everything the Navy and Air Force pilots stood for.
Let the Decorating Begin
Later, the forces created insignia that identified a unit and its accomplishments, and soon the men made their own decorations to individualize their leather jackets. The symbols they chose often became a visual story of battles won, who did it, and why. Favorite women movie stars such as Rita Hayworth, logos such as Victory Girl, and the Mad Cats were blazed across the leather. Many jackets had one-of-a-kind artwork that made a statement about the man or the unit.
Decorated jackets were traded, auctioned, or used for collateral during a poker game. Stealing a jacket became a way to play a game or to take revenge. Sometimes a jacket developed a larger story than the man who first owned it. In case of a plane crash or capture, the jacket served as evidence of who the men were and what units they came from.
Jacket as a Symbol of Respect
Flyer jackets were given as gifts to family and girlfriends. Businesses noticed this trend and began to create their own lines of bomber jackets. Even after the war was long gone, the jacket, and the stories, lived on. Certain types of jackets such as the A-2 have such nostalgia that the Navy and Air Force often wait for an opportunity to wrangle money out of Congress and have the A-2s issued to the aviators again.
Buying a bomber jacket is more than buying a garment. A person is buying a piece of history, giving respect to those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and reminding future generations of what it takes to remain free and a democracy.