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i love wearing nylons so i bought a pair: REViEW of the Alpha B-15 & N-2B

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by johnnyjohnny, Mar 2, 2012.

  1. johnnyjohnny

    johnnyjohnny Practically Family

    after exhausting the range of purchasable leather jackets, from A-2 to G-1 to G-2, to ww2 luftwaffe, to motojax like café 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.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2012
  2. Sgt.MikeHorvath

    Sgt.MikeHorvath Familiar Face

    pics please?wearing both theme too?;);)
  3. Fifty150

    Fifty150 A-List Customer

    I always thought that Alpha Industries made a quality garment. Whether they are historically accurate.....well.....maybe not. But why they sell is well made, durable, and warm. For a time, it seemed like everybody had an MA-1. And in those days, the Alpha Industries version was probably the most popular. I've got several different Alpha Industries jackets, and I can't find a fault with any of them.
  4. GriffDeLaGriff

    GriffDeLaGriff One Too Many

    I have an Alpha parka in brown and it looks alot like your jacket, specially on the arms and pockets.

    For the price, it is a very good jacket. It is as you say very light to wear and somewhat warm (not very warm tho)
    But you get what you pay for, its not perfect in every stitch and its not comparable to a high end cotton jacket.
    The zipper is kinda hard to zip up specially in the throat area (I have a hood on mine)

    I am very happy with it tho, as you say, it slips on nice and feels great, and it looks very nice also.
    For the price, its a steal where I live.
  5. polocoat

    polocoat Familiar Face

    I thought the original N-2b was made with a special heavy duty mil spec. nylon material. The Alpha jackets I have seen appear to have been made using a "satin" like material. Can anybody comment about the quality and authenticity of the current Alpha n-2b material? Is it mil spec. nylon?
  6. CodeRed

    CodeRed One of the Regulars

    Can't you often just buy the real and orginal military jackets on ebay for less or close to the price of the replicas?
  7. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Depends on the jacket. Some of them yes, but not the airforce Blue B15C as so few of them were issued originally. A tatty one can bring in as much as an original A2; a mint one much, much more. There's an unissued Size 44 on eBay currently, with a price tag of about two grand on it - from what I have seen, they might just get that too.

    Johnnyjohnny, if you're putting up more photos I'd live to see photos of the interior and labelling. I have three nylon jackets in my collection: One is the Buzz Rickson B15-C Mod, another the original, early nineties Alpha Replica Series B15C, the third an Alpha Vintage Series L-2A in the lighter, "vintage blue" (presumably replicating a faded jacket?). The Alpha B15 stands up remarkably well to the Buzz. The Buzz feels just a tiny bit more fitted, though I think that might well be down to the all-wool inner lining being a bit stiffer than the Alpha (which I have worn more, too), in which it is a poly-wool mix if memory serves. It's also possible the Buzz is a tiny bit more tailored as Japanese jackets often are. Both are great. The Buzz has a slight edge in overall feel, but not at the sort of price difference they typically go for (I was lucky and picked it up in mint condition used for significantly less than it would have been). I'm intrigued as to whether these new jackets labelled "Replica" are as accurate as the original ones (not perfect, but close enough for me - especially nice in the labelling detail). They don't appear to have the roundel transfer (easily rectified if needsbe - and allows the option for the full colour one, which you don't have on the Buzz.... afaik the 'skeleton' version on the Buzz jackets was the one that got put on at the depot when the old one wore out?). Otherwise look good, though, and the shape of the labels looks good - never been able to find one for real or a photo big enough to see how they are, though. My Vintage Series L-2A of course has Alpha branded labels that are close but not a full replica (nor intended to be one) of the original spec labels. The Buzz jackets are outstanding at the right price, but I doubt I'd consider one of their L2s.... new they're close to the price of an A2 from Aero or Eastman (seriously.... for a nylon windbreaker.....), and used the blue L-2A I've only seen come up once, and sell for way over what I'd pay. I'm trying to keep myself away from the green nylons as well, but hell.... if they did a good B15-D......
  8. johnnyjohnny

    johnnyjohnny Practically Family

    alpha, cont....

    appreciate the interest, not because i work for alpha (which i do not), but because i’ve fallen in love with them.

    after reading the questions here, i fell into reporter mode and called alpha for answers. the customer service rep put me through to one of the staff, Hi, who was very gracious in giving a primer on alphas.

    the military jacket industry may not be everyone’s cup of tea, so i’ll just answer the questions so far posed here, plus a few of my own.

