after exhausting the range of purchasable leather jackets, from A-2 to G-1 to G-2, to ww2 luftwaffe, to motojax like cafť racer, schott 644, vanson perforated sportrider, hein gericke, alpina, joe rocket...on and on and on...
after all that, finally reaching the end of that insanity, there was still nylon. fortunately for one’s wallet, the higher quality legit versions are quite affordable.
i had bought an alpha B-15 ten years ago off the uswings.com website, but quickly tossed it aside for a burgeoning leather obsession. last year i started to wear the B-15 in colder weather as most of my expensive puffer jackets couldn’t match the ruggedness and warmth. nor the compliments from both guys and women.
the B-15 proved more resilient than leather, oddly, and it became a regular wear. it could scrape up against a nail at work and not show a scratch where a $500 leather jacket would have been been gutted. soon, i jumped off the cliff, into the dark H20 of continued jacket obsession to get a few cold weather nylons.
some cool B-15 info and pix:
some B-15 pix, compare the 50s era pritzker to the current alpha:
as cinch-wasted as the alpha looks in this ad pic, it is actually a nice 27.5" long in the 2XL size
like most jacket nuts, i thought i could satisfy the craving with inexpensive ‘decent’ versions. but rather that simply whetted the appetite and wasted the modest money spent. my first try was a nice $50 rothco N-2B, the venerable korean war air force cold weather jacket.
it was decent. but i kept seeing pictures of alpha’s N-2Bs, and they looked more correct. and the construction quality of my 10-year old alpha B-15 did leave the rothco behind.
so an N-2B was ordered straight off the alpha website. what i got from alpha re-ignited an obsession with jackets...not only for these two korean/vietnam era nylon jackets, but with one of the legit contractors for them in the 50s/60s: alpha.
the alpha N-2B came two weeks ago. it was not only so superiour to the rothco version, but was a pleasure with its pure correctness to origin. marvelous to put on. within the week i ordered an alpha B-15 off their website, replica navy color.
i already had the 10-year old B-15, which had been bought overly large because they were so short, about 26" in the back. i’m 6 foot.
the new alpha N-2B fit as if tailored, and was 28" in the back (where the actual vintage alpha N-2B’s from the 50s/early 60s in an XL size were 26").
this suggested that a newer alpha B-15 might also have become a tad longer, and a bit better fitting, than the one i got 10 years ago.
i got it today, and yes, it was.
the B-15 i received hours ago is every bit as beautiful and correctly constructed as its 10 year predecessor. but it is not quite as blousy, and is 27.5" (thankfully) in the back at size 2XL versus the 26" of the 10-year old alpha B-15.
both are about 29.5" to 30" armpit to armpit (remember, a few inches of that is the padding). however, the new one has a slightly slimmer fit down the torso, so as not to be so overly full at the sides, a bit more tapered. the arms too fit a bit better around, not so hangey.
both the B-15 and N-2B are in fact every bit as beautiful as alpha’s website advertising pictures, and in fact BETTER looking worn on the body then the pictures might suggest. the pix make the jackets look somewhat as if made for action figure dolls the way they cinch at the waist. actually, once on, they lay longer down the torso, and fit more naturally, than the pictures suggest they would.
these military spec jackets oddly have a lush, trendy look. that might be because of the design industry’s high end ripoffs that ralph lauren and other fashion designers take from the genre of military design. as those on the fedlounge here know, function precedes form in the finest design, and the actual military will always be much cooler than the fashion industry’s ripoffs.
of course, these are military spec in the sense that they are made to the military specifications of this actual contractor back in the day when alpha them under contract to the u.s. military. unlike other manufacturers of these jackets nowadays, who never made them for the military.
both styles are no longer current issue, and thus no longer made for our military, though i’d guess they are bought private purchase, but can’t officially be part of accepted uniform, such as a proper A-2 or G-1 can be.
this also means, sadly, that they do not need to be made in the United States, as U.S. military contract jackets do. the irony of ironies is that these jackets were used mainly in the korean war to fight, by proxy, the red chinese. and in vietnam to fight by proxy the russians and red chinese. and now they are being made by a much more capitalistic china for U.S. companies. who won those wars? who knows.
