Jacket Description and Details, Part 1
Type A-2 Jacket Description
Two snap-flap patch pockets, a shirt style collar, epaulets, and knit
cuffs and waistband are about all it takes to describe the salient
characteristics in the simple but distinctive A-2 jacket. There is,
as we will see, much more to it than that.
While the official specification called for horsehide, and while most
jackets probably were so made, there was a notable fraction of A-2's made
of goatskin and perhaps other hides such as steer. Consultation with
a number of independent leather scientists (not tanners or sales people)
resulted in learning that once the hides have been processed it is
virtually impossible to tell the difference between horse and steer;
it can't be done visually, and a positive ID might well require expensive
DNA testing. The differences in the grain of goatskin, by comparison,
are relatively easy to discern from the other hides. As well, goatskin
is a bit more resilient and has tended to hold up better over the years.
A-2 color variations abound, even from the same contractor. While the spec
called for a seal brown shade, it is clear that this was open to broad
interpretation. Many jackets tended more toward the classic Army russet
brown which itself had a broad range of shades and was found on shoes,
cap visors, chin straps, trim on sheepskin clothing, etc. Overall, jackets
can be seen to vary from a light almost tan color to a dark chocolate
shade. There would appear to be no single correct or definitive color for
an A-2 and yet the colors seen on originals are clearly distinguishable
from most modern copies. The reasons for this are most likely related to
dyes and tanning techniques. An interesting and little known fact is that it is
not unusual to find jackets which were re-dyed a darker shade of brown,
apparently done prior to re-issue to another owner. The original color shade
can often be seen inside the pockets.
The basic components of the leather shell of an A-2 jacket consist of one
piece of leather for the back, one piece for each of the left and right
front panels, and two pieces for each sleeve running the length of the
sleeve. Wartime commercial versions (i.e., not government contract) and
many post-war replicas sometimes use additional pieces for the back and
One other characteristic which is often misrepresented by poorer replicas
is the point of attachment of the back to the front pieces at the shoulder.
Some replicas place this seam too far forward on top of the shoulder.
Since the back edge of the epaulets is coincident with this seam, this
construction often places the epaulets not on top of the shoulder, as with
an authentic A-2, but falling forward off of the shoulder. This simply
looks wrong if not altogether comical.
Some original A-2 makers including Doniger, Monarch, Spiewak,
United Sheeplined, and the maker of the 23383 contract, did
place the top shoulder seam centrally on top of the shoulder but also
centered under the epaulets. This configuration does not alter the
location or appearance of the epaulet compared to the more common
configuration described above.
Another construction variation found among some makers, including
Doniger, Monarch, Spiewak, Star, and the maker of the 23383 contract,
is a rotated inset sleeve. While in most cases, one of the sleeve seams
is aligned with, and appears to be a continuation of, the body side seam,
these others have the sleeve seam rotated forward of the body side seam
by an inch or two.
Variations in thread and stitching are also seen. Some thread used is
essentially brown to match the jacket, but it is not uncommon for O.D.
(olive drab) thread, typically used for O.D. clothing or webbing, to
be used on A-2 jackets. The stitching itself, if quantified in stitches
per inch, is seen to vary. Eight stitches per inch gives a very nice,
clean, high-quality look, but it is clear that workmanship if not cost
saving measures sometimes contributed to more sparse needlework. It is
also worth noting that the thread material was all cotton.
The seams are top-stitched in most places and this detail is seen to
vary insofar as how close the stitching is placed to the joint. This
may or may not be a function of contractor but, for example, jackets
made by Bronco, Doniger, and the maker of the 23383 contract have the
top-stitching placed further from the joint than typical. Other jackets
exhibit a fine bead with all their seams having the top-stitching placed
very close to the joint.
- Bronco jacket front view and
- Poughkeepsie jacket front view and
- Rough Wear jacket front view and
- This epaulet on a Rough Wear A-2 shows
the more typical configuration of the shoulder seam behind the epaulet.
- This second epaulet, from a United
Sheeplined A-2, covers the shoulder seam
which is centered under the epaulet.
