WWII Bomber Jacket Project
During World War II, there was a need for affordable yet durable clothing for Army Air Corps crewmen. First standardized on 9 May, 1931, the A-2 leather "Bomber Jacket" was used until the end of WWII, and proved to be extremely popular with all who wore it. The Navy version, known as the G-1, had a fur collar.
The jackets usually had the owner's name stamped on a leather strip which was then sewn over the left breast pocket. It was also common to find a unit insignia patch, either above or below the name. On the left shoulder was an Air Force insignia patch (Eighth Air Force for instance), and the right shoulder was usually an American flag. Insignia of rank was worn on the shoulder epaulets by officers.
Elaborate artwork became quite common on the jacket back, and the rules were rather relaxed in what could appear there. Initially, combat losses for bomber crews were extremely high, and the thinking was "this guy could be killed tomorrow, so let him paint whatever he wants on the back side of the jacket, as long as it's not obscene...".
Aircraft nicknames, bombs to signify the number of missions flown, and other symbols were incorporated into the blank leather canvas on the back. Virtually all of the jackets were very individualistic, which lead to a great variety in the design and execution of the artwork. Even Disney artists that had been drafted lent their skills to creating jacket designs. Many jackets depicted scantily clad women, which was not unusual, since most of the owners were young men in their late teens or early twenties. After the war, most were put away in closets, as they were deemed a bit too risqué to wear in small-town America, and have thus survived over time.
The eventual goal of the project is to produce a book that not only celebrates these unique cultural icons, but the men who wore them.