Earlier this month a friend and I felt like treasure hunting. Cash was low, but our sense of adventure was high, so we decided to hit some of the local thrift marts to search of hidden and forgotten treasures.
My friend possesses fierce Thrift Store Fu. Every time he goes he finds jackets, pants, shirts, picture frames, and anything rustic that he can polish up into a new inventive creation. All of this for under $20.
I hate him.
Fortunately during our outing, some of his thrifty mo-jo rubbed off on me. Per usual he discovered cool little chests, a pair of Doc Marten boots, and a nifty bag. I was thrilled enough to find another men’s down vest in black (men’s vests have better, deeper, and more practical pockets), an old style taper candle holder, an actual Chinese to English/English to Chinese Dictionary from China (for 50 cents!), and then this beauty.
That is a U.S. Navy / Marine Intermediate G-1 Flyer Jacket. All leather and in amazing condition. When I first saw it on the rack, I zipped right by it, not even registering on my radar as I was hardcore intent on finding a black leather jacket. Funny how the universe works, eh?
I was about ready to give up when a little voice in my head said, “Oooo, a brown jacket. You like brown.” I do. Very vintage and steampunky. Okay, I’ll give it a go. It was a men’s 44 and I was sure it would be too big for me. Nope. It slipped onto my 5’11” just fine, thank you very much. And the style? Well, my friend and other customers could attest, I look damn good in a fighter pilot jacket. Like I was made for it.
The old street mission we were at was having a 50% off everything sale. For $12.50 I thought, what a steal, my first true leather jacket. Then, out of curiosity, I checked the label.
“That is a military issued label,” said my friend. We gave the jacket a closer inspection and discovered air vents under the armpits and “USN” hole punched into the wind flap of the lapel. This was not some knock off or a Top Gun wannabe. This was legitimate. A pilot once owned this jacket.
When I got it home I scoured the intertubz looking for any information I could find on the G-1 jacket. I checked out photos and labels. I learned that there were dozens of manufacturers over the decades that had military contracts to make these jackets. I also learned my label was missing one crucial element.
Every label shows four things:
Type of jacket
Military parts / Mil Spec number
Company that made it
Year it was made
My label had everything but the year. After a few hours of investigative work, I deduced mine was mid-to-late 70’s. Granted, not WWII era, but very cool nonetheless. I finally found a military antique expert on line and gave them pictures of my bomber jacket. They confirmed it was legit and that it was post Vietnam war era, circa 1975-1979. Maybe even as late as 1980.
I love that I found this find. I love that I cherishly wear a piece of history every day. Sometimes my thoughts wander to the previous owner. Why did he give up his jacket? There is no such thing as an ex-Marine, so why would he part with something that was an important part of him during his training / tour of duty?
I can only come to two conclusions:
1. It is a part of his life he truly wants to forget or wants to move on from.
2. He died.
I’m hoping for the former because it would be cool for a man to approach me someday and say, “Hey, I think that used to be mine. Oh, the stories I could tell!” And I would ask him to tell me.