Acquiring a MA-1 Jacket
A simple task turns difficult as I dive through the internet on the hunt for the perfect spring jacket.
It’s been a lot of fun researching and preparing to shift my closet into spring mode. One of the first to-do’s on my list was to acquire some spring jackets—Montreal spring is still rather cold, so layers are essential! I’m still knee-deep into my archival research, which has ultimately led me down the path of military reproduction garments. These clothes will forever be the bread and butter of good style—after all, many of our favorite pieces stem from military items, so why not just go directly to the source?
While looking at the different outerwear styles to acquire for spring, I realized that I hadn’t owned an MA-1 flight jacket in a long time. It was time to change that, and what seemed like an easy piece to add to my wardrobe became an entire mission that spanned months of research, failure, and, ultimately, success.
In today’s newsletter, I’m taking you with me on my quest on how I ended up finding the perfect MA-1 jacket, as well as sharing a bunch of options I found online for those interested in getting their own for their spring rotation.
MILITARY GARMENTS NEVER GO OUT OF STYLE
The mission to get the perfect MA-1 started out after I picked up The Rebel's Wardrobe: The Untold Story of Menswear's Renegade Past by Bryan Szabo. This book explores various garments that turned into fashion classics and their origin—a great book that I highly recommend. It comes with a great range of knowledge, facts, archival photos, and really nice product sketches!
Before we dive into things, let’s talk about the MA-1 and its origins. Developed by the USA in the 50s for military pilots, this variation was based on the B-15 flight jacket, which came equipped with a fleece lining. It gets cold up there, which means that these jackets would freeze at high altitudes due to perspiration or rain while in flight. New aircraft had redesigned cockpits that didn’t have much room and were filled with different types of equipment. Because of this, a need for a lightweight yet warm jacket during flight was needed, and thus the MA-1 was born.
There are a bunch of other fun facts about this piece though; for example, the orange lining you typically see in these jackets was added so that downed pilots could use the bright color to signal for help.
Military garment history is a topic that you can continue to learn about forever, and doing so recently has made me reinterested in adding some proper pieces to my rotation. So there I was, ready to purchase my own MA-1 for spring—while there are plenty of variations of the flight jacket, this one was just the version that I ended up wanting more over the others.
The thing about this item is you can easily spend $40 on it if you end up hitting the surplus store or go crazy and spend thousands by going The Real McCoy’s or Visvim route for example—the possibilities are endless. For whatever reason, I decided to check out the options that were financially out of reach first and then work my way down.
I was instantly glued to my screen as I went through The Real McCoy’s catalog—if you have never been, I highly recommend window shopping here, it’s a blast! Their focus is on reproducing military classics using the highest level of detail and materials. The Real McCoy’s MA-1 isn’t cheap, running at almost $850; this purchase will be with you for decades to come though. Is it really worth it? Yes and no. Sure, if you have the extra funds, then you should invest in one because money does buy happiness in the form of a beautifully crafted flight jacket. If you’re looking to save your wallet though, then going vintage or straight to the surplus will more or less yield the same results in terms of the longevity of the item.
We can’t talk about The Real McCoy’s without talking about Buzz Rickson’s. Both specialize in similar vibes by focusing their resources on creating the best quality military reproduction garments. Buzz Rickson’s has a very interesting blog with a great range of knowledge and archival images worth checking out. Similarly to McCoy’s though, the prices of Buzz MA-1’s will burn a hole in your wallet, but it will definitely be worth it.
What I enjoy about Buzz Rickson’s is the variety of styles that they offer—there are dozens of the same jacket offered in different colors, cuts, and versions. Yes, I did just say you can go vintage/surplus route, but the truth is, after doing my own digging it was really difficult to find something that looks similar to Buzz Rickson’s offerings on a budget.
This is a cool little page that talks about their brands various versions of the MA-1 and the details that go into reproducing one of these pieces. Buying new may be for big ballers only, but that doesn’t mean we regular folk can’t enjoy a piece from them. After sulking, I went to secondary markets to see if there were any deals I could find on a used or almost new piece. To my surprise, there were a lot of people selling used Buzz Rickson’s MA-1 for affordable prices—keep in mind, these jackets retail for almost $1000, so expect to spend a minimum $200-$300 on a used one in decent condition. The craftsmanship and attention to detail speak for themselves, and at that price point, you’re making an investment that will last you for years to come.
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I browsed for a while but sadly couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for in my size. Even though having a slightly beat-up MA-1 is honestly sick, a part of me wanted a brand new version so I could wear it in myself, especially if I was going to buy a brand name like Buzz or McCoy’s.
