History of Avirex
The History of Avirex is the story of a small factory in Long Island, New York where limited quantities of leather jackets were produced for the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force. No conclusive documentation exists concerning the exact date the factory began fabrication of the military jackets, however, it is believed that they were produced between the two World Wars.
In the 1960’s, citing the rise in manufacturing expenses, the Navy cancelled the production of the American made G1 jacket. By that time, the Army had already discontinued the A2 and B3 jackets. With the armed services looking elsewhere for leather jackets, the small Long Island factory was in danger of closing its doors for good. New life was breathed into the production of the leather flight jackets when in the mid 1970’s an Arizona lawyer introduced the idea of marketing the leather Air Force jackets to the general public. He registered the trademark Avirex as both a reference to the Air Force and possibly to the Long Island factory of its origins. By 1975 the Avirex trademark was reborn into the commercial world. “Avirex” comes from the Latin avis for bird and aviation, and rex: for king, the highest quality of materials and craftsmanship. The new company’s initial challenge was to satisfy the call for the vintage look of leather seen in movies and in advertising.
Unlike stone washed or distressed jeans, aging treatment for leather was at that time without precedent. Avirex became the first company to produce high quality antique leather jackets. In addition to the jackets the company produced superior chino pants. In the 1984 Avirex supplied the jackets and chinos worn by Sam Shephard for his role as the American aviation hero Chuck Yeager in the movie “The Right Stuff”. In 1986 Avirex created the aviator jacket for Tom Cruise’s role in “Top Gun”, the movie about a legendary American Navy flying school. That same year, the European branch of Avirex was opened in Paris, and 8 years later, in 1994 a second European subsidiary was opened in Italy.
Today, Avirex clothing is worn by numerous actors and sports heroes such as: Bruce Willis, John Travolta, Sean Penn, Shaquille O’Neal, Silvester Stallone, Eminem, The Back Street Boys, and Ben Affleck. In fact, for two seasons running the entire Real Madrid soccer team elected to wear Avirex brand chinos and polo piquet shirts.
From conception to the finished product the trademark’s goal is to provide the consumer with the finest quality performance garments in the world. For Avirex, quality is the only luxury that should never be overlooked. Today Avirex clothing is recognized and distributed worldwide.
A2 Leather Jacket
When you think of aviator jackets, the A2 is the jacket you’re thinking of. The Army standardized this jacket on May, 1931, and immediately, no other piece of field clothing combined style and substance so well. When we think of the dashing pilots of World War II, in our minds, they’re always wearing the A2 jacket.
The jacket was made of dark brown horsehide, lined with a light brown spun silk. The collar was an “Officer’s Collar” with snaps underneath, patch pockets, knit cuffs and waistband and epaulets.
It had a zipper front (interlocking fastener); a lighter piece of leather with the name of the pilot printed on it was stitched on the left side of the front. But the changes weren’t all just cosmetic.
The zipper was a big improvement for the pilots comfort in the cockpit, especially for gloved hands and the epaulets could hold parachute straps or the insignia of rank.
The A2 jacket first gained its fame among the legendary Flying Tigers. Technically, they were the 100 pilots of the American Volunteer Group, or AVG, who’d joined the Chinese Army as irregulars in early 1941 to fight the Japanese inside mainland China.
B3 Bomber Jacket
Civilians generally call most aviator jackets “bomber jackets” but no one flying in a bomber could wear the most popular of the so-called “bomber jackets”, A2 and G1. Due to their light weight, A2 and G1 could only keep pilots warm at altitudes under 10,000 feet.
B3 was probably brought into service around 1934, and most of the B3’s were made withhalf-inch pile, constructed of shearling pelts with fur inside and the leather out. The first jackets were matte finished and only by the late 1930s did they start to be dyed in seal brown. Lacquer was used to coat the jackets, but tended to crack with age. The B3 jacket came in many shapes and sizes: some had one collar closure strap, others had two. They might have one or two patch pockets and some had leather reinforcing patches that tapered from the shoulder towards the wrist. The wool pile was visible at the cuffs and the waist.
For the first men who wore our B3 jackets, work was inside a hunk of steel 30,000 feet up in the sky. And no plane saw more of those men than the B-17. They were built in Grand Rapids, Michigan or Seattle, Washington or Long Beach, California and burned up in fields in Belgium or Hungary or strewn across some obscure mile-wide Pacific island of “strategic importance”.
G1 Leather Jacket
The G1 jacket was introduced in the late 1930s and remained in continuous use until 1978. In 1981, thanks to the efforts by Secretary of the Navy John Lehman, the G1 was reinstated and made available again by 1983.
Made in a very dark brown goatskin leather, the jacket has a mouton collar, a nickel plated zipper in front, and two patched pockets with flaps closed by buttons, with a pen slot in the left pocket. Waistband and cuffs are in 100% wool (waistband bi- directional). The back is bi-swing plated, with armpit gusset, side seams. The inside is in rayon satin.
No one’s exactly sure when it was standardized; its predecessor, however, was most likely the type 440 jacket. Unlike the G1, the 440 did not have the distinctive mouton collar. During World War II, the U.S. Navy in the Pacific refused to allow pilots to decorate their G1 jackets. In the tropics, they reasoned, pilots wouldn’t need to wear their jackets outside of the cockpit.
After the war, the Navy restricted painted decorations on the jackets and allowed only official patches. Ironically, this decree resulted in a dramatic increase in the number of patches on the pilot’s jackets. Today, the Navy only allows one patch per jacket.
TOP GUN Leather Jacket
The United States Navy Strike Fighter Tactics Instructor program (SFTI program), more popularly known as TOPGUN, teaches fighter and strike tactics and techniques to selected naval aviators and naval flight officers.
It began as the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School, established on 3 March 1969, at the former Naval Air Station Miramar in San Diego, California. The need for a program to hone Navy fighter tactics became clear in the early years of the Vietnam War. Operation Rolling Thunder, which lasted from 2 March 1965 to 1 November 1968, ultimately saw almost 1,000 U.S. aircraft losses in about one million sorties.
In 1986 Paramount Pictures produced a movie inspired by the life of the fighter pilots of the SFTI program. TOP GUN was destined to become a cult movie and his protagonist, Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, interpreted by Tom Cruise, a real icon with his jacket and glasses, heritage of the immortal legend of U.S. Navy fighter pilots.
This is the original G1 jacket produced by Avirex and used by Tom Cruise during the shooting of the second movie.