Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat; right now Aero Leather Clothing are producing some of the finest leather jackets in the world. For three decades the family-run company have led the way in hand-crafted leather garments reproducing iconic styles from their archive of original RAF, USN and USAAF Military Flying Jackets.
Utilising the finest authentic materials (think Chromexcel Front Quarter Horsehide, Vegetable tanned full grain Italian Horsehide), each garment is made on site in Scotland from start to finish by an individual machinist ensuring an end product of the highest quality, instilled with the pride of the maker. Sure, they’re an investment but they’re a garment that will last you a lifetime - if not two!
Paul Newman - Somebody Up There Likes me 1956
Their latest offering, The 1950’s College Jacket, is no exception. Originally released as a limited run, a replica of the jacket worn by Paul Newman in the 1956 Somebody Up There Likes Me, the style’s popularity and versatility has made it’s way into the permanent line-up. Featuring knitted wool cuffs and waistband, lined in a checked cotton and fitted with a genuine 1950s dead stock Talon zipper the College Jacket is a simple but stylish wind-breaker that’s sure to find it’s way into your every day repertoire.
Despite the name you won’t need to re-live those awkward high-school years to enjoy this jacket but, when it’s not in use there’s nothing to stop you throwing it over the shoulders of your sweetheart at the drive-in’s and, who knows, you might just get lucky.
As the name suggests, the jacket borrows heavily from the varsity and baseball jackets popularised by athletes of the time, but the style, which remains one of the century’s most iconic outerwear silhouettes, owe’s itself to a poorly-documented, humble, pre-war leather wind-breaker.
Early Pilots wearing the Type A1 Flight jacket
The A1, not to be confused with 90’s UK pop-sensation (see here), was conceived in 1922 as a ‘leather-based traveling jacket.’ Originally designed as an all-purpose civilian jacket, the Army Air Corps soon adopted the model and standardised the A-1 model flight jacket in November 1927.
Since the A-1 jackets were made by a number of contractors, design details vary between jackets, but the core design remained the same – capeskin leather, 5 button closure, waist-length with a knitted waistband, cuffs and collar to keep out the cool winds in the uncovered cockpit’s of the time. In fact, the A-1 was the was the first wind-cheater to sport a knitted waist and knitted cuffs. Whilst there is no record of who is responsible for the original design, much of our present day outerwear technology owes a great debt to the innovation displayed in this historic garment.
The jacket was decommissioned after 4 short years in favour of the A-2 style which featured a full zip allowing for easier unbuttoning in heavy gloves. Nonetheless, despite it’s short life-span in the military the style can be seen sported by such aviation heroes as Jimmy Doolittle, Ira Eaker and Carl Spaatz.
The practicality and clean appearance of the A1 meant it wasn’t long before the silhouette was adopted by another sphere of influential American culture - baseball.
NY Warm Up Jacket - 1930's
Long before they donned the backs of high-school jocks, the original letterman jacket’s have their roots in mid-nineteenth century Harvard baseball. In 1865 Cambridge Massachusetts, Harvard University baseball players adorned their grey flannel uniforms with an old english ‘H’. Only those players who performed well enough were allowed to keep the jersey, adding a competitiveness and level of and prestige to the letters.
The trend spread and before long nearly all American baseball teams were sporting their own version of the ‘Letterman’.
The A1 style was no sooner ousted from the military than it was picked up by sporting culture in search for a garment sturdy and stylish enough to wear both on and off the field; In the mid-1930’s the first leather and woollen letterman jacket’s make their debut. This incarnation saw the removal of external flap-pockets in favour of today’s hand warmer pockets. The jacket’s design remains otherwise unchanged.
Over the years the prestige surrounding the varsity letter wore away, leaving a handful of jock’s feeling a little under-appreciated (no sympathy there then!). The style was embraced by the masses and, of course, it wasn’t long before the Ivy-League good-boy turned bad. With help from the like’s of Elvis Presley, James Dean and Steve Mcqueen, the varsity jacket quickly became cemented as the casual, cultural icon we recognise today.
Over the decades the Varsity and Bomber style has been adopted by all-manner of counter cultures, each reinventing and re-invigorating the style. Almost a century later, the College Jacket remains as relevant as ever.
Whether you’re planning to spend the next few months getting in the game, or just watching from the sidelines the Aero Leather 1950’s College Jacket is sure to make you feel like a champ.
We offer a range of Aero Leather Clothing at Picking’s & Parry including custom order pieces to suit your preferred requirements. The full range of available leather and standard lining options are available to view in-store and we can advise on fit and recommend adjustments for your chosen style following a brief fitting. Contact us to arrange a consultation and you're lifetime jacket dreams will be one step closer to the wardrobe...