The History of Leather Part 19 – The Type A-2

Posted on 28/07/14

A-2: Electric Boogaloo (1931)

Building on the solid foundation of the Type A-1 jacket, the A-2 is perhaps the “original” leather flight jacket, and easily the most popular flying jacket that the American military has ever produced. It’s “The Godfather: Part II” to the A-1 “Godfather”, “The Dark Knight” to the A-1’s “Batman Begins”.

But like the A-1, its roots aren’t entirely clear. Though bits and pieces of documentation do exist, there are few that can call themselves true experts on the A-2. The A-2 featured a zipper, and a number of other improvements over the A-1, including a more fashionable shirt-style leather collar, larger pockets and epaulets. The A-2 was also available in a seal brown colour, rather than the olive drab of the A-1. Like the Perfecto, the A-2 was one of the earliest articles of clothing that was specifically designed to incorporate a zipper.

The A-2 was only awarded to US Army Air Forces officers upon completing their basic training. They were the pride and joy of aviators everywhere. Not only did airmen display their current squadron on their jacket, along with their rank insignia, but sometimes they painted the type of aircraft that they flew, or replicated the artwork that their planes were garbed in. Some even added notches to their jacket to indicate the number of missions that they had flown.

Given that the A-2 was comparatively high fashion for American servicemen, and given how customisable the jackets ended up being – it’s no wonder that they were hugely sought after. A cottage industry sprang up in no time, making unofficial A-2s and getting them to servicemen who wouldn’t have been able to get one otherwise. This was especially the case when the Army stopped purchasing leather jackets and downgraded to cloth jackets.

In 1988, a decent enough distance away from the release of “Top Gun”, in the hopes of not making it look like the decision was in any way linked to the film’s popularity, the US Air Force decided they wanted to get off the highway to the danger zone at the next exit, and they didn’t want to take time out for a miserable Little Chef breakfast along the way – they reissued the leather A-2 jacket at long last.

Riding high on the crest of the A-2’s popularity, a mere thirteen years after the fact, we started to see the hip young American president George W Bush proudly sporting his own presidential A-2 in obligatory photo opportunities during visits to military bases. Barack Obama continues this trend to this day. Interestingly, and it’s something of a feather in the cap of both Obama and Bush, both men are trim enough to wear the original cut of the jacket, which would be considered a ‘slim fit’ by today’s standards.

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