    first, he stated as fact, that the jackets which are continued contract U.S. military flight jackets, i.e. those no longer issue U.S. military, DO use the same ‘satin’ flight nylon as the originals. And they are full military spec, as were the originals. in fact, i must disagree with one observation here on the venerable forum, i’ve always thought the actual vintage b-15s and n-2b’s seen on ebay, unless well worn, had the same beautiful satin sheen as these alphas. these are gorgeous, and nice to know, milspec.

    again, Hi said except for two points, everything about the now-former mil contract jackets offered by alpha is milspec as it was during the actual production for the govt...the two differences, more a change due to time.

    they are, 1. the cuffs and stretch waist are now made of acrylic stretch material as the old wool knit would mildew and rot when gotten wet and not dried properly. 2. making them a bit lighter and almost as warm as the originals, the fill fabric is now an acrylic blend rather the cotton fill as in the past.

    if these two things are important to you, definitely get a vintage on ebay. HOWevah, the idea of price being lower on those is a fiction. i’ve rambled through the b-15 and n-2b vintage jax on ebay and they generally start at the same price point as these new alphas, going on up to altitudinal costs of over $1000 for some, such as good condition pritzkers. and then, you really wouldn’t want to wear something that expensive.

    a personal concern was why these aren’t made in the U.S., since most of us jacket nuts would pay a bit more for that on former U.S. military contracted jackets. there’s a good reason, sadly.

    for anyone ever ordering a custom vanson motorcycle leather jacket, you likely know the reason. and not just the extreme prices, but the wait time of up to a half year. those wishing to get down on vanson for this, don’t.

    the minimum production costs for U.S. made would be 30% higher, just for labor, Hi said. which sounds quite doable for consumers like us. but that was the start. for economies of scale, large dye lots for the fabric are required, and large production numbers for an order. even at the ‘modest’ 30% price increase for U.S. made, virtually no retailer would want to stock the higher price jacket.

    and alpha would not be able to meet the economy of scale to keep prices at ‘only’ 30% higher if they were to offer these only on their website to official-o-philes like myself. the jackets would need to be full custom jobs, bringing them into the price range of $500, making vanson custom leather, and buzz rickson nylon replicas, seem quite fairly priced. and there’s a similar lag time for custom orders, as well.

    and despite that, Hi said, alpha has been looking for several years to find U.S. factories to do just that, make these jackets domestically. if alpha could, then the could do the economy of scale numbers and long production runs required. they have not been able to find a factory that could meet their price requirements however, according to Hi. but still, they seek. the only two U.S. alpha factories are fully dedicated to the two jackets alpha now makes for the military, which are required to have fully fire retardant material, the NWECS and ECWCS.

    lastly, addressing the welcome additional 1.5" in length on my just-bought b-15, over the one i got 10 years ago, Hi stated emphatically that there was no design or spec change.

    it was attributed to the difference in any manufactured garment that was within tolerances.

    since Hi will read this, i’ll be careful and not say i don’t believe him. in fact, the chest armpit to armpit are virtually the same on the decade old b-15 and new one. and maybe the new b-15 is closer to an inch longer than a full 1.5" (though i doubt it). personally, i have to reserve judgement on whether length has not been added, or sizes shifted slightly.

    still, Hi swears it ain’t so. that NOTHiNG has changed milspec-wise since the originals, except the cuff/waist and fill fabric. the credibility of his newyawk accent is hard to argue with on issues of clothing production.

    i did thank him for the great stuff alpha makes.

    as for pix of me in these faB-oo-less jackets...they would have to be the same crappy shots through my trailer mirror, with the camera sticking out of my head pointing into the mirror. if that’s what people want to see, i’ll set about doing it in the next week.

    but accept the fact that as beautiful as these jackets look on the alpha website, they look better on. in fact, worldwide, there is no manufacturer who made these nylon jackets under U.S. military contract that is still making them to the same specs. additionally, i’ve bought the top competitors versions of these two jackets, and while they are competent jackets, they don’t compare to alphas.

    signed, a total fan!

