Swellboy on… flying jackets

Our man plans to adorn his outerwear with de rigueur decoration

Some time ago in the physical counterparts to these pages I wrote of my fondness for leather jackets and I always have my eye open for a good blouson, motorcycle jacket or, as was the case when I walked onto the IWC stand at the SIHH, pilot’s jacket.

IWC is known for its aviation watches and, based upon my acquaintance, deserves wider recognition for its flying jackets too. Some years ago IWC issued those who attended one of its watch launches with a sheepskin flying jacket of the type that has one twiddling the ends of a non-existent moustache, adjusting the white silk scarf so that it streams out behind one like a pennant and peppering one’s conversation with the words “Chocks Away”.

This time, as soon as I stepped into the CEO Georges Kern’s office (decked out to resemble the cabin of what I imagine his private jet looks like), my eye detected a leather jacket slung over one of the chairs around the meeting table (pictured). Before you could say so much as “bandits at six o’clock”, let alone discuss how the new pilots’ watches had dispensed with the triple date window (which I never much cared for anyway), my Terry Haste tweed was off my back and this blouson was on. This was less of a Biggles moment and more Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun, and looked so authentic that I half expected to find a Scientology booklet in one of the pockets.

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What I particularly liked was the mass of badges that had been sewn on. I did not have the time to examine them all closely enough – there were so many that in places it was difficult to see the leather – but it would appear that on wearing this jacket I was a member of almost every elite body of aviators that ever took to the skies. A quite terrifying thought given I have quite enough trouble keeping the FIAT 500 Abarth on the road.

It seems that some sort of external decoration to your leather jacket is de rigueur these days. I bumped into Lapo Elkann a couple of months ago and he was wearing a very nice and very soft Garage Italia leather blouson with applied decal. I noted that Louis Vuitton had decorated one of its leather jackets with what I am reliably informed by Kim Jones is a laser-etched “trunk” print.

Needless to say, I spent much of the rest of the watch fair wondering how I might replicate this jacket. The jacket, of course, can be entrusted to that master of hides and skins Georges-Henri Zaks of Seraphin, but I somehow feel a little fraudulent wandering around festooned with badges proclaiming my ability to loop the loop, announcing my graduation cum laude from the Top Gun Academy, or affiliating me with some squadron of daredevil fighter aces. So I have decided to commission Hand & Lock, who have been doing the best ceremonial embroidery since the 18th century, to create a suitable array of badges to fix to the jacket when complete, although they are likely to be more sedentary than anything that Flight Lt Maverick might have worn – after all, while he was tearing round the countryside with Kelly McGillis on a Kawasaki GPZ900R, you are more likely to see me puffing along on my Pashley.

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