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Replacement zips for Irvin jacket

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One of the Regulars
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166
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Birch Bay
I have an original Coastal Command Irvin jacket that needs all three zips. I don't need to fins original zips for it, but I'd like it to be as authentic as is reasonably possible. Does anyone know where I can buy 'close enough' replacement zips? I live in the U.S.
 

Fanch

I'll Lock Up
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You might check with Insurrection or Good Wear Leather Coat Company, both in Seattle.
 
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aswatland

My Mail is Forwarded Here
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Repro zips may well devalue the jacket when you come to sell it and besides no one makes a completely accurate repro Irvin zip.
 
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I have a set of closed-end Lighning zippers that would work for sleeve zippers. They are original WWII era, or just after, zippers and the puller is identical to many Lightning pullers found on original Irvins. I can get an essentially endless supply of these.

Three differences from the ones found on Irvins - 1) They are about 1"-2" shorter so the sleeve opening would be shortened; 2) the teeth and puller are 1 size smaller than standard Irvin zippers; 3) the zip tape is not always brown, though I have some that are.

If you like, I can take some photos with an original AM Crown marked Lightning for comparison.
 

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One of the Regulars
Messages
166
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Birch Bay
I would only recommend buying original zips. This guy is offering Dot main zips and sleeve zips. Check him out:-
http://wwiijackets.co.uk/products-page/jackets/spares/

Repro zips may well devalue the jacket when you come to sell it and besides no one makes a completely accurate repro Irvin zip.

Ordinarily I'd agree that original zips are the only way to go. But I'm pretty sure I paid too much for the jacket (£435 -- more than $700 -- including shipping, back in 2010), and an additional £200 for original zips is a little too dear. And unless I reduce the width of my shoulders, I can't even wear it! There are no tears, but I've seen much better examples. So my options are:
  • Keep it un-repaired;
  • Repair it with repro zips and enjoy it for what it is(and/or let my girlfriend wear it);
  • Repair it with original zips and keep it;
  • Repair it with original zips and sell it;
  • Sell it as-is.
I don't like having things that are non-functional, so that's why I'm looking to repair it. Repairing it with repro zips would make it functional. If I never sell it, then it doesn't matter if it's devalued. If I restore it with original zips, then it becomes more desirable. Then it comes to whether I sell it or keep it. If I keep it, I'll be kicking myself for spending so much on something I can't wear. If I sell it, I don't see recovering the cost. That leaves selling it as-is. As I said, I think I paid too much for it. (Note that this is the only original WWII jacket I have, so I don't actually know the market. I just thought it would be nice to have a Coastal Command jacket.) If I think I paid too much for it, then I can't imagine that those of you who are serious collectors would be willing to pay what I paid, plus shipping to wherever you are.

Believe me when I say that I understand how collectors feel about adulterating artefacts. Generally I agree. 'How dare that yobbo ruin a piece of history! How can he even consider it? This is why artefacts need to be kept out of the hands of dilettantes!' I made a mistake buying a jacket with broken zips. Still, it's nice to look at. If I can't sell it, then it may as well be functional.
 
If the zips are there but broken, can they be repaired? Don't be too hasty with zippers - they are very often repairable, if the damage isn't terminal, like ripped tape or too many missing teeth. It's easy to get a slider back on the tracks if it's come off, for example, and teeth can be inserted/replaced/moved around with care. And if the tracks are fine, the pullers/sliders can be replaced very easily.

Replacing zippers will only affect the resale value. Whether or not these uniform pieces are important artefacts worthy of protection from restoration is very much up for debate. Certainly very few people who flew in them treated them as such when riding motorcycles postwar. They became, simply, clothing. I wouldn't worry too much about it.
 
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One of the Regulars
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166
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Birch Bay
If the zips are there but broken, can they be repaired? Don't be too hasty with zippers - they are very often repairable, if the damage isn't terminal, like ripped tape or too many missing teeth. It's easy to get a slider back on the tracks if it's come off, for example, and teeth can be inserted/replaced/moved around with care. And if the tracks are fine, the pullers/sliders can be replaced very easily.