i talked to alpha about the specificaton aspect of this irony. i was explicitly told that alpha has a very strict control over production, making absolute sure the original military specs are exactly adhered to, as well as quality control.
i’d have to agree. the rothco N-2B, which is probably alpha’s biggest competitor in that jacket model, simply did not live up to the military grade quality the alpha jackets exhibited. the stretch cuffs weren’t quite as form fitting, and they had 1/4" seams overlapping which one could feel. the N-2B was baggier at the same 2XL. it very much appeared like a nice store bought cold weather jacket with the looks of an N-2B. further, it did not have the military pockets that reach through from the outside to inside, as the alpha. plus the zipper on the rothco is a nighmare to pull up once you get to the beginning of the neck, where the hood material becomes an obstacle to further zip up. the alpha smoothly continues up like a mil jack should.
the alpha was the real deal. feels like it. looks like it. and there’s ‘that’ feeling.
‘that’ feeling when you have it on, where you know you’re wearing something as real and good as it gets. like wearing an eastman, vanson, aero, etc.
luckily, with these gorgeous nylon mil jacks (i defer from using the word ‘replica’ since alpha is simply making the same jacket they did under contract), they are not expensive. $122 for the B-15 and $134 for the N-2B. perhaps more than their cheaper competitive replica makers, like rothco, mil-spec, helikon, etc., but the quality of a jacket that should perhaps cost twice what alpha charges. hopefully they are not reading this.
these are functionally wonderful jackets. the alpha N-2B is a very very warm jacket that has a medium weight to it, but feels light and is very form fitting on for a jacket of such warmth. the hood can be completely unzipped and laid across the shoulders, snapped down to snaps. or, as i wear it, zipped up as if to be used as a hood, but the back snapped to the back of the jacket, and allowed to sit up on your neck as if a collar. very comfortable, warm, and great looking without wearing as a hood.
the fit, again, of the alpha N-2B, as one reviewer put on amazon.com, is as if made by a tailor for you. no hyperbole.
when i got the B-15 today at UPS pickup, i was still a bit apprehensive that it would fit as well as it’s same size brother N-2B, since my 10-year old one was boxy.
my fears were soon allayed. it tapered better than the older alpha B-15, was long enough in the back while still being a short wasted jacket (akin to a motorcycle jacket’s length), and not boxy.
while true to military specs and sizing, i think these alpha jackets have been ever so marginally adjusted over the last 10 years to better sizing. THAT is NOT to say bigger and baggier, as so many modern A-2 leather jackets! just the opposite! the earlier alpha B-15 was boxier and overly short. the current one is slimmer, more milspec fit, and ever so marginally longer without violating the length these jackets are supposed to be.
another beauty of these is that they have remained authentic to the originals, even while alpha is clearly realizing the gold mine of military design chic. to their credit, they have not screwed these icons up. instead, they have allowed the youth market a new crop of military ‘styled’ jackets that bastardize the N-2B and B-15 in versions like ‘the injector’ and over-designed military wannabe looks...but left the real deal alone.
i’m sure urbanites with money to burn will like that mishmash. for those who see alpha as a keeper of the flame, i’m glad to say they’ve done an admirable job here and i couldn’t be happier with both of these. the colors too. the replica blue of the N-2B; and the air-sea version of the B-15, the navy.
alpha, regarding their nylon flight jackets, are unique. while both cooper and avirex recreated the A-2 for the military, most will agree the post war A-2s and G-1s they made, never lived up to the originals.
with alpha, they never changed, or recreated, these two jackets (as well as many of their other nylon military jacket styles)...they never stopped making them from the time they turned them out under military contract.
a last point, cosmetic in a sense.
thank goodness the ‘made in china’ is not on the sewn-in label. all the sewn-in labels are authentic to the original military contract alphas. the ‘made in china’ is thankfully put on the very removable washing care hang label, so it can be cut off and you can pretend it was made here in the U.S.