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A plea for help in choosing a sheepskin jacket

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Cameron Hooper, Sep 23, 2017.

  1. Peter Mackin

    Peter Mackin A-List Customer

    Won't aero or Eastman just make you a jacket with pockets ? Not everyone wants a faithful repo....or go for a aviation leathercraft jacket..great construction , pockets .just not period correct.
  2. Cameron Hooper

    Cameron Hooper New in Town

    Thanks for your response! to address the flaws: the lack of pockets is slightly off putting. But then i've been thinking i should just get a good pair of gloves being as it's a winter jacket anyway?! I do a fair bit of wondering around places and i want to start exploring the countryside more (especially in autumn and winter) so it works in that sense. They are rather bombastic jackets, but i think I'd love it nonetheless.

    The D-1 looks more practical for sure, but the shape of it doesn't look as nice to me. If i go to Galashiels I'll definitely try one on though.

    I didn't realise I could get an ANJ4 with thinner shearling - thanks! That's definitely one to consider. Being able to wear the jackets more often has been a big consideration to be honest - i don't want to buy one of these amazing jackets and then only wear them a few times a year. But then when I was in london on saturday for the pop up, an irvin definitely wouldn't have gone amiss!
  3. Cameron Hooper

    Cameron Hooper New in Town

    Hi Peter,

    Apparently they won't add pockets to an Irvin, from what I've read anyway. I've read that aviation leathercraft have really thick linings and are therefore super warm. Plus, I think I prefer the overall look of the Aera and eastman irvins. The lack of pockets is a concern but I would find a way around it to wear a jacket that nice!
  4. MeachamLake

    MeachamLake One of the Regulars

    Always good to try as much stuff on as you can! Good plan.

    I don't know 100% that they would make an ANJ-4 out of the 1/2 inch fleece, but I'm sure I read around these parts that somebody had done it...still, the normal ANJ-4 is awesome anyway. :)
  5. SpeedRcrX

    SpeedRcrX One Too Many

    They would! They made my B3 with a 1/2 inch fleece and I couldn’t be happier.
    It makes the jacket more useful. Today I walked around my town and was well protected against the wind and the cold after that I went to a food show (is it the right term for un salon de la gastronomie ?) inside and I didn’t need to take off my jacket.

    For pockets I learned to be without ones with my DD J-100 and Himel Kensington. I just put on gloves and I’m ready to go!
    MeachamLake likes this.
  6. MeachamLake

    MeachamLake One of the Regulars

    Ah! It was you I was remembering! :D Your B3 looks awesome, and doesn't look that visually different to the standard one. You can't really tell it has the 1/2 inch fleece from looking at it.

    If I were to order a B3 or ANJ4, I would certainly do the same :)
  7. SpeedRcrX

    SpeedRcrX One Too Many

    You’re right at first glance you don’t notice the difference but when you wear it, it’s another story!
  8. El Marro

    El Marro Practically Family

    I think the Irvin you have on in the photo looks awesome! If I were you I would've put down the money and walked out of the pop up wearing that jacket on my shoulders.
  9. Sloan1874

    Sloan1874 I'll Lock Up

    An Irvin is the coolest looking jacket and an ideal weight of shearling for the UK - I've had nothing but compliments when I wear it. The lack of pockets isn't that big a deal, I just use jeans ones.
    Edward and Cameron Hooper like this.
  10. GregGale

    GregGale Familiar Face

    I knew you wouldn't be able to resist the Irvin :) It's certainly the most bad@ss jacket ever made. Don't worry about the pockets, your jeans has them. Irvins are heavy and very warm, but they look awesome zipped won or halfway up as well.

    As for the color: I personally prefer russet when it comes to Irvins, I don't like them in seal brown, but that is just me.
    Cameron Hooper likes this.
  11. Stand By

    Stand By One Too Many

    Good day Cameron, and welcome to the lounge.
    As MeachamLake says, "if you can live with the flaws" - well, it should be noted that the Irvin IS a flawed design - for peacetime, pub-hopping in temperate climates or traipsing the shopping malls. Remember that it was designed for keeping aircrew warm at high altitude in Winter, and was cut short so that it could be worn with sheepskin trousers and allow for turning easily, so a breeze in the midriff wasn't an issue to them. It was simple in design, warm and bulky and did the job with enough layers beneath.
    Fast forward to today and the Irvin is still around and has timeless cool and that vintage wartime look that's endearing to the nation's heritage (to those who remember!)- and around here, we do remember and like them without pockets as we tend to be purists in that kind of thing and we like them as close to their original design elements as possible.
    But then again, it's now peacetime and having somewhere to keep your Zippo or wallet is nice and they're hand warmers too, so I can understand how some people would want them. So it's up to you.

