A Brief History of Military Jackets: A-2, MA-1, N-1

As days in San Francisco have become more and more crisp and bitterly cold, I’ve been searching for some kind of all-in-one jacket that limits the ridiculous amounts of layers I need to wear, while still staying warm enough riding throughout the city. Add in the fact that I didn’t want a giant “Michelin man-esque” look to achieve this and I’ve got a tough cookie on my hands.


Nowadays, there’s little in the world of quality fashion that provides both without costing a fortune and that’s where searching for a well-priced, vintage army jacket or old military coat can come in handy. As a whole, old 1940’s and 1950’s Deck and Flight jackets from the U.S. Navy do provide this kind of all-in-one quality and if you’re looking in the right places, you can find one in decent shape that isn’t too expensive.


But what is it about these old jackets and their construction that make them a good option for cutting the cold when riding down the California coast? Well, they were designed with purpose, attention to detail, and a straightforward style that can’t really go wrong. Let’s take a look at a few U.S. Army and Navy vintage jackets, what they were used for and how they were made.

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A-2 Flight Jacket

In the 1940’s, the A-2 jacket was introduced into the U.S. Military and widely used in the U.S. Air Force during WW2. Multiple versions of the A-2 came over time, like the A-2 Flight Jacket and the A-2 Deck Jacket. The A-2 Flight Jackets were given to pilots upon completion of flight training, while deckhands were given upon their stationing assignment. The A-2 Flight Jackets had a slim silhouette, originally made from a deep and rich brown horsehide. The back of the A-2 Flight Jackets were made from a single piece of leather, one of it’s most unique and exceptional features because of the way this limited the natural stress and wear of the jacket. With a leather exterior that ranged in color hues due to the manufacturer, the interior of the jacket was originally lined with cotton to insulate warmth from the body.


Throughout the 40’s and beyond, minor changes were made to the jacket, like silk being added into the interior, new knitting details throughout the pockets and sleeves, and pockets using zippers for security.


A-2 Deckhand Jacket


The A-2 Deck jacket received different attention in design, battling different conditions on the deck than in the air. Most A-2 deck jackets were made to be as water and wind resistant as possible, replacing N-1 Deck Jackets in the late 50’s and 60’s. Lined with wool, these jackets were focused around warmth and durability. Most common designs in the A-2 Deck jacket show a left-breast pocket, with a sturdy zipper, and a set of buttons to securely fasten the garment. The sleeves had wool wristbands that went up into the cloth sleeves to keep in warmth and limit catching the cloth on parts of the deck.


MA-1 Jacket - Flight/Bomber

Introduced in the 40’s, the MA-1 jacket is known as one of the most “classic” and popular bomber jackets. Made from nylon, with wool wristbands and a heavily layered wool interior for warmth. Polyester soon replaced wool to make the jacket lighter, and shortly after, the polyester was made a bright orange, to aid easier exposure if a plane was to go down and a pilot needed to be seen. Intricacies like clips for oxygen masks and inserts of technical wiring were used to make a pilot’s work more efficient and organized.


The MA-1 opened the door to many new designs in bomber jackets and liners for the U.S. Military such as, the M1951 Wool Field Jacket Liner and other wool field jacket liners.

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N-1 Deck Jacket

The N-1 Deck Jacket came about in the 40’s, designed to be water repellent and wind resistant for the extreme conditions of a ship’s deck. Originally, these jackets were lined with fur, but were later replaced with a thick wool interior, and a sturdy cloth exterior. Early versions, with a fur lining and collar, had a high collar with a strap to secure the neckline for maximum warmth. The N-1’s included a zipper, with another exterior button down latching for protection against the cold and gnarly weather conditions.



While the cold of San Francisco is nowhere near the conditions of a cockpit in the air, or a ship deck in the middle of the ocean, these vintage jackets stand the test of time today, keeping a handful warm on motorcycle rides and more.


Keep your eyes peeled for vintage jackets like these popping up the Feel Good site, in addition to other old knick knacks and vintage Harley Davidson collectibles!


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