- The sleeve seam which is not top-stitched is
usually aligned with the body side seam, as in this Cable Raincoat example.
- Alternatively, some makers constructed their jackets with an
inset sleeve where the seam is rotated from the body side seam, as in this
- O.D thread example from Poughkeepsie wind flap.
The thread has faded to a khaki shade. Also note the brown thread running parallel
from the zipper attachment where the brown was used on the bobbin.
- O.D thread example from Poughkeepsie collar.
- This O.D. thread example is from a B-3 jacket
but shows a better retention of the green shade.
- This Aero A-2 has a combination of O.D. and brown thread.
- This composite image of sleeve seams demonstrates
variation in spacing between the seam joint and the top-stitching. The Doniger A-2,
on the left, has a uniform spacing of about 1/4 inch on all seams. The Bronco, in
the middle, has a wider seam on the sleeve than most other seams on the jacket. The
Poughkeepsie, on the right, has a uniform narrow spacing over the entire jacket.
Collar Construction and Attachment
The collar was usually composed of one piece of leather for the top side
while the under side was made from two halves sewn together in the center
at the back of the neck. Occasionally, the top side is similarly made of
On some jackets the collar is attached to the jacket with an intervening
leather strip called a collar stand, as is found on a typical dress shirt.
Presumably because this required extra effort and materials, most jackets
have the collar attached directly. Some contractors may have used one method
exclusively while others may have transitioned at some point in time. Rough
Wear and Perry, for example, appear to have used the collar stand for all of
their jackets. Other makers using collar stands include early Aero, Cooper,
early Dubow, Werber, and, with some odd variations, the maker of the 23383 contract.
The shape of the collar points also show a great deal of variation and
often is a distinguishing characteristic of particular contractors. Some makers' jackets
such as Dubow, Doniger, and Monarch, exhibit comparatively long and pointed collars.
Others collar points may be more rounded, such as Perry, or are perhaps simply average
- Poughkeepsie collar with simple attachment,
rear underside view, extended.
- Poughkeepsie collar rear view.
- Poughkeepsie collar inside view, extended.
- Rough Wear collar with collar stand construction,
rear underside view, extended.
- Rough Wear collar rear view.
- Rough Wear collar inside view, extended. The lining
on jackets with collar stands also has a separate strip along the full length of the collar
stand, including across the wind flap.
Pockets are another entity which often reflect differences per contractor,
particularly with regard to the cut of the flaps. Some flaps may be more
rounded, others more pointed, some with a more scalloped shape and others
a with a simpler angular shape. This is not to say that variations did
not exist within a single contractor, for they did exist, even on the
same jacket. It seems that getting the same shape every time was not
so simple a task.
The pockets themselves usually show rounded bottom corners although those
made by Bronco and United Sheeplined, for example, are cut at a beveled angle.
Other, less apparent, pocket variations seen among makers include the size
and shape of reinforcement stitching placed at the top corners of the pocket
patch, and the application of leather reinforcement for the back of the snap
inside the pocket patch. Most reinforcement stitching is triangular, with some
being wider and some narrower. Others may use a box shape or, sometimes,
no particular reinforcement at all. The leather snap reinforcements are often
a rounded tongue which is simply a folded over extension of the pocket patch,
while others may be a rectangular tab of leather which is completely separate
from the pocket patch.
Small Size/Lot labels were often sewn into pockets, usually either under the
flap or onto the top inside edge of the patch. Sometimes these were actually marked
with the size or other information, but many times they are found to be unmarked.
One characteristic that A-2 pockets definitely did not have was the
side-entry or "hand-warmer" secondary pockets. This is strictly a
commercial embellishment. Another characteristic which is often ignored
in replicas is the placement of the pockets relative to the zipper.
Authentic A-2's have a sizable spacing between the zipper or center of the
jacket and the edge of the pocket, essentially placing the pocket toward
the wearer's side. Many replicas place the pockets much too close to the
center and they just look wrong. Also contrary to many of the much less
authentic jacket copies is that the A-2 has only the two outside patch
pockets and has no inside pockets of any kind.