Grailed has a lot of good options to choose from that won’t break the bank; I will warn you though, some sellers will label it as “Buzz Rickson’s” but it isn’t one. True sellers will show you Buzz Rickson’s labels, so keep your eyes out for that when shopping yourself. Ebay seems to be a way better place to shop for these also, prices are slightly more expensive on average but still lower than retail. Most pieces are in way better condition also.
So here I was, spending weeks looking at highly expensive versions of this piece, and haven’t really made any progress. While the idea of having a high-quality reproduction jacket will always pique my interest, going straight to the source is probably the best move you can make when trying to secure any military garment. Going vintage hunting or visiting surplus stores will always be the first suggestion for anyone looking to acquire any military gear for the low. The truth is though, not everyone lives somewhere where you can get these in person, which makes things that much harder.
I went to a bunch of local places to try to see if I could find one in person and ended up striking out. I found a bunch of new Alpha Industries MA-1’s that are honestly really great and are a good option for anyone who just wants to get this search over with. Offered in various colors and sizes all the way up to 5 XL, which is great. I was contemplating pulling the trigger, but for almost $200 retail, I felt like I should just spend a little bit more and get myself a used Buzz Rickson’s—I had to keep looking.
Striking out in person sucked, which was honestly surprising, but sometimes that’s just the way she goes. I was back on the internet looking at Grailed to see what affordable options were out there. The MA-1 reselling market is booming for crazy prices, but not all of them are bad. There are a lot of actual military-issued pieces that are available for good deals, you just need to look hard enough, and to my luck I ended up finding a color that I enjoyed for under $80.
The transaction was smooth, and the product in hand was great, I enjoyed the color, which was kind of a muted brown and almost black in specific lighting. There were no branding details, so I don’t know much about it. I was hyped when it arrived and was ready to finally put this task to bed, that was until I put it on. It was slightly too short, which was weird because the measurements were fine, but it was just slightly too short in length for me to wear comfortably—sleeves were fine though which still made this somewhat wearable. Needless to say, the disappointment landed, and I was back to square one. Not all is bad though, because I could wear this jacket underneath another longer coat if I wanted to. After all, this piece was great for layering, which provided the warmth I was looking for.
Looking through Grailed daily was not the move because I didn’t find anything that I really wanted. It got to the point where I was ready to give up on trying to get this piece because I was being too picky in what I wanted. Then one evening, frizmWORKS popped up on my feed, and I was instantly reminded of this South Korean brand that creates a variety of military-inspired garments for an amazing price point.
I won’t lie; I got rinsed on duties—about $60—but you do get an exclusive discount on all products if you make an account on their website, which ends up canceling out the duties. Their brand has a lot of variety to choose from, and you get to see their past drops that you might have missed to get a sense of what the brand creates. After going back and forth, triple measuring using the charts provided by the brand, I was ready to make my purchase.
I ended up going for my true size, which ended up fitting me perfectly. It shipped in under a week, and even though the duties sucked, I think this purchase was worth it. The big bonus for me is that this version came with a double zipper, a feature that is not really a thing in military-issued flight jackets. It is also treated with a water-repellent layer which was another plus I was hyped about. All in all, definitely worth looking into frizmWORKS as their variety in style, quality, and price point really makes this a solid investment.
So far, I have no complaints about this piece, it’s lightweight and is great for those windy days, the light olive color is really unique and is unlike your usual color options you may see in this type of jacket. It doesn’t have that traditional orange lining, but if anything, I kind of like that better.
Click here to check out all of the different MA-1 styles offered on their site. Additionally, if you don’t want to pay duties then check out END and places like The Great Divide. They don’t offer as many options but it’s better than nothing.
Wearing two jackets is in, so now that I have two MA-1s, why not wear both of them at once? Here is an ultra-rare fit pic of me wearing both of them together. Shout out to Aaron for the flick—The smaller fitting one ended up pairing perfectly with my new pickup from frizmWORKS, so I’m really stoked on everything working out.
During my search for the perfect MA-1, I ended up gathering a lot of noteworthy options from secondary markets that I want to share with you today. This list features 70+ MA-1s that I think are unique in their own respective way. Because my MA-1 search has come to an end for now, I figured it would be great to pay it forward by sharing my research with you!
Definitely keep in mind that sizing varies, so make sure you check those measurements before buying and always try to negotiate that price. Unfortunately we have to cut our newsletter here, but I’ll be back because there are plenty of MA-1s worth looking at from our favorite brands that should satisfy that itch.