A-2 Leather Flight Jacket
- Product Review (submitted on July 23, 2010):
I have done over 10 years of A-2 jacket research and I have seen many, many authentic models of A-2 over the years as well as reproductions ranging from accurate duplicates to very cheap imitations. Let me tell you why you should consider this version of the A-2 from U.S. Authentic, first the look and feel of the jacket speaks of quality in workmanship.
One characteristic which is often misrepresented by poorer replicas is the point of attachment of the back to the front pieces at the shoulder. Some replicas place this seam too far forward on top of the shoulder. Since the back edges of the epaulets are coincident with this seam, this construction often places the epaulets not on top of the shoulder, as with an authentic A-2, but falling forward off of the shoulder. This simply looks wrong. U.S. Authentic uses the Perry epaulet which has a rectangular box-stitch contained within the twin-stitch lines.
While the official specification called for horsehide, and while most jackets probably were so made, a fraction of A-2's were made of goatskin and perhaps other hides such as steer. Goatskin is a bit more resilient and tends to hold up better over the years. This is why I chose the goatskin version over the horsehide. I also found during my research that the jackets I have seen and touched varied from a light to almost a tan color to a dark chocolate shade. There appeared to be no single definitive color for an A-2 back in WW II. So I wouldn't worry so much about the color of the product. Keep in mind that your jacket from U.S. Authentic is new.
The collar was usually composed of one piece of leather for the top side while the under side was made from two halves sewn together in the center at the back of the neck. (U.S. Authentic is dead on accurate with this detail!)
Eight stitches per inch gives a very nice, clean, high-quality look, but it is clear that workmanship if not cost saving measures sometimes contributed to more sparse needlework. It is also worth noting that the thread material was all cotton with the original A-2's. U.S. Authentic uses eight stitches per inch with brown cotton thread.
Pockets reflected the differences per contractor, particularly with regard to the cut of the flaps. Some flaps were more rounded, others more pointed, some with a more scalloped shape and others a with a simpler angular shape. This is not to say that variations did not exist within a single contractor, in my research they did exist, even on the same jacket. It seemed that getting the same shape every time was not so simple a task because of the mass prodeuction of the A-2. One characteristic that A-2 pockets definitely did not have was the side-entry or "hand-warmer" secondary pockets. This was strictly a commercial embellishment. Another characteristic which is often ignored in replicas is the placement of the pockets relative to the zipper. Authentic A-2's have a sizable spacing between the zipper or center of the jacket and the edge of the pocket, essentially placing the pocket toward the wearer's side. Many replicas that I have seen place the pockets much too close to the center and they just look wrong. Also contrary to many of the much less authentic jacket copies is that the A-2 has only the two outside patch pockets and has no inside pockets of any kind. So keep this in mind when shopping for your A-2. Again U.S. Authentic was faithful in the pocket contruction and placement. The pockets on my A-2 are hybrids containing all the best characteristics taken from several original A-2 manufactors such as: The Rough Wear pocket with rounded corners and gently curved flap. The Werber pocket with box-shaped reinforcement stitching. The Bronco pocket snap reinforcement with a rounded tongue extension. All of these details make up the U.S. Authentic pocket constuction. The only thing lacking is a pocket lable with size and inspectors numbers and stamps, but I can overlook that detail and you should too. If you have to have such detail in your jacket then be prepared to pay Eastman over in England or Aero Leather Co. over in Scotland about $800.00. As for me, I would like my jacket made in the U.S.A.!
The early A-2's did have a silk lining up until about 1939-40, its procurement was found not to be feasible after 1941. I wonder why??? So the brown cotton lining you get with U.S. Authentic is the correct shade.
KNITING ON THE SLEEVES AND WAISTBAND:
Wool knitting was used for the sleeve wristlets as well as the waistband. These were brown like the jacket, but again I found there were variations in shade from dark to medium brown to an almost reddish hue as typical of many Aero Leather jackets. Wristlets had a double weave, looser on the top half (toward the sleeve attachment) and tighter toward the bottom (end). U.S. Authentic got this detail right as well.
A woven specification label that was sewn into each jacket generally followed a this format: The TYPE A-2 followed by the drawing number (30-1415), the contract or order number, the manufacturer, and the proclamation that the jacket was Property, Air Force, U.S. Army. The size appeared on a small and separate label sewn at the bottom edge of the main label.
U.S. Authenic's label is a good one and looks like one that would have been made back during WW II.
A strip of leather was sewn into the neck above the spec label to be used as a hanger. While the method of attachment to the jacket appeared most often to be box-stitching at each end, I also saw examples of bar-tacking. It is important to note that not all reproductions get this detail correct! I have seen some that have a weak cloth, nylon, or leather loop which was not sewn through the back of the jacket. Stay away from these types of A-2 reproductions!!! If they skimp on this very important detail, then they may have cut cost in manufacture of their A-2 version elsewhere.
As you look at the details like the ball-stud snaps on the collar and pockets and the TALON zipper on the A-2, know that you are getting the "correct" hardware with U.S. Authentic. The only details missing from the zipper are the lack of the "fan shaped" zipper puller and TALON marked on the center of the zipper itself and the MADE IN USA on the back of the zipper. U.S. Authentics zipper is a TALON zipper however, just a modern version. In my research I counted 7 different zipper types on various jackets. I'm not splitting hairs here.
The snaps you get are the ball-stud type that are very simular to the type that were used on the ROUGH WEAR A-2. The only differences being the ball stud snap from Rough Wear pockets showed a dimpled impression. This was typical of the these snaps used on pockets. The ball studs used on collar snaps did not have dimples and were also a little smaller.
Don't forget the underarm ventilation grommets! This detail is missed on cheaper jackets and is a very important detail which is included with U.S. Authentic's A-2.
STAMPS IN THE LINING:
This is another very big reason I purchased from U.S. Authentic! I noticed they included the stamps! A-2 jacket linings are stamped with an inspector's mark composed of the letters AN along with an inspector's number, all contained within a circle. This stamp was often, but not exclusively, placed near the spec label, but did not appear in all the jackets that I saw. The size of the AN stamp circle was about 5/8-inch, and a smaller version I saw was about 5/16-inch. U.S. Authentic could make a smaller version with a number yes, but I'm happy with their stamp. Next is the Army Air Corps wing and star insignia. I saw this in various forms. It was found to be a larger stamp on the lining, as a smaller stamp or decal on the inside face of the zipper wind flap, or as a full color transfer on the left shoulder. The application of this insignia on clothing and other flying equipment was specified in Technical Order No. 13-1-12, dated February 1, 1944. Insignia were then applied both to new items and to used items, such as many A-2 jackets, which were either reissued or refurbished. That is the correct history of the Army Air Stamp on the A-2.
I found that many different types and sizes of leather nameplates were used during WW II. I must have seen over a dozen different types during my research. The strips of leather that were used for nameplates were supplied, stamped, issued, and sewn on at the Base where the Airmen were stationed. They were, according to the Class 13 Catalog, 4 inches long and 5/8-inch in height. It is evident, however, that a great deal of A-2 nameplates were custom made and varied greatly in size and in how the name was applied. My fathers nameplate had 1/4" high embosed letters on his A-2 and was placed on the left side of the jacket about 1 1/2" to the right of the zipper stitch and about 8 inches above the pocket.
Well, there you have it. All of my research notes from years of trying to find the right A-2 for myself. It is up to you as to who you wish to buy from, but know that U.S. Authentic will give you a good and accurate A-2 for the money that you will be very proud to wear! I showed my A-2 to my father and he said that it looked just like the one he had in WW II.