Replacing zippers will only affect the resale value. Whether or not these uniform pieces are important artefacts worthy of protection from restoration is very much up for debate. Certainly very few people who flew in them treated them as such when riding motorcycles postwar. They became, simply, clothing. I wouldn't worry too much about it.

The right sleeve zip is intact, only the teeth do not engage. That is, when the slider is pulled down it's still open above it. About 3 inches of the bottom of the right side of the main zip have become detached from its tape. About 4 inches of the left side of the main zip are missing. There is no slider. The teeth on the left sleeve are intact, but there is no slider.

You're right; restoration is debatable. An old repair is still a repair. Certainly an entirely original piece is more desirable than one with an old repair; but the reality is that people made repairs with non-standard/incorrect parts all the time. There are a lot of aircraft flying that were rebuilt from wrecks, and have had more than half of their components/structure replaced. And yet a flying Mustang or Hurricane is worth more than a wreck. It's a Ship of Theseus style of thing. I have a S&W M1917 made during WWI, and I bought new original-style stocks from S&W to replace the poor-condition originals. That makes it worth more to me. My '66 MGB has a Pertronix ignition, which makes the car more useful. The jacket is not museum-quality, and it had been well-used. If someone changed the zips in 1950, a collector might say 'Too bad they're not original. But it's an old repair.' The way I see it, in 50 years any repair made now will be an 'old repair'. (Not that I'll be alive in 50 years. And not that I can wear the jacket anyway. I can lose weight, but I'd have to saw some bones to make the shoulders fit! :p )
 
It sounds to me like the right sleeve zip is repairable, though a pic would help diagnosis. I fully suspect you can get that zip working again. (it's far less difficult than it sounds). It seems like what you'll need to do is:

1) remove the zip from the jacket and carefully remove the U-stops (or solid stops, whatever version your jacket has on it) - don't break them as you'll need them later.

2) Take the puller off by sliding past where the U-stops used to be.

3) Engage the teeth by hand all the way down, starting at the closed end.

4) reattach the puller (this can, admittedly be a bit tricky but I can put together a tutorial if you like) and slide to the end.

5) reattach the U-stops. It sounds more difficult than it is, having done it a few times myself.

6) Then the zipper needs to be restitched to the sleeve.

The left sleeve zip needs a slider (easier to source than a whole zip!) and the process will be the same as above to reattach. The main zip sounds like a write-off.
 

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One of the Regulars
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166
Location
Birch Bay
I'm not sure what that would do. The pull slides freely in both directions. It's just that when it's 'zipped closed', the part that is supposed to be closed isn't.
 

aswatland

My Mail is Forwarded Here
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I'm not sure what that would do. The pull slides freely in both directions. It's just that when it's 'zipped closed', the part that is supposed to be closed isn't.

I suspect the zip slider is worn and that is why the teeth will not engage. Replacing the slider should resolve the problem.
 

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One of the Regulars
Messages
166
Location
Birch Bay
Interesting. I didn't know that could happen. I've always thought the teeth would be the component that becomes worn.
 

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One of the Regulars
Messages
166
Location
Birch Bay
I'll post some photos of the zips, as well as the rest of the jacket. The photos are large, so I'm just going to post links rather than clutter up the thread.

Right sleeve zip, 'closed'
Right sleeve zip, open
Main zip; 3" right side unattached, 4" left side missing
Left sleeve zip

Jacket front
Jacket back
Wear on fleece on the waist
Jacket interior fleece
Coastal Command hood
Hood fleece wear
Coastal Command hood 2
Belt
Leather condition 1
Leather condition 2
Leather condition 3
Leather condition 4

The leather isn't cracking, but it can stand a nice coat of Picard's. The fleece at the hood looks worse in the photo than it does when it's lying naturally. I wanted to highlight the wear. The belt can be easily stitched.
 
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