HISTORY OF THE FLIGHT JACKET
The history of the flight jacket dates back to World War I, when most airplanes did not have an enclosed cockpit and pilots had to wear something to keep them warm.
In 1917, the United States Army officially established the Aviation Clothing Board and began providing heavy duty leather flight jackets to its pilots. These jackets featured high collars, zipper closures with wind flaps, cuffs, and waistband with wind adjustment.
In 1926, the stuntman Leslie Irvin first designed and manufactured the classic lamb skin flight and bomber jackets. He founded a manufacturing company in the UK and became the main supplier of flying jackets of the Royal Air Force for most of World War II.
As aerospace technology improved, the altitudes at which airplanes could fly increased. Some bombings in Europe were carried out from altitudes of at least 25,000 feet, where the ambient temperature could reach as low as -58°F and the cockpits of these aircraft were not insulated, so a thick warm flight jacket was a critical piece for the flight crews.
The two most historic American flight jackets are the A-2 and the G-1 jacket. Although General "Hap" Arnold canceled the original A-2 after twelve years because he wanted "something better," the A-2 is still the most recognizable and sought-after American flight jacket. The G-1, designed by the US Navy, would be the corresponding to the A-2 of the Air Corps, and it was used until 1978 when the United States Congress canceled it due to its enormous popular appeal, which it overwhelmed the Navy's supply system. Its popularity became symbols of honor, adventure, and style.
Hollywood movies like Top Gun greatly boosted sales of the G-1, turning collectors of these jackets into fashion items.
In addition to the A-2 and G-1 jackets, sheepskin jackets, originally lined with fur, are renowned for being the warmest flight jackets. This is how it was possible to establish the world record that Lieutenant John A. Macready set when in April 1921 reached an altitude of 40,000 feet in his open cabin aircraft and in 1993.
In the 1970s and 1990s, flight jackets became popular with scooter boys and in the early 2000s, it was a popular casual garment in hip-hop fashion. The jacket has also become popular with various police departments in the United States for its rugged design and strong insulation. The flight jacket has seen a resurgence in popularity during the 2010s in street fashion and is a notable staple of celebrities.
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