Saturday, October 26, 2013

Button Aviator

An uncommon variant in this 1940s time frame was the button front aviator jacket.  The example below dates from 1946, and while the original style was a zipper fronted version of what basically was a double breasted style, this button fronted version only has a single row of buttons.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Aviator Jackets and the D Pocket : Part 4

As brought up by the previous post, the "Reverse D" was another style of pocket these jackets had, often in combination with a slanted breast map pocket.  For wearing around town, the handwarmer pockets were probably more practical than a large map pocket.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Aviator ski jackets

The ad below, dating from 1939, is interesting for a number of reasons.  First is the pocket.  It follows the conventions of what would become the d-pocket, with the curved stitching and the smaller cigarette pocket, but is flipped, with the opening functioning as a handwarmer pocket. This general scheme, in a symmetrical setup had been around since the 1920s, without the sub-pocket. Is this just a variation on a pocket style, or a stepping stone on the way to the motorcycle jacket d-pocket of the postwar years?

The ad is also interesting regarding the jacket length.  This style is best remembered as a waist or hip length- a short style.  But they were also offered in longer, "over the hip" styles.  This ad, along with many others of the period, equate this "aviator" style with the jackets worn by the Army Air Corps, despite having very little in common design-wise.  Although the "aviator" name for this style survived until about 1946, after the war, it would be applied to civilian variations on the A-2

The ad offers this aviator jacket design in both leather and in "ski cloth". Many leather jacket designs of this period and the decades before were offered both in leather and in wool, so it's no great surprise to see it in non-leather materials.  It is interesting, however, to see the crossover between this jacket style and ski jackets.  In essence, both were double breasted coats cut down to waist length, but I don't think I've ever seen such a direct link.  Below are double breasted ski jacket styles from 1941 and 1942.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Foster Sportswear Aviator Jacket

This one was made by Foster Sportswear, probably just after the war.  It's capeskin, as is typical for this style.  The combination handwarmer/flap pockets would seem more at home on a belted surcoat length leather jacket, but the diagonal map pocket is all aviator. Elastic sides, plain back, decorative buttons on the cuffs.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Aviator in the flesh

This jacket was loaned to me for photos by a friend. His father bought it just after the close of WWII and wore it for riding motorcycles for years. It is capeskin leather, with a simple half-belt back. The pocket arrangement, with hand-warmer pockets and a breast pocket is also simple for this type of design. Many manufacturers fell into the game of "how many zipper pockets can we put on the front of this thing?". Although it looks in the photos like the jacket has epaulettes, that's just the shoulder stitching going bad. The zipper is a transitional brass Talon, consistent with the immediately post-war dating, with a small-hole slider and a U shaped Talon marked stopbox.  The jacket's tag is long since missing, and no one can remember what it was. The jacket has a plaid cotton lining, but the plaid in the body and in the sleeves is mis-matched.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Aviator Jackets and the D Pocket: Part 3

Here is yet another style of map pocket employed on these Aviation jackets which carried over onto later motorcycle jackets.  This variant had an inset pocket, with a stitched outline.  The zippered top opening opened at an angle. The jacket below was advertised in 1941.  It was made of capeskin, and had two large zippered pockets and a small "match pocket" overtop the map pocket.

1960s Star Sportswear Kurland, with the same style pocket design

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Aviator Jackets and the D- Pocket: Part 2

Aviation Jacket ad from 1940. Not surprisingly, made of capeskin leather. I find it interesting the asymmetrical and sloppy ways the lapels on these jackets are often illustrated.  I guess it's like how sheepskin lined jackets are usually drawn with the tails blowing in the breeze to show the lining. 

In person, the differences would be clear, but from the advertising picture, the overall details are extremely similar to D-pocket motorcycle jackets made twenty years later.  

Early 1950s British Mfg. Co. D-Pocket motorcycle jacket. These Canadian made jackets were close copies of Harley Davidson Cycle Champ motorcycle jackets, which owed a great deal of their design influence to these aviation styles.  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Aviator Jackets and the D pocket: part 1

This jacket was advertised in 1939 by Penney's.  As with many jackets of this aviator style, it was made of capeskin. This one featured a "sports back" and half belt, with yoked shoulders, and button cuffs.  The outstanding detail of this particular model would have to be the map pocket. This large patch pocket would later evolve into the D-pocket found on certain motorcycle jackets of the 1940s-1960s. 

This sort of top-loading map pocket with a smaller patch cigarette pocket would later become more associated with motorcycle jackets, like the one below.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Aviator Jackets

I'm taking the blog on an aviator jacket kick for the next little while.  Keep an eye out!

