Become a Legend, Lets Design Your Jacket

           Buck Starr Legends - Reproduction A-2 

          Buck Starr Legends - Reproduction A-2 

A bit about name tags and wings

At times a set of wings were painted or sewn on above the name tag to signify their position, such as pilot, gunner, bombardier, etc. Rank insignia were usually painted directly on or flat leather rank devices added to the epaulettes. Thanks to rapidly changing rank due to attrition, many pilots did not add rank insignia to the jacket. Aircrew would seldom, if ever, use the metal rank devices because they would tend to be knocked off by the parachute straps. There are a variety of name tags seen in pictures because a lot of jacket decorations were made in specific theaters. This carries over to the squadron patches as well.

Here is some background to help you develop your own personal jacket. The jacket was usually issued just as you see it here.

At the minimum, an aviator would usually have a plain tan leather name tag sewn on with the first and middle initial followed by the last name. We have seen many names in the lining that were neatly stenciled or simply hand written. Also a common device used was a rubber stamp with the first letter of the last name with a dash and then the last four digits of the serial number(S-1174),

Original A-2 | With painted wings,  name tag,  &  whistle on the zipper pull

Original A-2 | With painted wings,  name tag,  &  whistle on the zipper pull

When it comes to squadron marking's there were a few different application practices used but some of the best that held up over time really were the painted. I mean anyone can sew a patch or press a stamp on, but the painted method turns the jacket into more of a individualistic art piece.  

The Army actually offered 5" diameter plain leather patches to be sewn on the jacket so they could be painted with the squadron insignia. Many times they would be painted directly onto the jacket or be of theater made cloth or leather patches. Many of these patches are offered on the net or on Ebay.

            Original A-2 Jackets | With Painted Flying Tiger Insignia's for the "First Pursuit Squadron" and the "Hell's Angels Squadron" 

History of the Famous Artwork and Some of the Lesser Known Accessories

The various artwork normally found on the back, was usually done by the local "artists" found in each unit. They varied from very crude to excellent renditions of the era's current calender pinup art.

The artwork varied even among crew members of the same plane. These were not decals, stencils or silk screened images, but rather individual hand-painted works of art. It could be the plane's name, a wife or girlfriend's name, the hometown or state, a favorite past time, a cartoon character or any other pun that the crew could think of. Among the most popular images, were the pin-up girls found in the Esquire magazines and calendars painted by Alberto Vargas.

Here's some of the famous dames painted in the classic pin-up girl style

Personal items were many times used as "zipper pulls". Thanks to the crew members wearing thick gloves, everything from good luck charms, pair of dice, whistles, bomb tags and religious emblems, would be attached to the zipper. The whistle is a common device worn on the jacket and I get asked about them very often when I wear my jacket. I love explaining how the aircrew would use the whistle to sound off to other crew members after they had to bail out, in order to find each other when they landed. Of course in time, the Germans learned to carry and blow the whistles when trying to locate downed airman too.

The "Hap Arnold" star and wings decal with "Army Air Forces" under it, was many times on the jacket but often broke down rapidly. It would often be replaced with a leather or cloth patch or even painted on. Later in the production process, they were often stamped on in white outline only. Many times the individual crewman would put the Air Force command (such as the 8th AF logo) on the left shoulder and add the "Hap Arnold" star and wings on the right shoulder.

1) When ordering your jacket, you may want to think about several options. We can recreate an actual historical aircraft. Perhaps you want a "tribute jacket" to a family member that features a particular plane or group.

2) Maybe you want the authentic look but want a particular artwork or name. We can add "mission markers" and other custom details. 

3) One rock group that I did wanted the WWII look and art, but with their band name and we used little guitar mission markers to signify tours that they went on. If you are not sure about what art that you want painted, we can come up with something for you.

Research shows that most jackets had some, but not all of the items listed above. You may find some examples, but few had name tag, rank, whistle, Air Force logo, squadron patch, group patch and nose art on the back. Most had one or two of these items, and some had none. It's really up to you to determine what works for you. If you need help or have questions, please ask. We are here to help.

Special note: Please remember, that when you order a custom jacket, they will have an old time feel and look to the art. We use painting methods as used in the past. The artwork will age and develop a patina with wear. Each jacket will weather and age differently and will develop its own creases and cracks. Some of the art will likewise wear with the jacket. This is the desired look and feel. If you want a jacket that always looks pristine with perfect art, it would be better to find a mall jacket with a decal or cheap silkscreen on it. My weathered reproductions get the best reactions when I wear them, with many folks thinking they are WWII originals and I have to explain that they are not.. I don't even wear my originals anymore as they are too valuable and I don't want to further damage them. Your painted reproduction is actually a work in progress as you wear it and allow it to age and weather.

Some of the art will likewise wear with the jacket. This is the desired look and feel. If you want a jacket that always looks pristine with perfect art, it would be better to find a mall jacket with a decal or cheap silkscreen on it.
— Buck Starr