Soviet leather flight jackets by Aero

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Big J, Apr 4, 2019.

  1. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    There's a couple of interesting threads over at VLJ.
    One is Aero's Ken Calder talking about how Aero made a huge order of jackets for the Soviets under the 'lend-lease' arrangement during WWII, and that Aero is looking to offer repros of these jackets again;

    https://www.vintageleatherjackets.o...ero-leather-of-beacon-ny-ever-received.21194/

    The other is by Flightengineer, and includes information and photos of the Soviet made later versions of these Aero jackets;

    https://www.vintageleatherjackets.o...force-vintage-leather-jacket-from-1975.22556/

    They're a great pair of threads and worth a read. At my age, I get nostalgic for the Cold War, and these jackets make me think of Russian pilots in Korea, MiG-21 pilots, and test pilots/cosmonauts Yuri Gagarin and Rugby Union hero Vladimir Illyushin (apart from Sturmoviks smashing Nazi tanks of course).

    VLJ is a bit...'cliquey' with about 5 members, so I'm baffled as to why Aero hasn't given these any coverage here on TFL. Maybe Aero doesn't want to sell them to *you*.
     
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  2. Bfd70

    Bfd70 One Too Many

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    I did read that write up from flightengineer. Very informative. He’s a member here too. Maybe a pm requesting a cross post.
     
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  3. Flightengineer

    Flightengineer Practically Family

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    Thank you for appreciating my efforts :) I'm glad that it was interesting to someone else besides myself.
    Ken announced that Aero Lend Lease jacket should be on sale by the autumn.
     
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  4. willyto

    willyto Practically Family

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    Not my cup of tea to be honest. They might be interesting from a history point of view but I don't like them.
     
  5. seres

    seres A-List Customer

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    Aero Leather has been hitting home run after home run!!! The Goldsmith A-2, the Black Fleece Irvin, and now the Lend Lease jacket... WOW!!!
     
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  6. David Conwill

    David Conwill Call Me a Cab

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    "My feelings are that the leather could possibly have been supplied by the Russians, hence the term “Russian Leather” above Goatskin on the Lease Lend doc? The fact that we are having trouble agreeing from which type of animal the leather in our archive sample derives might support that theory."

    Gulag leather? :eek::confused:o_O
     
    Big J likes this.
  7. Lebowski

    Lebowski Practically Family

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    Well said, have thought almost the same.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
  8. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    @David Conwill,
    Yeah, I don't know...
    What animals did they have plenty of? Yak? Deer? I haven't got a clue. Probably some kind of steer or horse.

    These jackets look like Indy jackets from behind. I like 'em. Very golden era, and a nice change from waist length flight jackets.
     
  9. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    There's also this thread about a Korean War era People's Liberation Army (Air Force) jacket;

    https://www.vintageleatherjackets.org/threads/chinese-plaaf-korean-war-leather-flight-jacket.22594/

    These jackets featured so much in iconic Chinese propaganda posters of MiG pilots. I'd love one of these!

    Whilst English language accounts of Russian pilots in Korea have been around for a few years, it's only fairly recently that PLAAF pilots accounts have been coming out in English.
    I find all this fascinating.
     
    seres likes this.
  10. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Nice to see a period 3/4 length leather jacket. Must be the only military issue leather that long.
     
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  11. nick123

    nick123 I'll Lock Up

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    Love this. But it has much to do with my fascination with Soviet-era aircraft.
     
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  12. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    @David Conwill,

    I found this;
    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Russia_leather

    So I'm thinking that the term 'Russian Leather' used in the original Aero contract didn't refer necessarily to leather from Russia (although hides may have been delivered) but rather to leather (in Russia usually steer/cow) tanned by this specific process (whether in the US or Russia doesn't really matter)?

    I don't know if anyone in the US is using this method now, but since it was a major industry and export product from Russia for a couple of hundred years valued for its hard wearing characteristics, I'd be interested to know if any Russian tanneries are still using the process.

    Indeed the term 'Russian Leather' in reference to this tanning process that was unusual outside of Russia would indicate that in Russia (and in the Russian language) this particular process is known by a different name, which might be why Ken is having difficulty. Given modern tanning methods, it might simply be known as 'old fashioned tanning' or 'traditional tanning' in Russia, and there might not be any tanners still using the process (or, OTOH, there could be Russian local craftsmen who still tan hides by this method).

    This would be the type of hide to source if Aero are going to make a repro that ages like originals.

    @Flightengineer, have you ever heard of this tanning process that uses birch oil on the reverse of the hide?
     
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  13. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    Reading that whole Wikipedia page I'm of the opinion that 'Russian Leather' in the contract mistakenly refers to 'Russia Leather' tanning process of cow hide.

    Given that this kind of leather was used for Russian officers boots and military equipment, it would be logical to use it for flight jackets.

    It's still in production for footwear today. It's a distinctive smell of birch became so associated with quality that birch oil began to be included in famous perfumes and soaps sold around the world today.

    The smell seems (to me) to be an essential part of the repro experience.

    No doubt, as Soviet Russia industrialized and centralized production, later iterations of this jacket (like modern A-2s and 60's G-1s) used cheaper, quicker tanning processes (although when this switch took place is anyone's guess; 50's? 60's?).
     
  14. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    Another interesting point is that Ken is speculating that these jackets were made with surplus A-2 production russet and seal hides based on some original samples.

    Apparently (and really, I only know what I just read), Russia Leather was produced in red and black.

    I wonder if the old veg tanned samples are only looking like they started life as russet and seal because they are so old and worn, and were originally red and black?
     
  15. robrinay

    robrinay One Too Many

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    I found an original on greedbay last November - it’s never sold and is still on sale after many relistings. I posted it in Vintage Finds https://www.thefedoralounge.com/threads/40’s-beacon-aero-half-belt-ebay.95463/
    If you scroll down to reply #4 in my thread you’ll get straight to it without the hassle of clicking though his dozen re-lists. Don’t be too excited though as it’s a tiny jacket. I felt sorry for the seller after several re-lists and told him what it was and how today’s Aero isn’t the original that moved to Scotland. He thanked me kindly but never bothered to edit his description.
     
    Last edited: Apr 5, 2019
  16. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    @robrinay, thanks for posting that!
    If only it was my size! Excellent condition and price! Clearly, made from seal goat. Maybe Ken doesn't have to worry about the leather specified in the contract, maybe Aero just ignored it and used surplus goat from A-2 production?

    On the other hand, with a civilian label in English, maybe in addition to the contract for the Soviets, Aero made this jacket for the civilian market in the US? In which case, there's still the possibility that the jackets the Soviets received were made from 'Russia(n) Leather'.

    It'd be interesting to see what labels were sewn into the ones the Russians received.
     
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  17. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    @seres, actually, your right.

    That's three new flight jackets in the last 6 months or so that have been announced on VLJ, with pre-orders offered on two, but no mention on the Lounge?

    I really do guess that Aero doesn't want your custom.

    Weird.
     
  18. Big J

    Big J Call Me a Cab

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    But that's not true. Some of the Goldsmith spots were still up for grabs as buyers dropped out.
     

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