Aviator fur - Fliegerpelz

The aviator's fur is the fur clothing worn by the pilot and his companions in the pilot's cabins, which were initially still open and were unheated until the end of World War II . The fur was worn inside with the hair because of the better heat effect. In the beginning it was still fur-lined raincoats , but very soon the overalls and jacket shapes were preferred. The fur material was usually sheep or lambskin . The shapes of these utility furs are still being used in general fashion today under the names commonly used in the aviation and textile industries , such as flight jackets , pilot jackets orBomberjacke .


As motorized aviation began to develop at the beginning of the 20th century, it was more and more common for pilots to move in their initially open cockpits at heights and under climatic conditions where appropriately warm clothing was necessary. A special style of flight attire began during the First World War (1914–1918). As functional clothingshe had to meet certain conditions. It should have enough pockets, be warm and, especially because of the wind, it should be tight around the edges. The pilot's essential clothing was the flight suit lined with fur, some versions of which could later be heated electrically, as well as a helmet and glasses. In the first few years the flight crew consisted only of the pilot. As the technical complexity of aircraft and flight operations increased, a second pilot and later other people such as flight engineers, radio operators and navigators were added. The flight decks of today's commercial aircraft are generally fully air-conditioned. [1]

The most important and identity-creating item of clothing for the aviator was his leather jacket . It was part of the standard equipment of the German army, but not part of the official uniform. The fur-lined overall was pulled over it, along with leg protection, a leather helmet, protective goggles, a scarf and fur-lined gloves. Overall, there was a great resemblance to the equipment used by drivers at the time . [2]

The pilots of the British Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Naval Air Service gave impetus to the shape of the fur clothing worn by pilots from other countries . They wore aviator hats made of fur, fur-lined helmets, fur gloves, fur boots, fur ear protectors and even fur masks, and there was also fur underwear. The Italian "Società anonima für Furs" offered a "complete suit", especially for pilots, a jumpsuit that was worn under the clothes. [3] Fur collars were not yet part of the equipment, but many airmen had them worked on. Others wore shaggy fur coats that could be seen to have emerged from improvisation.

The most important use of fur arose as lining for the most famous and longest lasting of all flight attire, the Sidcot suit . It was designed by pilot Sidney Cotton . In 1917, he allegedly made the discovery, while flying in a dirty, greasy cloth jumpsuit, that it kept him warm while his colleagues were freezing at the same time. He then designed a suit with a thin fur lining, fur collar and fur parts on the neck and cuffs, which, unlike the Italians, could be worn without additional clothing. For the fabric cover he used the impregnated Burberry gabardine , just like the army used it for their trench coatsused. The cut corresponded to the overall known to us as a blue man . The company Robinson & Cleaver took over the production . It successfully passed all tests and the first pilots acquired it. It came into general use at the end of 1917, and the Luftwaffe ordered 1,000 units in November at the earliest possible date. In various versions, the Sidcot remained in the favor of pilots between 1918 and 1939. In a modernized form in 1940, it was still worn a lot in the Second World War (1938-1945) in the Battle of Britain and in other war missions. It now had zippers and the fabric was fireproof. The fur lining was through kapokbeen replaced. What remained, however, was the detachable fur collar. Further developed textiles replaced the materials and the previous variety of designs that had been used up until then. However, no other aviator clothing remained as popular as the fur-lined sidcot for such a long time. [4]

Sheepskin and shearling, the skin of sheep that had been sheared during their lifetime, was the material of a new form of pilot's service jacket, including a uniform jacket used by the Royal Air Force during World War II. Unlike the full-body suits, the blouson-style jacket was also wearable outside of work. Developed by the American aerial acrobat and parachutist pioneer Leslie Irvin , the Irvin jacket and pants made of napped sheepskin were designed between the two world wars. [4]They were produced in the UK factory established by Irvin in 1926. The Irvin jackets had no pockets, were very warm, but also heavy and restricted freedom of movement. They served as a template for the jackets of the US Army Air Corps: Since May 8, 1934, these were equipped with the sheepskin jackets B-3, which were called "bomber jacket" in English because they were only intended for the bomber crews and not for Fighter pilots. There was also the matching sheepskin trousers "Type A-3". In contrast to the British Irvin jackets, the "B-3" is partially reinforced with horse leather on the outsideMistake. The shorter “B-6 Flight Jacket” developed shortly afterwards was made of thinner sheepskin. The "D-1" model was actually only intended for the ground crew. Its fur was shaved deeper than that of the "B-6", the version was also worn as a summer jacket by the aviators. [5]

The type "ANJ-4" was the last sheepskin jacket of the US Navy and the United States Army Air Forces, it was introduced in 1943. The jacket was a little thinner than the B-3 and had two flap pockets at the front and horse leather reinforcements on all parts that were particularly exposed to stress. They were available in three versions, which only differed in small details. Among other things, the later version had a small leather triangle sewn onto the chest, to which the oxygen mask could be clamped when not in use, and two small buttons at the lower end of the zipper. The ANJ-4 was very easy to wear and more practical than the heavy B-3 and immediately became the favorite among the sheepskin jackets of the bomber crews. However, the rather complicated construction turned out to be very costly, and production of this model was discontinued as early as 1944. [5]One disadvantage of the sheepskin jackets was that if the leather jackets got damp from rain or sweat and the plane rose to greater heights, the water would freeze. In 1944 the long-range bomber Boeing B-29 was introduced, which for the first time had a heated pressurized cabin. Fabric jackets gradually replaced the sheepskin jackets of the crews of the other types of aircraft. [5] Finally, the fur collar also disappeared, as it was said, because it was often in the way of the parachute lines. [6]

