07 February 2009

Apparel Evolution

You're lookin' at a piece of clothing that first made me really realize what was about to happen in my life. It was all kind of a blur... I had signed up to go to flight school. Me, Ole Prairie Dog, and a couple other guys from our OCS class had traveled to Ft. Wolters, Texas to begin our primary flight training. Putting on our flight jackets... and looking like real aviators... that was when the full realization of what was about to happen to us became apparent.

I've worn a jacket similar to that one now for 41 years. A jacket almost exactly like the one in the photo hangs in my closet today. The jacket I wear when I fly the BK117 is very similar, differing in that it is made of fire-resistent Nomex, and it is black in color with reflective strips on the back. The pockets in the one I wear
at work have zippers instead of snaps. But look at the left sleeve. See the vertical zipper there?
My new jacket also has that same zipper...
It's the cigarette pocket.

I have never smoked. I've probably owned a dozen or so jackets similar to the one in the picture, but I have never had a pack of cigarettes in that pocket.
I'm at work today and I just checked... my spare pair of earplugs are in there, alongside a small Swiss Army knife. They are there just because the pocket is there and I hate for it to be empty.

But I was thinking on my way to work this morning...

"How much extra does it cost to put that pocket on all the flight jackets being produced today? What percentage of aviators today actually smoke? What company will be the first to realize they can cut costs by eliminating the (unnecessary?) pocket?"
I bet they're gone within ten years.

And that led me to another thought...
My Dad always smoked, and he always used
Zippo lighters.
I bet the old ones will have collector value at some point in the
not-too-distant future.


jinksto said...

I do smoke and have never used the "cigarette pocket" for anything but things I need to get at quickly. Pens, digital air pressure guage.. stuff

The lighters might already be worth something: http://tinyurl.com/c8qx6w

Aviatrix said...

I borrowed one like that from my instructor after the first time I flew a C152. I thought it was pretty cool. I've always wanted one of the leather ones with the sheepskin collar, compass button, and the map of France printed on the lining.

Flamingo 91 said...

Hey Greybeard,
Great jacket with lots of memories. A helicopter pilot who came into the 71st AHC at Chu Lai just after Herby was lost in 1970sent us a flight jacket with Herby's name, all the pertinent patches, including an original Firebirds patch from 1969 to us when Herby's remains were ID'd in 2007. Ironically, or not, the new jacket is an official jacket, and it was made in Vietnam! The jacket hangs on a door going into Mom's sitting room. It's beautiful. Would love to have the original, jacket and brother, so hang on to that piece of history, smoker or not. I'm happy your here to share.

Greybeard said...

I hope the jacket brings you great comfort, Mary Lou. I haven't worn my "original" in a long time...
Maybe I'll drag it out and wear it this week!

And I'm so pleased with your continued contact with Vic and the rest of the Firebirds...
I bet they'd agree, they get as much out of the relationship as you do!

Some of the knockoffs are impossible to tell from the real thing and are reasonably priced.
Get surfing!

The Old Man said...

Have a jacket like that made in Pleiku circa 1969 from a camo nylon poncho liner w/ pack pocket on left sleeve, still smoke, still have my (suitably engraved) Zippo.
Like you - still gots, still fits...Sorta - 35 pounds over my DEROS weight.