Image examples: note also the differences in pocket flap shape.
- Bronco pocket with angled corners and slightly scalloped flap.
- Poughkeepsie pocket with more typical rounded corners and a
more angular flap.
- Rough Wear pocket with rounded corners and gently curved flap.
- Aero pocket with sharply curved corners and an angular flap.
- Poughkeepsie pocket with triangular reinforcement stitching.
- Werber pocket with box-shaped reinforcement stitching.
- Bronco pocket snap reinforcement with a rounded tongue extension.
- Werber pocket snap reinforcement with a narrow tongue extension.
- 23383 contract pocket snap reinforcement with a separate leather tab.
- Rough Wear pocket label with size and serial number.
- Werber pocket label.
- Monarch pocket label with a slightly different format.
Shoulder straps, or epaulets, adorn each A-2 and often carried the wearer's
rank insignia either painted on directly, or as a separate sewn-on leather
patch, or simply as pinned-on metal insignia.
Epaulets sometimes show characteristics attributable to the contractor,
but these may also be subject to workmanship. Generally, they consist
of two strips of leather sewn together with a twin row of stitching
on each side, where the distance between these rows is seen as a typical
variation. The width of the epaulet at the neck attachment is usually
slightly narrower than the width at the shoulder attachment. The epaulets
are then box-stitched at each end to secure them to the jacket.
The box-stitching is also a source of variation, perhaps to some extent by
contractor, in that the "box" may be rather square or more oblong, and
in that the box may be contained within the twin-stitching or it may span
the full width of the strap.
- This Bronco epaulet has a square box-stitch
contained within the twin-stitch lines.
- This Spiewak epaulet has a square box-stitch
which spans the full width of the strap.
- This Perry epaulet has a rectangular box-stitch
contained within the twin-stitch lines.
- This Cable Raincoat epaulet has a rectangular box-stitch
with the crossing X contained within the twin-stitch lines, but with the bounding box line
spanning the full width of the strap.
- This Poughkeepsie epaulet is relatively narrow with a
width at the collar of 1-1/8 inches and a width at shoulder of 1-3/8.
- This Rough Wear epaulet is much wider with a
width at the collar of 1-1/2 inches and a width at shoulder of 1-7/8 inches.
A-2 linings appear to have transitioned from silk in the early years,
per original specification, to cotton later on. A letter from the Materiel
Division of Wright Field, dated 7 January 1939, states that the use of
silk in flying jackets had been discontinued "as its procurement was found
not to be feasible." The letter does not say when this happened, but it
makes it clear that the vast majority of vintage A-2 jackets we encounter
will not have silk lining.
The material is rather thin and light and is of a plain weave. Lining colors, at
least for the cotton variety, run from a reddish or rusty brown to a light brown
to an almost tan or mustardy color, and are often distinct to the manufacturer.
Wool knitting was used for the sleeve wristlets as well as the waistband.
These were essentially brown like the jacket, but again there were variations
in shade from dark to medium brown to an almost reddish hue as typical of
many Aero Leather jackets. Wristlets have a double weave, looser on the top
half (toward the sleeve attachment) and tighter toward the bottom (end).
- Bronco wrist knitting.
- Poughkeepsie wrist knitting.
The woven specification label sewn into each jacket generally followed a
predictable format. The type was listed (A-2) followed by the drawing
number (30-1415), the contract or order number, the manufacturer, and the
proclamation that the jacket was Property, Air Force, U.S. Army.
The size appears on a small and separate label sewn at the bottom
edge of the main label. An exception to this is the Dubow 27798 contract
label in which the size is woven directly into the main label. In some cases
there is no manufacturer name on the label.
The property notice seems to have been an added requirement since many
jackets, presumably of pre-war or early war vintage, do not bear the
notice. There are also instances, apparently interim, where a second
label with the property notice was sewn together with one of the early
labels, such as the Dubow 23379 and Rough Wear 23380 contracts.
- Bronco spec label with contract number.
- Poughkeepsie spec label with contract number.
