The history behind the iconic WWII RAF flying jacket
Leslie Leroy Irvin was the inventor of the rip cord parachute and the first person to make a free-fall parachute jump.
He also designed and began manufacturing the classic sheepskin flying jacket in the early 1930s which later became standard kit for RAF airmen before and during the Second World War. These jackets became known as ‘Irvin’ jackets in reference to their designer. Air Ministry contracts to make the jackets were, however, issued to several different companies in the 1930s and 1940s.
As the war progressed and sheepskin was harder to come by, AM-issued flying jackets were made from more panels and had more seams. This ranged from the type seen on the Aces High 1941 pattern, to the almost patchwork-quilt appearance of some late-war multi-panel jackets. At the end of the war the jackets ceased to be issued to aircrews and many found their way into surplus stores.
Highly collectible ever since, because of their good design and iconic status, original wartime jackets in very good condition are often now prohibitively expensive to buy and can be hard to find. They are collectors’ items that are often too fragile to be worn as everyday clothing. Aces High reproduction jackets are the perfect solution – they look and feel just like those issued to an RAF airman in the 1940s, but can be worn without the fear of damaging a genuine piece of history.