    NOTE to edward: i'll shoot a few pix of the labels, probably in a week or so when i shoot me...but i don't think they have the contract numbers in that dry white or black label of the originals, but the other label-age is full alpha...tho it may have been a bit updated over time. as said, these are not replicas, but better in a way, continued production to military specs, just beyond the date the U.S. military contracts for them.
  9. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Thanks, Johnny. I'm curious about the labels as much as anything for the simple reason that the closer they are to the originals, the more likely they are to have stuck to military spec, if that makes any sort of sense.... Though as Atticus pointed out to me recently, the L2 is such a simple design, it's hard to go far wrong with it. I'm more keen on the jacket looking "right" on - no orange lining, good airforce blue colour. Like yourself, I wear these in a civilian context, I'm not putting together an impression, so.... I'd likely put on the USAF roundel, but purely because I like how it looks on there - no other reason. Need to find a UK supplier now, really (surprisingly tricksy to track down over here).
  10. Ha! I saw the line "I love wearing nylons", and thought this was a Powder Room post about keeping your seams straight. :)
  11. johnnyjohnny

    johnnyjohnny Practically Family

    Last edited: Mar 2, 2012
  12. johnnyjohnny

    johnnyjohnny Practically Family

    'd'...it's not keeping my seams straight...it's keeping my christian louboutin straight from my manolo blahniks ;D
  13. polocoat

    polocoat Familiar Face

    Be aware, the Alpha L-2a is NOT made with heavy nylon twill fabric as the original jackets were. Of course, the Alpha jacket made with "flight satin" is much less expensive than the Buzz Rickson "accurate" L-2a which costs $500.00. Compare/contrast the Alpha L-2a with the BR L-2a to see the difference. Both appear to be fine jackets, just ensure you know what you are buying.
  14. johnnyjohnny

    johnnyjohnny Practically Family

    CORREX on L-2A fabric

    hi polo...saw your post and was confused since the fabric on the buzz L-2A looked exactly like what alpha uses on their L-2A and all their flight jackets that had been made under U.S. mil contract.

    they did make the L-2A under contract to the U.S. military, according to Hy, who is the U.S. sales manager for alpha industries. he verified that the original L-2A made by alpha for the military, and by other contractors, was the same military spec 'nylon flight satin' as alpha uses today in the L-2A and their other flight jackets.

    he said another term for that very rugged fabric is 'nylon twill'. so while buzz rickson may imply that it's something different than what is used in their b-15s or other flight jackets that is not the case. and in fact, reading their advertising, it didn't seem they were claiming that. just referring to it in it's other term, 'nylon twill'.

    Hy said that alpha is one of the few manufacturers who make flight jackets that use this heavyweight fabric, aside from the replicators like buzz. i'd guess, but haven't checked, that cockpitusa would also use the actual 'nylon twill' or 'nylon flight satin' as alpha and buzz use.

    hope that clears things up.
  15. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    FWIW, I can't comment on the L2s, but the fabric used on my buzz B15C Mod feels identical to that on my Alpha Replica B15-C. I've not handled a more recent Alpha, so don't know about those.... They do seem to have several models of each, though, which might explain the difference of experiences and any conflicting information.
  16. johnnyjohnny

    johnnyjohnny Practically Family

    just to respond edward, the flight satin on my new b-15 and n-2b is the same as on my 10-year old b-15. Hy stated that on all flight jackets that were made with flight satin/nylon twill (ma, cpu, b-15, n-2b, n-3b, L-2a, L-2b, etc.), that these were all the govt spec fabric they still use on those jackets.

    i did tell Hy i was posting this info, and that i was a former reporter who was fanatic on flight jackets. As U.S. sales manager for alpha, i don't think he would fabricate (pun) info on specifications knowing it was for public dispensation.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2012
  17. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas My Mail is Forwarded Here

    I have an American made alpha MA-1 from 2000. The fit is very poor and boxy.
    Last edited: Mar 2, 2012
  18. Otter

    Otter One Too Many

    Oh No, you dared to heap scorn on Buzz Ricksson who must be the most autentic replicators in the world, burn the heretic!! (With no implied parody of Monty Python).
  19. Edward

    Edward Bartender

    Makes sense - I'm sure they are telling you the truth. Did they confirm exactly what years they were involved as a military contractor?

    Uh-oh..... I'm pretty sure I weigh a lot more than a duck.... lol The Buzz jackets really are gorgeous.... if only they weren't so expensive! The B15s, to be fair, are competitively priced with similar alternatives (and their B15C is a fraction of the price of originals), but I really can't get past what they charge for the L2 which really is such a simple jacket. Still, must be plenty of folks out there all too ready to pay it, else they wouldn't still be in business. ;)
  20. normanf

    normanf One of the Regulars

    My Spiewak Golden Fleece N3B parka - the standard version - is a USA made nylon parka sold only in Japan.

    My Japan size 40 is equivalent to a USA 42. The polyester batting is plenty warm in cold winter weather and the acrylic lined hood with a real coyote fur trim ruff on the hood is perfect.

    I love this coat - its light and amazingly warm. Compared to a heavy leather sheepskin coat, there's almost no weight when worn.

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