Original Jackets vs. Repros; what are your thoughts?

MaydayWei

Well-Known Member
Hello everyone,

In light of the recent discussion on the pros and cons of original jackets vs. reproductions I thought I would create a new thread so as to not hijack @Lorenzol's sale thread.
If you're a size 40 please go look at his 7823D in near-mint condition. It is going for an absolute song.

General Summary:
Pros of an Original
- History
- 100% Accuracy
- Vintage Materials
- Economical (Can be found at a fraction of the price of a Repro)

Cons of an Original
- Scarcity (Hard to find in excellent, or NOS condition; often beat to hell)
- Potentially unforeseen maintenance/refurbishment costs
- Lack of expertise to clean and care for them
- Fit (One-fit-for all, if the fit ain't your taste, too bad)

Pros of a Repro
- Quick access (with exceptions, Re the wait times for Goodwears, BKs, Platons)
-Potential customisations for fit (i.e. custom process at 5*, length modifications (BK, Aero etc.))
- Brand new
- Clean
- Warranty (I think?)

Cons of a Repro
- Never 100% accurate (Either because of inability or the manufacturer taking creative liberties (with exceptions))
- Expensive
- Mass-produced, commercial (not as unique as vintage)

Without going too in depth, I think (for myself, at least) the biggest issue I have with a repro is that most but not all are unfaithful reproductions. (My thoughts below exclude companies such as Goodwear Leather)

In my limited experience, I have come to realise that even the most technically faithful reproductions are not literal reproductions.
3 things stick out: material, method, sentiment.

[1] Material
Plain and simple, though a RM's G-1 may be made of 100% USN spec Goatskin, it literally cannot ever be the exact type of USN Goatskin used in the past. This is evidence by the fact that certain companies offer vintage leathers or vintage mouton furs. It is indicative that even though a jacket may on paper be 100% technically accurate in material; it may not be literally accurate in material.

[2] Method
With regard to method, again (with exceptions), companies like Bronson, RM, or Buzz tend to deconstruct jackets in order to infer and reverse engineer their methods for construction. Again, they may well be technically 100% accurate (correct stitching method etc.) but there's simply no way to travel back in time (unless you are Jorge) to see the exact methods they used back then. The result is, a technically correct method, but not a literally original or faithful one.

[3] Sentiment
Finally, we have sentiment. This is most obviously demonstrated with mouton collars; namely, those of RM and ELC. It has often been said that the mouton on an ELC is a caricature; and so are the RMs! The fact that ELC or RM moutons are dyed to have a 'chicken nugget' golden tinge (despite being brand new) creates an artificial or contrived look. It is odd simply because it is inorganic. In doing so, you are no longer trying to literally re-create the originals; but rather trying to emulate the spirit of a 'worn-jacket' in a new one. I would argue that if fails to do so, and really, the only way to capture that spirit would be to faithfully and literally reproduce the jacket and to let it patina and tarnish organically over time.

I understand that my criticisms go to the unavoidable nature of a reproduction, and are... well... unavoidable lol.
Just some thoughts on it. I would love to hear what you all think.
@Brettafett if you would copy what you said on Lorenzol's thread here, I would appreciate it. :)
 

Brettafett

Well-Known Member
Great idea, and thank you.

I would prefer to re-write what I wrote previously, but here it is...

Specifically talking about G-1s here....
When the topic popped up about why one would spend a lot more on a repro , esp high end... when original G-1s are are still commonly available, often in good to very good condition, and still at reasonable prices...
(btw I certainly agree... theres nothing quite like an original, of anything...)

I made the comments below...

I have come across some lovely originals, A-2s, M-422as and G-1s over the years, but every one had some issue...

Regarding G-1s, when a decent original in good shape comes up they tend to be too short for my liking. My old Star came close.
If it doesn't fit well, it doesn't get worn and eventually moves on.

The only original G-1 I found that ticked the fit boxes was a wreck. A number of others I've come across over the years that did fit OK, needed repairs and cleaning - a job I can tell you, living in London, is nigh on impossible to get done properly (don't even get me started on finding anyone who really knows what they're doing...) and actually crazy expensive!

The possibility of finding a good shell with all the working hardware, but that needs a total renovation, has always been a consideration. Depending an various factors, this exercise will likely amount to the same as a high end repro, but you'll have a gorgeous, clean and wearable original with a new lease on life. Hard to beat to be sure!
But its finding 'that' original, thats worth the effort and expense.

I guess it really depends on what you are after and what you are prepared to wear.
If you don't mind wearing a bent & beaten up original, smells, stains and all the issues inc (can be perceived as character), or are not too fussed with fit... then absolutely there are many examples that come up regularly. I certainly keep an eye out.
(a great example of an immaculate Martin Lane just sold for well-under £100 on Ebay yesterday... I was so close, but I knew it would be too short again).

