I've long thought that many replica World War II sheepskin flying jackets are reasonably true to the genre but in reality some are nothing like the 'real thing' designed by Lesley Irvin of Irvin parachute fame. But recently it has been my business to find out: to test with all the insight personal experience can summon by using an Aces High replica Irvin in open top cars and on classic and 'cruiser style' motorcycles.
The Aces High Irvin replica is made by a craftsman who is passionate about spot-on detailing and quality. So where do you find him? In France! Jon Wainwright makes accurate replicas based on exact patterns taken from original styles used pre-war and from variants made during the war. Top quality fleeces are sourced and over a week’s work goes into making a jacket.
Though it's not, of course, the sort of garment you would use on your race replica. But if you want to bimble about on your cruiser or classic on a dry, freezing cold day there's nothing better than nature’s best. Top quality sheepskin is just about unbeatable for keeping you warm. It's like being in a little oven – and you probably won't need anything more than a T-shirt underneath. These jackets were made to keep aircrew warm in the sub-zero temperatures encountered at altitude – so it should do for you, unless, that is, you only ride in the summer.
With sheepskin flying jackets, the older they are the more attractive they become and the classic patina that develops after a few months hard wear is every wearers pride and joy. Keep it for years and it will tell the tale of your motorcycling (or otherwise) life and will last you a lifetime too, because we're talking here of old fashioned craftsmanship.
Original Irvins (if you can find one) are now too old and far too valuable to be subjected to the rigours of everyday use, so the 'rebirth' via Aces High – that looks every inch the real McCoy – is not only just right for motorcycling: it fits well into the high street fashion scene too.
Each one is made to measure and costs £825. www.aceshighjackets.com