- Rough Wear spec label with contract number, but stated as
an order number. Note the extra effort to sew down the size tab, something which is found
occasionally on pre-war jackets.
- Doniger spec label with order number.
A strip of leather was sewn into the neck above the spec label to be used
as a hanger. While the method of attachment to the jacket appears most
often to be box-stitching at each end, there are also examples of bar-tacking.
- Poughkeepsie hanger attached by box-stitching.
- Doniger hanger with open box-stitching (no X inside).
- Bronco hanger attached by horizontal bar-tacking.
Zippers were generally made of steel or brass and may have been nickel
plated. Essentially, some were white metal and some were yellow metal.
Typical zipper suppliers were Talon, Crown, Conmar, and Kwik.
Talon zips appear to have been the predominant brand used, and they
can be seen in a small number of variations which appear to be changes
over time, judging from their association with A-2 contracts and other
- Early Talon zips, found on pre-war jackets, had a wide bell-shaped puller
with a full-circle cutout, and attached to the slider with a simple rolled hook. Other
pullers, apparently of earlier vintage, had an arc-shaped cutout at the bottom and
a series of vertical lines on either side.
- Next came the triple-marked Talon, so called because the name Talon appears
on (1) the new vertical bar of the slider, (2) the puller tab, and (3) the stopper
box. These were produced with both rectangular and the new narrower bell-shaped pullers, but
the bell-shaped pullers now had a half-circle cutout. The rectangular pullers are
seen on A-2 jackets much less often than the bell-shaped pullers.
- The next variation was to simplify the pattern on the stopper box and remove
the Talon name. These unnamed stopper boxes are often seen in a hybrid configuration
with the double-marked puller/slider combination.
- Finally, the Talon name was removed from the vertical bar on the slider to go
along with the unmarked stopper box.
- Further evolution continued, with the primary difference being the change of
the cutout on the puller from a half-circle back to the full circle, but by this
time A-2 production was phasing out. I have, however, seen a final contract Dubow
with this puller version.
The Crown zipper is noteworthy in that the teeth were angled
(referred to by Crown as "chevron" teeth, according to an advertisement)
and the metal puller was hinged with a small spring to keep it down flat.
This kept the zipper from sliding since there was a small tooth on the
puller which locked between two teeth on the tape. Crown zips on A-2's are
seen in a shiny plated version and less often in a dull metal version.
Conmar zips on A-2 jackets were of the style with the long puller and a wide
oval cutout at the bottom. They are found in both brass and white metal.
Kwik brand zippers appear to have been the least used in A-2s but can be found
most regularly on Cable Raincoat Co. jackets.
A small construction variation regarding zippers is the application of reinforcement
stitching at the bottom attachment of the zipper at the waist. This is not always
applied, but when it is, it typically exists of two triangular stitch lines. One
line appears next to the stopper box and is sewn through the adjacent leather tab,
while the other line appears on the side of the zipper under the wind flap and is
sewn through the waist knitting next to the leather tab on that side.
Collar and pocket snaps were one of two main types, either a small ball stud
type snap or a larger ring type snap. Two sizes of ring snaps are seen.
The male half of the collar snap on the inside of the jacket is usually found
to be riveted through the lining, with its cap covered with the lining material.
But on occasion the snap back is not covered or may not be riveted through the lining
at all. United Car and Rau were two common snap manufacturers.
There is a two-piece riveted throat clasp attached at the collar. The hook and
rivets are usually both of white metal, although there are examples of black anodized
Finally, under each armpit are found two metal venting grommets, usually painted
- Typical early style "triple-marked" Talon zipper
with fan-shaped puller. "Talon" appears on (1) the puller, (2) the vertical bar of the
slider box, and on (3) the stopper box.
- Triple-marked Talon zipper with rectangular puller,
from a Rough Wear jacket. Note the reinforcement stitch line.
- Hybrid Talon zipper (marked vertical bar on
puller with unmarked stopper box) from an Aero jacket. Note the reinforcement stitch line.
- Later style Talon zipper with unmarked vertical bar
on slider box and unmarked stopper box, from Poughkeepsie jacket. Note that there is no
- Back side view of Talon zipper slider box.
