Alpha Industries Flight Jacket
Spring has officially arrived but in my neck of the woods it means snow one day and rain the next. Unpredictable. They say March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb, so here are a few solutions for looking good while battling mother nature. We recently featured Alpha Industries in our winter coat guide, but I wanted to dig a little deeper and get a closer look.
I’ve always loved military inspired fashion. It has a historical attitude that pays homage to the past while honoring the present. But Alpha Industries isn’t just military inspired, it’s the original. When I was 15 years old I ordered a flight jacket from an ad in the back of a rock and roll magazine. It wasn’t an Alpha and the quality just wasn’t there.
Alpha Industries is often imitated but never duplicated.
Alpha began as a smaller company called Dobbs Industries in 1957 and was a subcontractor for the first MA-1 Flight Jackets and N-2B Parkas on Department of Defense contracts for the Air Force. After some changes in leadership Samuel Gelber incorporated the new Alpha in 1959 in Knoxville Tennessee in a rented space with leased sewing equipment. A month later Alpha received the DOD contract to manufacture the MA-1 ongoing.
The MA-1 jacket ($140-150) has become an icon and its design has remained largely unchanged since the 1950’s. It’s a mid-weight flight nylon with water resistance and reversible orange liner. Originally made for Air Force and Navy fighter pilots, it was the first flight jacket to cross over into civilian fashion. The beauty is in the details with this jacket. It has knit cuffs, knit collar and waistband as well as a strong metal zipper with storm flap. It has a ton of snap pockets, but my favorite feature is the red “Remove Before Flight” keychain that hangs from the utility pocket.
The MA-1 comes in eight colors. The sage green regular fit is pictured (photos by Matchbox LTD) but the steel blue, and replica blue are winners as well. For a more European fit, check out the MA-1 Slim Fit jacket, offered in four colors.
The N3-B Parka ($180-200) is workhorse for colder conditions, and also designed for USAF air crews assigned to cold climates. It has the same nylon shell but offers a longer length and a hood lined with synthetic mouton fur and trimmed with removable faux coyote fur.
The knit cuffs are inset to provide an air seal and it features reinforced elbow patches for tear strength. I like that the hood zips up close to the face and buttons across the neck (a little like a mummy style sleeping bag). The Slim Fit N-3B Parka in steel blue is pictured and available in 13 colors. The regular fit comes in 5 colors.
For more of their historical looks, check out their field coats, leather jackets, lightweight utility jackets, peacoats, and NASA jackets. They’re available in women’s and children’s sizes as well.
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