Wilbur Wright at the controls wearing leather flight jacket

Did you know the flight jacket is nearly as old as the airplane?

Early pilots quickly recognized the need to stay warm while flying open, non-insulated airplanes. For many, a long leather coat was a standby. In 1917 the U.S. Army established the Aviation Clothing Board. The Board came up with a heavy-duty leather flight jacket with a high wrap around collar, a snug waist and cuffs, and durable zipper closures. Some of the first flight jackets included a fur lining.

American Leslie Irvin, an aviator and inventor, was a kindred spirit of the Wright brothers and like them is known for numerous aviation innovations. Irvin made his first parachute jump at age 14 and jumped from an airplane for the first time in 1914. He invented the parachute rip-cord system and in 1919 he made the first pre-meditated free fall parachute jump from a plane. Irvin also created the first sheepskin flight jacket.

In 1926 he opened a factory in the U.K. It made parachutes as well as the Irvin Flight Jacket. Irvin’s flight jacket was masterfully designed to provide maximum warmth and comfort as well as mobility and durability. Irvin was the principal supplier of flight jackets for the R.A.F. during WWII. The jacket was so popular during WWII Irvin had to begin using subcontractors, which accounts for some variations on the jacket seen during this era.

After the war ended the flight jacket remained popular and it has continued to be recognized for its superior form, function and style to this day. For our take in this classic item we took our cues from Irvin’s flight jacket. We think the result would bring a smile to Orville’s and Wilbur’s faces. And, when you slip yours on we know you will be smiling too. Invent yourself.





Related Posts



Subscribe to our email newsletter for updates from The Wright Brothers Store