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      History of the MA-1 Bomber Jacket

      History of the MA-1 Bomber Jacket

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      The best staple pieces seem to be ones that grew out of functional necessity, and the bomber jacket is no exception. In the days of propeller aircraft, airmen wore leather jackets including the A-2, which is an important ancestor of the modern flight jacket. The fleece lining meant that the jackets were warm, and from a fashion perspective these jackets were tasteful even by today’s standards, with elasticated sleeves and waist, a high wraparound collar, and front pockets. However, the invention of the jet aircraft meant that planes could fly at much higher altitudes and in turn, in much colder temperatures than before.

      The best staple pieces seem to be ones that grew out of functional necessity, and the bomber jacket is no exception. In the days of propeller aircraft, airmen wore leather jackets including the A-2, which is an important ancestor of the modern flight jacket. The fleece lining meant that the jackets were warm, and from a fashion perspective these jackets were tasteful even by today’s standards, with elasticated sleeves and waist, a high wraparound collar, and front pockets. However, the invention of the jet aircraft meant that planes could fly at much higher altitudes and in turn, in much colder temperatures than before.

      When leather jackets such as the A-2 would get wet from rain or perspiration, the water would freeze at higher altitudes making the jackets hard, cold and extremely uncomfortable. Also, the new jet aircraft boasted a more streamlined design meaning less space in the cockpit. A slim, lightweight and yet warm jacket was needed as an answer to the evolved jet technology, and it came in the form of the B-15, often considered the godfather of the modern bomber. These had fur collars and were made of cotton: although nylon had been discovered prior to World War II, items like parachutes took precedence over flight clothing when it came to allocating nylon supplies during the war. After 1945, nylon became the material of choice for bomber jackets because of its ease of care, water resistance and resistance to mildew, insects and perspiration.

      A-2, B-3, and B-6 Flight Jackets 

      In 1949 the B-15 was upgraded to become the MA-1, which has since become the most iconic and the most replicated version. The design of the jacket was again a reaction to the technological advancements of the aircraft themselves, and the needs of the pilots: cockpits had better insulation so the fur collar was no longer needed; instead it was replaced with a knitted, elastic collar that allowed for more room for parachute harnesses. It was at this stage that the familiar orange lining was added so that in the event of a plane crash, the pilot could turn it inside out to aid rescue visibility. It was also around this time that the jacket started to be produced in colors other than the Air Force’s standard issue midnight blue. Throughout the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the jackets were produced in the now ubiquitous sage green color to more closely mirror the ground vegetation and to help provide additional camouflage in the instance of a crash or emergency landing in hostile areas.

      The jacket was originally developed by Dobbs Industries strictly for the U.S. Air Force and Navy fighter pilots. The first MA-1 jackets were issued to United States Air Force and Navy pilots and flight crews. Small numbers were also issued to Army flight personnel. MA-1 jackets first appeared in Europe in very small quantities in the mid-to-late 1950s probably on the black market and at sales of government surplus.

      In 1963, Alpha Industries won the contract to manufacture the MA-1.[2] More MA-1 jackets appeared in Europe as Alpha and later Rothco[1] began to export MA-1 jackets and other military clothing to European Air Forces and commercial customers.

      The MA-1 was initially produced in midnight blue and sage green. Blue was the original color used by the military, but it was soon replaced by green. During the Korean War (1950–1953) mixing flight clothing from multiple time periods and colors was not unusual. Presumably, the green was eventually adopted because it blended more easily with the environment should the pilot need camouflage protection on the ground[citation needed]. During the Vietnam War, there were variant commercial copies of MA-1 in camouflage pattern which were purchased by American servicemen. While no longer issued by the United States military, it remains popular among many United States-allied armed forces (e.g. Israel, Japan, South Korea, Philippines, Taiwan (ROC) and Thailand).

      MA-1 jackets have become fashionable worldwide, especially in the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom. Many American clothing manufacturers, formerly military contractors now produce a variety of colors in addition to the traditional.

       

      The bomber jacket is here to stay, and while brands will continue to step up and offer their own versions or customizations—some at very high prices and some at very low—it’s unlikely to change from the same tried-and-tested form that its kept since 1949. Take a look at its rich history and there’s no denying that this piece has managed to not only stand the test of time, but resonate with a wide range of people over the last seven decades, regardless of their social or economic status. It’s the perfect example of how practicality, functionality and effortlessness will never go out of style.

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