The Original G

Here at Rokit's TOP SECRET vintage military HQ, one of our favorite staples is the leather flight jacket, with the US Navy’s fur collared wonder, the G1 being King of the Skies!

US Navy Pilot wearing M422a during WW2

The G1 Jacket, or to give its full military title Jacket, Flyers,Intermediate is one of the most iconic jackets of all time. There is something about it that, although being an item of military regulation uniform, also radiates an inner rebel- it's no wonder Tom Cruise's G1 wearing character in the classic 1980s film Top Gun is called Maverick!

The G1 was designed in the late 1930s, taking elements of the Army Air Force’s own flying jacket, the A2, and adding slight alterations that would distinguish it from the Army's version.

These details included a fur collar, button flap front pockets plus a bi-swing back panel to allow movement. The first incarnation was called the M422 followed in 1941 by the M422a. Both of these flight jackets featured a rust or dark brown moulton collar, goatskin leather, two front button flap pockets and of course its classic short body. The jacket was strictly for US Navy aviators but also found its way to a very select group of American gung-ho pilots, the American Volunteer Group. Most famously recognised as The Flying Tigers who have since been immortalised by cinema, books and comics. The Tigers were fighting in China, Burma and India just weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbour and attracted pilots from the Army, Marines and Navy. The Tiger’s early patronage of the M422a jacket ensured that it had already began carving itself out as a legend in the making.

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Pilots from The Flying Tigers, AVG 1942 Pilots from The Flying Tigers, AVG 1942

The M422a saw action all across the vast scope of WW2. From hunting submarines in the Atlantic Ocean to engaging in dogfights over the Pacific, cementing itself as the Navy aviator’s flying badge of honour. After the conflict ceased in 1945 the ex-servicemen kept their beloved jackets and began to wear them as an everyday clothing piece. From sailing, hot rodding to its most popular use, being worn on motorbikes, it was these pursuits that allowed the leather flight jacket to flourish and became detached from its military roots, making its way into the fashion consensus.

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In 1947 the M422a was reclassified as the G1 with slight changes being made to the moulton fur collar and pocket flap design. The Naval department also widened their contractors, so during this period many slight differences can be seen from jacket to jacket. The G1 was to see two major conflicts that crept in from the post-WW2 Cold War paranoia, created by tensions between East and West. Firstly during the early 1950’s Korean War, followed in the early 1960s and 70’s by the turbulent Vietnam War. It was during Vietnam that the G1 began to go through some distinct changes most notably the fur collar turning a much more deep conventional brown, eventually becoming fully synthetic. The silver USN stamp on the collar was phased out and instead USN was bullet punched on later models inner gas flap.

Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis in Top Gun, 1986 Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis in Top Gun, 1986

In 1979 the G-1 was semi-retired and stopped being issued to new recruits coming into the Navy, mainly due to the economic and budgetary cuts within the military. This period though didn’t last long and the G1 was reinstated in 1981, however, with this the jacket became more of an off duty item of uniform instead of wearing in flight. The most civilian friendly introduction came from, as previously mentioned, the Tom Cruise patched emblazoned jacket in 1981’s Top Gun but Mr Cruise aside, the G1 has managed to stay almost true to its roots, carved in the tradition of the fighting few and now idolised by the style enduring many.

We currently have a choice selection of G1’s from the 1940’s right up to the 1980’s.

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Read more on the Rokit blog...

Introducing Rokit Military

Definitive guide to iconic coats through the ages

History of the denim jacket

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