    As for the Aero versus ELC thing, it's a bit like Pepsi/Coke. They're both great cola's - you choose whichever suits your palette. Or one doesn't care. They both hit the spot when you want one.
    And both the companies make quality jackets, so it's really down to which one appeals to your "eye" (in terms of colours and materials) as much as anything. It's a personal preference thing.

    Good for you for deciding to run out to ELC already (and that Irvin looks great on you, btw) and to knowing that heading up to Galashiels is a wise thing to do. Indeed, it is! As you have just discovered for yourself, there really is no substitute for trying on jackets, feeling them, seeing the colours, noting the details in the stitching, looking at the labels, seeing the variety of zippers etc. And feeling the thicknesses of sheepskin!
    If you're heading up to Galashiels to explore, I would also recommend that you check out Alexander Leathers as they are up there too and very nearby and they make Irvins too.
    I would also recommend that you look up the website of Aviation Leathercraft and see their Irvins. They have pockets! They are not as historically correct (which you say doesn't matter to you) and are cheaper - and they are perhaps the most robust Irvins available and I know as I wore one for 18 years and it wasn't a matter of how long it was going to last but who I was going to leave it to! But they are over-engineered from the wartime specs and their piles of sheepskin are thicker, so only you can decide if that's too much lagging for you!
    Me? As I said, I wore mine very happily for 18 years from when I was 18. And then I needed a bit more room in the chest, so I began looking online (as the WWW became a thing and was suddenly possible!) for a replacement but I also wanted an upgrade and began to look to see if there was such a thing ... and I discovered TFL. And ELC. And Aero. And Buzz Ricksons. And Real McCoys. And US Authentic. And Lost Worlds .... and goodness me, I was suddenly like a dog in a forest!!! And since then there is also Aces High.
    I trawled the web and did all the research I could and took my time - and I opted for ELC in the end. I'd just seen Pearl Harbor (which I loved. So sue me) and I got their 1940 Patt. Irvin - but as time went by, the colour didn't move me as much as I thought at first ... and a year or so later I traded it in with Gary for their 1942 Patt. which I simply adore. It's much more Bomber Command than Fighter Command, which very much appeals to me more in some firm but intangible way. It is also a perfect copy of my old doctor's Irvin and he flew in Fairey Swordfish dropping tin fish with the Fleet Air Arm in the war. That was well over a decade ago and I still have it and love it.
    Speaking of the Fleet Air Arm, I do like Aero's hooded Irvin very much. That'd be one I'd consider if there's a next time.

    Is the Irvin too warm for the UK? I never found so in the following 11 years I was there wearing it before I moved out here to Canada (and it came with me). Yes, too warm to wear in a warm pub for any length of time, so do take it off and hang it on the back of a chair while you drink and relax (or else it can cook you) - but do keep your hand on it and/or an eye on it and make sure your pals know to do the same when you're in the gents! Something like that could "walk" so keep it close.
    But mine would come out around Guy Fawke's Night (Nov. 5th for anyone unfamiliar) and stay out until Eastertime as a rule - and as Sloan says, it's all about layering. Make sure you have room for a good sweater and it's then good for the deep cold. Wear it with a T-shirt and it's good for milder but damp temps. They're great for the cop at football, with all that standing still and taking the edge off the damp cold (my team is Sheffield Wednesday so not even that can take the edge off the sense of despondency. As my dad says, "It's like watching a washing machine.").
    And never mind the pockets. That's what a good pair of gloves are for. You won't miss them. Trust me. The jackets look better without them and have cleaner and unfussy front panels for that. But that's just my 2 cents on that. I just wouldn't let that be a deciding factor if that was me.

    So do take your time, as this is a big ticket item to splash out on so the return on your research will be well rewarded - and if you get it right and keep your weight in sensible limits, it'll serve you faithfully for decades.
    And do look around and cast a wide net with the companies. Even if you look at other companies and rule them out as you go, at least you will feel assured that you made the right choice when you make it - and people here may argue this and that about who makes the best Irvin, but ultimately, you will know you got the right one for YOU. And that is something that nobody else can argue.
    Enjoy the hunt - and good hunting!
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
    Cameron Hooper likes this.
  12. Stand By

    Stand By One Too Many

    PS. And then I got my ELC Irvin ... and an ELC 352nd A2 to replace and upgrade my old Aviation Leathercraft A2 which I'd bought the year after my Irvin in 1988. You'd think that would be enough.
    And then I liked their B-6 and got one. And a C-2 vest. And a RW B-3. And others. Then I discovered Aero and they were great to deal with! Oh, and and on and on that story goes ... so be warned!!!
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2017
    Cameron Hooper and Dav like this.
  13. Cameron Hooper

    Cameron Hooper New in Town

    Stand By, thanks so much for this! It must have taken you a while to type out! I really love this forum since joining - you guys are all so passionate!