This style was transitional between the center-zip "cossack" jacket, the double breasted styles worn by true aviators of the period, and later motorcycle jackets.  Detailing differed maker to maker and model to model, but the typical traits that differentiated the "aviator" or "aviation" style jacket from others were an asymmetrical or diagonal zipper, and coat style lapels.

Ad from 1941

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Leather and Corduroy Aviator jacket

This particular model two-tone jacket was introduced c. 1940, and continued being produced through the war years.  It had a reprocessed corded melton wool body and capeskin front panels and trim.  By this time, the asymmetric zipper style had come to be called an "aviator" jacket.  This particular model was only sold in children's and teen's sizes. As with many teen's clothes, it was made to a lower price-point than its adult counterparts, which may explain the construction.  A mostly wool jacket is cheaper than an all-leather jacket, but the leather panels gives it the styling and wind resistance of the more expensive product.  Reprocessed wool would have been significantly less expensive than virgin wool. Made during wartime, this could have been as much a material-saving material choice as a cost-cutting one. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

1900s leather resistanace

With the development of automobiles, motorcycles and airplanes around the turn of the last century, the leather jacket started its process of evolution into the styles we know today. However, early leather garments had their detractors, and it took time for them to be accepted into the mainstream.

"A leather jacket and leather trousers are objectionable because the moisture from the body cannot escape, with the result that underclothing becomes dangeriously moist and disagreeable.  Leather may, however, be used as a lining to cloth clothes, provided that it is bored with many small holes through which the moister of the body may evaporate.  A suit of cloth lined with punctured chamois leather will be found agreeable for both winter and summer" - 1902, "Dress for Motoring"

"My motorcycling friends used to look on me as a bit of a faddist because I declined to wear leather clothing, twitting me because, as they alleged, I considered appearance before comfort.  But, as the time passes, I observe that, one after another, they are dropping leather, and only the other day one of them, a confirmed 'leatherer,' carefully eyed me up and down and then asked if my own cloth suit was really waterproof, as he had heard me assert. After satisfying himself on this head and about its being windproff, he straightened himself out and said he would get one like it the very next week.  Naturally, I was constrained to ask him why he was thus deserting the leather he used to love. 'Well, to tell the truth, old man, this kind of suit looks fit for a mechanic and nothing more, and I find that leather absorbs the rain almost as freely as ordinary tweed,' with which I agreed, for unless one pays a very big sum the leather is as absorbent as chamois leatherl so much 'skiver' (the under layer of skins) being used.  We all know, too, how boots will soak up the wet and how long it takes to dry the moisture out of the leather.  After all, there is nothing that looks nicer than a well made cloth suit; whilst, if it has undergone the special waterproofing method adopted by one or two motor tailos, rain need not be feared for an instant, and by the use of a wool lining and a suitable inter-lining, the suit will be both warm and windproof" - 1903 "The Motor"

"Until the advent of the Henriques models, garments of leather found little or no favor- the penalty, uncouthness and discomfort was too great.  The soft, pliable Danish Leather allows a freedom of action which the hard, stiff domestic leathers restrain. . . The tailoring is of an exceptionally high grade, wholly foreign to the coats where are made in this country." - 1906, "Distinctive Automobile Garments & Requisites"

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Design variation.

In the late 1920s and 1930s, the modern leather jacket was finding its form. Designs departed from the knit cuffs and collar jacket which would become the military A-1 flight jacket and started experimenting.  The Cossack jacket was born. While manufacturers designed jackets which operated under a set of "rules"- leather waistband, cuffs and a waist length, each put their own take on the design. Many of these early models had a shawl collar, but some makers had collars that were more squared off.  Others had a leather lower section and a knit upper section. Suit style notch lapels were popular, again, with as many variations in their cut as were found on suits of the period.  Pockets were not limited to flapped patch pockets.  Handwarmer pockets with a "D" shape, both inset and patch were seen, as were buttoned handwarmers. Sleeves were available with raglan shoulders, with button cuffs, with button-tab adjusted cuffs, with belted cuffs. And all of this is within a narrow time frame and a specific type of jacket. 

When I was dealing primarily in fedoras, certain models were decided to be "iconic", and prices skyrocketed. Generally these were common models of moderate quality and produced in large quantities. Despitea  myriad of makers and designs and decades of production to chose from, many people who claim to want something vintage and unusual, want it to be the same vintage and unusual piece as all their friends have. Even in a community centered around rare items, herd mentality rules.   I suppose such is the nature of collecting.

With all the variations in the original designs of leather jackets from the early 1930s, it truly seems a shame that so many reproduction companies ignore source material and instead reproduce other reproductions to cash in on their popularity. There are too many fascinating and forgotten vintage designs to draw upon for so many to retread the same ground.