As a non-smoker also, the persistent smell on some of these really bothers me, and finding detritus in the pockets makes me cringe.
Ive been through this exercise a few times, and after the last attempt, promised never again.

I'm always open to find an original in good, wearable condition, but alas... A golden goose?
I am one who may one day pay top dollar for a new repro - at least it will fit perfectly out the box, ready to worn and broken in by me ;)
 

Brettafett

Well-Known Member
As mentioned, Ive seen and owned originals, as for G-1s, Ive come close... It can be frustrating when you have an amazing original in your hand, that is either a size off, fits, but too short, or great all round, but dirty, dusty and in serious need of tlc ($$$)

Back in Chino in 2008 at one of those airshows for example. There was an original G-1 that looked amazing!!!! only a couple of hundred $$ but was one size too big. What do you do.
There is a vintage guy here in the UK that sometimes carries some decent originals also. But many of them are quite beaten up and until you have them in hand, its very hard to know the lay of the land. That, and he wants $300-600 off the bat, doesn't leave much room for refurb costs... and who will take on the job? And then theres fit... etc...

Perhaps a good bet would be to get Dave Shelley to refurb a jacket. The man knows his USN stuff.... He's just so busy, like everyone... But its finding 'that' original that 'fits' bill... thats worth the effort and expense (lets not mention import duties and postage to this little island)...

Counter that with walking into one of ELC's pop-ups and trying on their G-1 or M-422a and it just looks and feels amazing, and knowing you can get one that fits perfectly in a few weeks... Well, thats also tough to beat....
 

Smithy

Well-Known Member
I worked for the national aviation museum here so got to handle and be around original bits of flying kit including jackets all day, everyday and probably because of that I have no urge whatsoever to own them myself. I like wearing the jackets I have and I like to be able to treat them like an absolute bastard so it has to be repros for me. I'd feel terrible wearing an original the way I wear my jackets.

I do have and collect the odd small bits of militaria (mostly wings and badging) but I have no desire to own original flying jackets. That's just me though and saying that I do actually enjoy seeing photos of originals here more than repros.
 

MaydayWei

Well-Known Member
I like wearing the jackets I have and I like to be able to treat them like an absolute bastard so it has to be repros for me. I'd feel terrible wearing an original the way I wear my jackets.
That's an interesting point. I suppose there is a certain guilt in wearing and 'ruining' a piece of history that has (up to your point of ownership) been preserved in a pristine state; the older and the more pristine, the greater the guilt.
I don't remember exactly where I heard this quote, but it goes a little something like this: 'These [jackets] that we have are incredibly valuable; but their value is not in hoarding them, but (rather) in using them.'
Another quote, from the classic car community: 'You'd best drive your [car], or it'll hate you and you'll hate it.'
Fitting, I thought.
 

mulceber

Well-Known Member
Great post and thoughtful discussion. I would like to add a couple pros and cons of originals that I don't think you included:

Pro: investment - originals appreciate in value, while repros depreciate faster than a new car. I know a lot of people will immediately react by saying "I'm not buying these jackets to sell them!" or "I don't ever plan to sell these jackets!" But think about it. Even if you're never planning to get out of this hobby, you may reach the point where you want to scale back your collection. Or sell on some jackets that you don't wear to buy new ones. Or heck, you might be a lover of vintage flight jackets to your grave and then after your funeral your kids will have a dozen (or more) jackets on their hands. Far better in any of those eventualities for the jackets to be ones that are worth more than when you bought them, not less. This applies to used repros as well, but not to the same degree.

Pro: it comes pre-broken-in (this one also applies to used repros). Any time you buy a new repro, they take months (or years) of hard use to look like originals. This is a real problem if you're buying jackets a lot, as you'll have to rotate through them constantly in order for them to get any wear at all. You don't have that problem with originals (or used repros).

Con: durability. Unless it's a relatively recent jacket (say, early '70s G-1), you can't use and abuse an original like you can a repro. They need way more care and gentle treatment than a repro.
 
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Nickb123

Well-Known Member
I tend to favor repros in that they aren’t attached to a particular person. To me it just would feel at times slightly odd wearing an original (thinking A-2s here mainly) due to the personal connection with them. Hard to explain. Almost as if I mutter to myself, “this brave guy that wore this before me went through hell, and here I am wearing his jacket while ordering a coffee.” I’m not quite sure where I stand on wearing vs. displaying. Perhaps a mix of both.

also while originals are infinitely cool, with all sorts of neat quirks, there is something I prefer regarding the experience of a new (or newer) jacket. Just feels like more value(even though monetary value of repros depreciate as soon as they’re up for sale). The leather of newer ones tend to be more robust and in better shape, with of course, more elegant colors (veg tanned and all that jazz). And it does depend on the repro of course. I’d much rather have an original than a modern lower end/more mass produced repro. Of the original A-2s I’ve seen, leather on all has been knackered and sub-par. Not the most lively of creations. But they did have that spirit about them impossible to recapture. Suppose it would also depend on condition of the original.
 