    With Alexander Leathers (Simmons Bilt now?) the closest they have to an Irvin is is the 'RAF pattern' right? Doesn't look as nice as aero and eastman irvins but you're right, if I'm up in Scotland it could be worth a look!

    Aviation Leathercraft is where I started out; they look nice but eastman and aero have caught my eye more. While I'm not too fussed about the accuracy, there's just something about the faithful repros!

    From what I can tell with the ELC irvins, the 1940 pattern is russet with caramel lining made with fewer sheepskin panels as opposed to the 1942 which has more panels and has the brown lining, right? Or are there other differences I've missed? They're both really nice, not sure which one I'd choose at this point!

    I always overthink everything, which is probably good in this case. Thanks for your advice!
    Mysteryo and Stand By like this.
  14. Sloan1874

    Sloan1874 I'll Lock Up

    Absolutely do not consider the AL pattern: a. the pattern is very inaccurate - the sleeves are a modern tubular shape, unlike the proper 'bell' shape that the others have; b. the sheepskin is far too thick compared to the originals, reducing its flexibility and comfort. It's basically the old Aero pattern that was used under the old regime. It's not a sensible purchase.
    Cameron Hooper likes this.
  15. Hi Cam,

    I started my journey with an Aviation Leathercraft Irvin which has been the most impractical jacket I've ever owned. Workmanship was first class and extremely warm. Downside is that it's incredibly bulky and uncomfortable, tubular arms and feturless hide. I sold it 12 months later to China. Fast forward to now, I have anAero B6 as my go to winter jacket which is comfortable in all temps here in Oz (don't be fooled, here in Ballarat the temp is often in the
    low singles and minuses in the evening). I think they can use various sheepskin densities as requested and they are a far better cut jacket.


    Cameron Hooper and Sloan1874 like this.
  16. dubpynchon

    dubpynchon One of the Regulars

    I'll echo @El Marro, I would have bought the Irvin you're wearing in the photo, you're not going to get a better fit than that.
    Cameron Hooper and El Marro like this.
  17. LaymanX

    LaymanX One of the Regulars

    I love my Eastman B6. It's a jacket you just throw on with jeans or slacks and wear.

    You never feel like you're cosplaying or posturing like a WWII pilot. It doesn't draw unnatural attention (either positive or negative), which is a good thing with me. Sometimes a jacket is just a jacket.
    bobm, MeachamLake and Sloan1874 like this.
  18. CBI

    CBI Practically Family

    Great points and comments. Go for an Eastman D-1 Has some versatility to wear at different temperature points, has pockets and not too outrageous looking. Eastman's are a little more authentic looking which seals the deal for me but Aero's are wonderful as well.
    MeachamLake likes this.
  19. I have an EAstman 42 pattern, and it is lovely. When I bought it back in 2008/9, I went looking for an ELC because Aero were still doing the old tubular sleeves pattern, which is neither correct nor, frankly, even good-looking in and of itself, accuracy aside. Simmonds Bilt / Alexander Leathers seem to still be using that pattern. (SB/AL, like everyone else apart from Aviation Leathercraft/ALC call them an 'RAF jacket' because only ALC have permission to use the Irvin trademark, despite, ironically, producing the least accuratre of all the repros by a country mile. Quality jackets, yes, accurate reproductions of the real thing, not a chance). Aero's Irvins have been redrafted since Ken came back to the company in 2012, and the shape is now spot on. For my money, ELC and Aero are now just a matter of personal preference apart. I've not bought an Eastman in a lnog time as they've just pushed the prices too high for me to be comfortable with, but if money doesn't matter then really it is largely down to who makes the one you like the look of. Personally, I have my long-term eye on one of Aero's redskin B6s and, Irvin-wise, the Coastal Command version, which Aero brought into their line in 2014/15, and to date remain the only company reproducing them.

    Another difference between Aero and ELC: ELC will brook no changes to their patterns (their reputation being based on producing olny accurate milspec repros), whereas Aero will, at their discretion, make some changes (thinner fleece and such) to the jacket as long as those changes stop short of requiring significant alterations to pattern. I don't know if that would include handwarmers (back in the Mark Moyes era, they made a B3 with D1 / B6 type pockets for the US market), but if you really have to have pockets in a shearling, just buy one of the US jackets that have them by design.

    As I've said before elsewhere, I've never missedc pockets on my Irvin. Actually, I've never used handwarmers on any of my jackets - they're just there if they are part of the design. Stick me paws in me trews when I'm wearing a short jacket like that. If you need somewhere to stow keys / pipe / wallet / phone, wear a well-pocketed waistcoat underneath the Irvin.
    Cameron Hooper likes this.
  20. MeachamLake

    MeachamLake One of the Regulars

    This would be my vote for the B6 and D1 as well. The B6 in particular has such a lot of shape in the design that it looks remarkably contemporary fit wise.
    handymike likes this.

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