Of note is the "Made in" line which is no longer found on contemporary Talon zips and is
also not seen on reproductions.
- The elegant Crown zipper, top view, from the
Bronco jacket. Note the characteristic angular-shaped "chevron teeth." Also note the narrowly
spaced reinforcement stitch line.
- Underside of the Crown puller. Note the small
spring used to keep the puller down and locked with a small tooth that fits between the
teeth on the zipper tape.
- Back side view of the Crown slider box.
- Conmar zip from Perry A-2. Note that there is no
- Kwik zip from Cable Raincoat A-2. Note that there
is no reinforcement stitching (that's just a crease in the leather).
- This little detail is indicative of vintage zips. Note the shape and
attachment of this clip at the top of the zipper tape, used to keep the
slider box from sliding off at the top. This C-shaped clip
was common at one time but now a more simple folded piece of metal is used.
- Smaller ring type snaps, from Bronco pocket.
- Larger ring type pocket snaps, from Poughkeepsie pocket.
- This ball stud snap, from Rough Wear pocket, shows a
dimple impression. This is typical of the these snaps used on pockets, whereas the ball studs
used on collar snaps do not have dimples and are also a little smaller.
- Grouped photo of collar areas of Bronco, Poughkeepsie and Rough Wear for
comparison of snap types.
- Covered collar snap back, from Bronco jacket.
- Uncovered collar snap back, from 18246 order jacket.
- Collar snap backs under the lining, from Aero jacket.
- Bronco throat area illustrating throat clasp
and ring type collar snaps. Note the black rivets used on the throat clasp components.
Also note the cloth covering on the back side of the snap.
- Poughkeepsie jacket illustrating throat clasp
configuration when used on an simple collar attachment.
- Rough Wear jacket illustrating throat clasp
configuration when used with a collar stand construction.
- Underarm ventilation grommets, from Bronco jacket.
Stamps and Other Additions
A-2 jacket linings are stamped with an inspector's mark composed of the
letters AN along with an inspector's number, all contained within a circle.
This stamp is often, but not exclusively, placed near the spec label, but
does not appear in all jackets. The size of the AN stamp circle is commonly
5/8-inch, but a smaller version of 5/16-inch is also seen.
The Army Air Corps wing and star insignia is also seen to appear in various
forms. It can be found as a larger stamp on the lining, as a smaller stamp
or decal on the inside face of the zipper wind flap, or as a full color
transfer on the left shoulder. The application of this insignia on
clothing and other flying equipment was specified in Technical Order
No. 13-1-12, dated February 1, 1944. Insignia were then applied both
to new items and to used items, such as many A-2 jackets, which were
either reissued or refurbished.
Strips of leather to be used for nameplates were supplied and issued. They
were, according to the Class 13 Catalog, 4 inches long and 5/8-inch
in height. It is evident, however, that a great deal of A-2 nameplates were
custom made and varied greatly in size and in how the name was applied.
Personal embellishments were later made including the addition of leather
name plates, rank insignia, squadron and/or group insignia, Air Corps or
numbered Air Force shoulder insignia, and painting of nose art or other
distinctive design usually found on the back of the jacket.
- Typical inspector's stamp, from Bronco jacket.
- Small version inspector's stamp, from a separate Bronco
jacket of the same contract as the one above.
- AAF Wing&Star shoulder transfer, from Poughkeepsie jacket.
- Example of name plate with typical impressed lettering,
from Rough Wear jacket.
- Example of name plate with applied gold lettering,
from Poughkeepsie jacket.
- Example of hand-painted squadron insignia
(18th Bombardment Squadron of the 449th Bombardment Group), from Rough Wear jacket.
Sizing and Fit
Unlike the loose-fitting trend of more recent clothing, the original A-2
was a rather trim jacket in both the torso and sleeves. It is also the
case that, for instance, a wartime A-2 size 42 may be closer to a modern
day size 40 and such differences may be even greater. An important
aspect of how an A-2 looks is how it hugs its wearer. Loose and baggy
A-2 replicas just do not make muster.
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