Flying Jackets have been in fashion since the First World War and were jackets that were originally created for pilots. They are sometimes also known as flight jackets or bomber jackets. Their magnetism and appeal quickly spread through the World, and they have now become a central part of many people’s wardrobes. In the UK presently, Cirrus create the most popular flying jackets that are closely based on the original design – such as the Aviatrix Leather Jacket, and we think that knowing the history of the flying jacket is really important to understand what an amazing piece of fashion it is.
In World War One, many fighter planes did not have covered cockpits, so the pilots were forced to wear something thick in order to keep warm when airborne. The Royal Flying Corps, who served in Belgium and France, began wearing long leather coats, and this trend quickly caught on amongst the other pilots too. In 1917, the US Army established a Clothing Board for those working in aviation, and they began to distribute flight jackets that were made of heavy duty leather – perfect for cold weather. These jackets had zip closures, wraparound collars, snug fitting cuffs and waists and were lined with fur. The first Sheepskin Flying Jacket was designed by Leslie Irvin, an American Aviator in 1926, and a manufacturing unit was then set up to produce these jackets in the UK. The Irving Company become the primary Royal Air Force jacket supplier during World War II and in the end were forced to employ sub-contractors to manufacture these jackets as the demand for them was so high. This is why original jackets by the Irving Company vary in manufacture and colour slightly.
The US made Flying Jackets are the most famous historically and were known as the A2 and the G1. They were, however, removed from use by the American General ‘Hap’ Arnold after 12 years, as he felt it was overwhelming the supply chain due to its popularity. There was also improved aerospace technology which meant aircraft were flying at increased altitudes, so the crew needed more insulated jackets as they were operating at 25,000 feet at temperatures of around minus 50.
The B3 Flight Jacket that is handcrafted by Cirrus is the most popular in the UK right now, as it is based on the original military style jackets and is manufactured with military standard buckles and brass zips. This attention to detail is what makes Cirrus stand out from the rest, as well as the fact that all jackets are custom made to order and therefore tailored to meet the specifications as provided by each individual customer.