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#32: The Storms are on the Ocean

February 1, 2009

I have written about horsehide before (my first sweet little post) and am sure to write about it once again– the story of the perfect vintage leather jacket is inexhaustible, as is the search, and each can be told to infinity.

Fortunately for me and my obsessive nature, my dad is equally obsessed with the aforementioned (as Queen Elizabeth I said, “I am my father’s daughter.”) When I can’t always justify the high dollar purchase of a quality piece of vintage that I could never possibly wear due to my ladylike measurements (not that it hasn’t happened, see: mile high pile of World War II era mens outerwear in the corner of my room), I can live vicariously through dad, thank god. There just isn’t enough ladies leather out there from the 20’s, 30’s and 40’s to keep me satisfied.

The Barnstormer
20s barnstormers
(double-breasted, belted, and 4-pocket styling of the Barnstormer Jacket)

In the 1920’s, Barnstorming and the Flying Circus was a favorite American form of entertainment, featuring stunt pilots (who came to be known as Barnstormers) performing turns and tricks in the air.

The Barnstormers were in need of a comfortable flying coat that protected them from the elements and cold of their exposed aircrafts, and thus the Barnstormer was born. Horsehide was of course chosen for its warmth, strength, and durability. The three-quarter length of the coat provided comfort for pilots sitting for long periods of time in the plane (whereas a full length would have been quite bothersome and bulky) . The functionality of the Barnstormer was adopted by cargo and mail pilots through the 1930’s in need of protection from the elements. With the 1940’s and the advent of World War II, military-issued Bomber Jackets became the Pilot’s leather of choice, and as technology progressed, flightsuits were developed for pilots in extreme weather conditions. And so, the short but worthwhile history of the Barnstormer.

Here’s our most famous Barnstormer, Lindy, photographed wearing a Barnstormer-esque double breasted leather (shown here with Henry Ford…jerks…)

And below, dad’s beautiful horsehide barnstormer, c. 1930’s:
barnstormer 1
barnstormer 2
(photographed on one of my favorite Navajo weavings)
Barnstormers commonly feature shawl collars lined in shearling and/or wool blanket material, lined similarly on the inside. This one aside from the shearling collar appears to be lined in either a heavy cotton or lighter weight wool which leads me to believe that it was perhaps not intended for the coldest months of the year, or maybe for slightly warmer climates.
It’s in remarkable condition and I wonder if it got much use at all back in its hay day…
The cuffs feature a sweet little patina (oxidation and wear lending character) that makes me weak in the knees:
cuff patina

Sigh! Leather, leather everywhere and not a drop to wear!

(PS – A good read in Newsweek this week about the revival of iconic American fashion, here. Thanks to my mom for the tip!)

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2009 9:41 pm

    where did you get that fine example of a Canadian leather jacket made in Toronto NYCGIRL! Did you know that the Macy’s parade was a copy cat of the earlier Eatons Parade?

    little Icy Canadian Facts!!!

  2. indiansummervintage permalink*
    February 4, 2009 10:05 pm

    We get Canadian goods down here too, you know! But this guy came from Melissa, who I think you know, proprietor of Stock.

    By the way, been wondering about the Toronto Vintage Clothing and Textile Show… have you been? Anything good? The Manhattan Vintage Clothing show is this weekend and I may swing by, even if a very very girly scene…


  3. Pam Pollis permalink
    February 4, 2009 11:29 pm

    Hey Dana!
    I felt a little flutter in my heart at seeing the Eaton’s label on the jacket. Up until oh 7 or so years ago, they were the mainstay department store up north. When I moved from England to Toronto as a child, I bought my first winter coat at Eaton’s. Pass me a tissue, sniff sniff.

    xox mama pollis

    • indiansummervintage permalink*
      February 5, 2009 7:28 am

      Aw… Pam! I’ll pass you the tissue over snacks one day soon and we’ll reminisce about it. Miss you and Ruby!

  4. February 5, 2009 1:29 am

    lol I think I sold that to Melissa. Hmm its a bit of an oddball show but you can find the odd interesting piece. Thats a long drive…if you ever want a tour of vintage leather (sans camera, lol) your welcome to drop by my studio.


    • indiansummervintage permalink*
      February 5, 2009 7:26 am

      Of course the reason for the trip would probably be for the studio tour alone. We’d need a big pitcher of water and a big fan on hand!

      Someday for certain, thanks DH!

  5. November 16, 2010 5:30 pm

    leather jackets can really make you look good, they also make you feel warm and comfortable ,”`

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