What punks, test pilots, and Yeezy have in common
As a kid growing up in the 80s, there were few things I wanted more than a MA-1 flight jacket. What exactly provoked this desire, I couldn’t say, but at the Army Navy Surplus where I would invariably drag my parents, the MA-1 always stood out as the one piece of gear I just had to have. Fortunately, unlike the Atari console that evoked a similar pre-teen lust, I was lucky enough to actually get my hands on one.
The MA-1 began life as a new lightweight flight jacket designed to replace the heavy leather bomber jackets used in World War Two. Made from the now readily available nylon fabric, the MA-1 was a perfect compliment to the technologic innovations of the jet age. Sleek and warm, the jacket was issued to air force pilots and naval aviators of many countries and saw widespread use in the decades between the Korean and Vietnam wars.
Interest in the jacket from the private sector, driven initially by the military surplus and black markets, spurred manufacturers Alpha Industries and later Rothco to begin supplying the MA-1 to commercial customers. Owing to the significant presence of US military forces there, the jacket first became fashionable throughout Europe and Japan in the 70s, largely with punk and other subcultures. By the time I was sporting one in the mid-80s, the design had become popularized, if not ubiquitous.
Still, there is no denying it’s fashion chops. Stylish, functional, and with more than ample street cred, it’s no wonder you find the likes of Bradley Cooper and Gigi Hadid wearing one. Both bootleg and bespoke versions abound, but we challenge you to find any better than this example from our friends at Coldsmoke.
Coldsmoke is a core apparel company born, like the MA-1, out of a real need, in this case high quality technical gear for heliski guides in British Columbia. The crew at Coldsmoke took this experience and leveraged it into a clothing line for the total landscape, meticulously designed and consciously manufactured with their close knit clientele in mind. Using short runs and direct marketing to remain nimble and unfettered, Coldsmoke deftly bridges the gap between technical performance and fashionable good looks. What better to exemplify this philosophy than a MA-1?