Caring for an original Irvin jacket

Nick H.

New Member
I have a late war multi-panel jacket which I bought on ebay a few months ago. It's in decent shape, perhaps a little better than the average unrestored wartime ones you see for sale. I bought it for wearing, and have done so a handful of times. The surface is very dry, and on high wear areas such as the elbows the surface is cracked and starting to go flakey. I want to care for it myself, and continue wearing it. What to do? I bought a big tub of Pecard, which has just arrived. Is it suitable? I read somewhere that originally the sheepskin was given a topcoat of wax by the manufacturers. And I note that Pecard has no animal products in it, i.e. no lanolin. But I also read that really old sheepskin needs lanolin, so we should use Eucalan on our Irvins. I've been trying to discover the trade secrets of the professional restorers by reading their web sites. (I haven't tried phoning them yet. I'm in the UK, and there are one or two here with phone numbers listed.) I'm hoping that somebody here can give me the correct info. I did a lot of searching, but couldn't find anything definitive.

P.S. I already know not to keep it on a hangar!
 

Pilot

Well-Known Member
Thanks for your post...
please kindly rephrase your question.
And yes we do shearling WW2 refurbishment... just received several factory orders from two global players ( repros)...
Thx a lot.
 

Nick H.

New Member
These threads are dull without pics, so I actually bothered to learn how to use my phone and OneDrive.

Lots of small panels. I think this dates it to 1945?




A close-up of the repair on the right shoulder.



The main zip has been replaced by a slightly shorter Swift one.



One cuff also has a shorter Swift replacement. The other has the original Lightning one.



One sleeve has a cut which I'll repair. This pic also shows the condition of the worst, flakiest areas.

 

Nick H.

New Member
Thanks for your post...
please kindly rephrase your question.
And yes we do shearling WW2 refurbishment... just received several factory orders from two global players ( repros)...
Thx a lot.
This is a little oblique. Do you want me to insert a 'please' somewhere?

I've been reading all over the web since my first post and have decided that a professional would advise me to accept the inevitable cracking, and that Pecard could make the flaking worse. It seems to be a controversial topic, with some people advising lacquer to stabilise the flakey bits. Some people with a B3 even paint them. But the Irvin owners say the factories never added a topcoat of any kind, because the tanning and the quality of the British sheepskin was superior to the American stuff. Anyway, who can be definite about clothes made of bits of dead sheep and cows, which were manufactured for many years, an awfully long time ago, in multiple factories, sometimes with severe shortages of raw materials, then maintained/maltreated by the owners, in all sorts of climates? As this is not a museum piece, I think the correct answer is to do whatever I like, because I'll be the one wearing it! So I've started testing in several places, with saddle soap. I'll see how it turns out, then test with Pecard.
 

Rory Schultz

Active Member
Yours is much nicer condition than mine and I milk fed my baby with a lot of mink oil and Picards too. Still too fragile to even wear.
 

Rory Schultz

Active Member
I do not remember what I paid for my Irvin, its been awhile. But I have in the ball park of some 30 vintage 1930's jackets and a few 1940's and a few special items fully electric Reich Defense Jacket that belonged to Ace Otto Schultz. These that I just posted with give you a hint, but I have to go to bed now my sleeping tabs are kicking in.

20200629_124751_HDR.jpg20200629_124754_Burst01.jpg 20190118_095517.jpg
 

Paul Glover

Member
Hello Nick, I am by no means an expert but I have been interested in and have owned origional sheepskin flight jackets for many years.
I also like to wear them which often leads to having to repair them !.
I have used numerous products over the years, none of them will repair rotten shearling but they will in time replenish flexibility and restore the finish .
My preferred product is pecards, I personally have never seen any adverse reactions or increased degradation to any of my jackets, most of which I have owned for over 15 years.
Storage conditions are important and I tend to treat each garment annually.
Another product I also rate is renopur, a similar product to pecards but from memory it may have bees wax in it.
Like your jacket, I always think multi panels have more character!.
 

flyincowboy

Active Member
years ago i was given an original B3 which spendt most of his life hidden under some old clothes and rags in a wooden box under a roof in a barn. Jacket was in wearable condition but" stinked the old"" at the shop following advice of my co workers i just gave him a good wash wit hot water and saddle soap( to clean the dirt and the dust) then put on a good coat of sapo and allow the leather to drink the cream. After a while a gently rubbing was done with a clean rag the leather look darker , a good sign to see that the cream was in the hide. Then i leave it for a couple of weeks and put a coat of vaseline on it and wrapped the jacket in a big plastic bag and let it settle for weeks. the leather look so shiny and supple.
 
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Nick H.

New Member
Thanks guys. I think I was lucky to get a jacket which is structurally strong. No rot, good seams. Now I need to give it some elbow grease. First, some cleaning. I think I should use something gentler than saddle soap. Any recommendations?

At some point I think I might have to remove and reattach the main zip. The tape next to it looks ready to rip - see my 4th photo above. Maybe it could be reinforced? I don't really want to send the jacket away for tape replacement.
 

Spitfireace

Well-Known Member
Depends how far you want to go in restoring this jacket. They've done something that I haven't really seen, and that is cutting off the teeth off the old zip and sewing on the replacement zip on the tape remains of the old one. A work around of not having to take out the old zip altogether, but not ideal obviously. If it works well and you are happy with that, fine. If you have a local seamstress, she would be able to do a little repair to the tape without you having to send the jacket away at more cost. As far as a dry leather treatment, I would prefer a lanolin based product, as is it the oil naturally found in sheepskin. As far as scrubbing the collar, I have used Eucalan. Also Woolite would work.
 

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