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Silver Surfer

Well-Known Member
good thread mayday, and well thought out. I know that I am ,ahem, opinionated, but than again, opinions are like assholes we all got em. like Burt, I wear the hell out of my repros, but every now and again, in need the feel and vibe of an original. of course, worn carefully....sorta.
 

Brettafett

Well-Known Member
I definitely get both sides.
And I definelty feel the same way as Nick mentions above.

I think theres a different discussion here also, between original A-2s and original G-1s/ M-422as and other types.
Original G-1s (and in some cases M-422as) still abound and are affordable. Generally speaking.
Original A-2s in decent condition, less so.

I see some of the originals guys own on here, and they look fantastic, most seem to be in great condition.
I guess one could argue that at the end of the day these are all just jackets, wear em, collect em, display them, as you want.
Originals are history, repros are a testament to history.

I always have one eye open for a decent original USN jacket. I know they're out there, Ive seen and owned them, but its not a 'mission' Im on.
I would not say no if another great original A-2 passed my way, or better, a great 'shell' that I could have revamped by someone who knows what they are doing.

That said, I already have enough jackets for one lifetime (and will have another to show in 2 weeks ;) ), anyway... more than I need thats for sure. Its just a great hobby.
 

mulceber

Well-Known Member
good thread mayday, and well thought out. I know that I am ,ahem, opinionated, but than again, opinions are like assholes we all got em. like Burt, I wear the hell out of my repros, but every now and again, in need the feel and vibe of an original. of course, worn carefully....sorta.
Yep, that tends to be my practice too. Repros most days, originals maybe once a month, when the weather's cool and fair.
 

Dany McDonald

Well-Known Member
Here's my 1 cents, as I am lightweight in this category...

For military, Original is the first option and main motivator for personal reasons. Pretty much everything has been covered and said in the corner for why owning/going for an original is the way to build a proper collection.

But personally, I like to wear flight jackets and/or vintage kits in general. But I will not beat the shit out of a piece of history (what makes it historical is not arbitrary to me), so my option is to go for a very accurate recreation, if I can. As you can read I nuance between reproduction and recreation. Some outfits have distance the rest of the pack with "recreations", see some of Goodwear A-2, it's all there, faithful to the patterns, NOS hardware, labels, proper leather, tools and savoir faire...

For G-1, I can't justify a repros as you can get an original pretty fast, if it fits!

Originals for the collection. +++ value $
Recreations for everyday and can be collectable too. ++ value $

And kinda like Vic said, the feel and vibe of an original is an experience in itself!

Hope I did add a bit to the subject and made some sense.

Dany
 

MaydayWei

Well-Known Member
Thanks for all your opinions, chaps. All points of view are welcome here!
Interesting to see so many different takes.
I often find quite a lot of parallels in that regard to the use or preservation of say high-end vintage watches, and (of course) vintage cars.
Difference is our hobby costs a lot less! ;)
 

Southoftheborder

Well-Known Member
Of course vintage cars and watches can for the most part be kept in good fettle. Parts can almost always be found - at a price. So they can be used and enjoyed. You can even race vintage cars, and people do and they often crash them. For the most part those cars are Trigger's brooms anyway so that's not a disaster. That probably won't mean much to anyone over the ocean BTW. But it means they have had so many replacement parts and even replacement chassis and engines at different times over the years that not much if anything of the original car remains. But it's still the same car as far as the owner is concerned....

But original clothing can't be invisibly repaired when it's worn out or ripped. You can reline it and such, but when the shell is worn out it's a goner as a wearer.
 

Flightengineer

Well-Known Member
There are a lot of opinions and they are all correct in their own way.
It is possible for me to wear the original. Of couse what you can afford do when you wearing repro is unacceptable in relation to the original.
Nevertheless, if the jacket is alive and in good condition, then I think you can wear it, why not.
 

Ken at Aero Leather

Well-Known Member
Of course vintage cars and watches can for the most part be kept in good fettle. Parts can almost always be found - at a price. So they can be used and enjoyed. You can even race vintage cars, and people do and they often crash them. For the most part those cars are Trigger's brooms anyway so that's not a disaster. That probably won't mean much to anyone over the ocean BTW. But it means they have had so many replacement parts and even replacement chassis and engines at different times over the years that not much if anything of the original car remains. But it's still the same car as far as the owner is concerned....

But original clothing can't be invisibly repaired when it's worn out or ripped. You can reline it and such, but when the shell is worn out it's a goner as a wearer.
Sounds like my 1991 Range Rover but it's still on the road every day, no second car for me
Would I swap it for one of the "repros" designed by Mrs Beckham? No thank You, originals every time for me
 

Southoftheborder

Well-Known Member
You could always repair that. All the parts to build a new rolling chassis and body are available. If you replace enough it would end up as a Trigger's broom repro kit car though.
 
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