During the Second World War, it was not only in Great Britain that furriers switched all or part of their production to military furs. The London company Calman Furs was very soon working on fur-lined flight suits instead of the previous fashion furs. [4] The London fur processing company CW Martin & Sons , founded in 1823 , actually on Seal, who specializes in fur seal skins, was able to draw on experience from the First World War. At that time it had been very difficult to find a machine for shearing shaggy goat skins, which were intended for the clothing of soldiers in Flanders. This time too, Martin & Sons and other companies worked in voluntary shifts around the clock to tan and refine lambskins on behalf of the Royal Air Force. [7]

Leather aviator jacket with lambskin collar for the winner of the " Barron Hilton Cup " gliding competition (2008)

The important American fur trader Motty Eitingon bought some lambskin towards the end of the war, which was in great demand for military clothing. In 1946 he set up a production chain for civilian lambskin clothing, which was probably unique in its scope. He sold the hair that resulted from shearing in a contract to the army for lining flight jackets. His granddaughter Mary Kay-Wilmers later wrote, "He was always on the side of the bigger shops and was not particularly interested in the production of the flight jackets". [8th]

The aviator fur in fashion

Gabriele D'Annunzio in a civil lamb jacket (graphic, 1930)

The flight jackets found their way into civilian fashion as “pilot jackets” or “bomber jackets”, especially after the end of the Second World War. Especially in times when designers prefer fashion in a functional style or in a military look , they are also part of fur fashion. As a fur jacket with the hair facing outwards, they are also offered in higher price ranges than lambskin, such as fox fur or mink fur. In the case of the outer fur, in addition to the names taken from the aviator clothing, only the style of the aviator jacket is adopted, possibly also the type of closure with a buckle on the blouson hem, in the velouted and above all the napped lambskin jacket largely the entire look. The blouson suit, which is referred to in fashion as "battle dress" and modeled on the English pilot's uniform, [9] probably found no equivalent in civil fur fashion.

Anna Municchi wrote about the Italian writer and pilot Gabriele D'Annunzio : “They were sports jackets that always showed a little fur on the outside, and D'Annunzio, who was a great soldier, loved the uniform very much and he wore it - with him this somewhat provincial delicacy of us provincial Italians, provincial like me - also off duty and like a select elegant gentleman (also in the more modest and inconspicuous sense of being able to wear good clothes). Unfortunately he was very small, but he was handsome and when he started talking he was great, greater than everyone else ”. [3]

In 1967, Fendi sent models with pilot suits made of white lambskin trimmed with nappa leather onto the catwalk. [3]

Even in later times the flight jacket was still considered a particularly masculine attribute. A film review in 2018 said: "In» Safari - Match Me If You Can «, Justus von Dohnányi gives the tram driver in pilot's fur to get young women to bed [...]." [10]

See also


Commons : Aviator Pelts - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Mario Josef Gerhard Schuivens: The historical development of the cockpit instrumentation of commercial aircraft . Technical University of Munich, TUM School of Education, dissertation from April 8, 2014. Last accessed November 15, 2018.
  2. Gabriele Mentges: Leather and other cool materials - On the relationship between clothes, body and technology (PDF). In: Critical Reports. 4/00, p. 44. Last accessed on November 13, 2018.
  3. Mun a b c Anna Municchi: The Man in the Fur Coat . Zanfi Editors, Modena 1988, ISBN 88-85168-18-3 , pp. 45–46, 68, 90.
  4. a b c Elizabeth Ewing: Fur in Dress. B. T. Batsford Ltd, London 1981, S. 125–126, 131–132 (englisch).
  5. a b c Alpha Industries: History ( Memento from September 28, 2007 in the Internet Archive ). Neu-Isenburg, (English). Last accessed April 11, 2019.
  6. ^ Philipp Löwe: Bomber jackets. Bad luck, you Nazis - it belongs to all of us . Spiegel online, May 17, 2016. Last accessed November 19, 2018.
  7. C. W. Martin & Sons, Ltd., 1823–1953. London 1953; S. 31, 54, 56.
  8. Mary-Kay Wilmers: The Eitingons - A Twentieth-Century-Story. Faber and Faber Ltd., London 2010, ISBN 978-0-571-23473-8, S. 321 (englisch).
  9. Alfons Hofer: Textile and Model Lexicon. 7th edition, Volume 1, Deutscher Fachverlag, Frankfurt am Main 1997, keyword “Battle Dress”. ISBN 3-87150-518-8 , p. 64.
  10. BLÖ: Safari . In: Süddeutsche Zeitung. SZ Special Film Festival Munich. June 28, 2018. Last accessed November 19, 2018.