This is a blog is about the replica WWII era caps and other flight gear I have made.

Flying caps are a fascinating part of WWII flying gear. Like the A-2 jacket, they are still functional and stylish today. I hope to include a smattering of info about the original caps from which my caps are modeled.

The patterns I use are taken primarily from originals in my collection. One of the biggest challenges is to find materials in the correct weave, weight, and color. More often than not I have to dye the fabrics.

All cap materials are hand dyed, hand cut, and hand assembled. Starting with nothing and having something I can wear is all part of the enjoyment. It can be very time consuming but there is a sense of pride that comes with it. I wear one of my caps almost daily.

With each cap I make, quality improves and ideas for other caps come. Blemishes and all, I think they can be pretty convincing.

This is not a business nor an "Items For Sale" site. There is no way to recoup the time spent on these projects. Nonetheless, you might find an item offered for sale here and there. I can only hoard so many!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

More on Materials

Bought some more wool for a few caps I want to make.  Some of this stuff is nearly $30/yd!  My grandmother, a phenom with a sewing machine, was likely turning in her grave as I typed that.  My wife, who doesn't sew, said, "That's just insane!"  Unfortunately, this is indicative of what "proper" materials cost.

Above are some of the materials I use on the squadron caps.  Navy (self-dyed) and red wool for the bodies and the swatches on top are samples of natural-colored wool I test-dyed for squadron numbers, etc.

People wonder why flight jackets and other reproductions vary so much in price.  Materials make a big difference but they cannot be why one product can double or triple in price.  Cost is still the reason.  Adding the proper material, hardware, markings, labels, and finish to an item can up the cost several times over.  Perhaps one thing not often considered is that a maker with the attention to such details is likely to value his time and effort as well as put into his project the same level of detail, effort, and overall quality of workmanship.  Think about this:  Why don't we find high-end makers of, say, reproduction A-2 jackets using inexpensive and commonly available "domestic" materials nor do we find top-notch materials used on a jacket made using cheap Chinese labor?  The two just don't match for many reasons and the overall vision of the producer is key!   Many don't care about the details and that is just fine but I think about the details, or at least realize them, every time I put an item on.  I prefer to not have to apologize, justify, or otherwise rationalize why something isn't the way I prefer.

Think about this concept when pricing your next repro jacket or repro gear purchase.  For that matter apply that to the next "anything" you buy.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Opinions on some Repros

I had a question PM'd to me.  As far as squadron caps, if one is inclined, Googling "vintage wool baseball caps" will net a load of sites(Ebbets Field, American Needle, etc) that sell wool hats reasonably.  One could purchase one and add wool squadron numbers, etc.   But, for my taste, I have found that most of those sites have a fairly standardized pattern(particularly in the crown) applied to all genres rather than focusing on any that would pass as a WWII squadron cap.  Changing colors and bill sizes doesn't cut it for me but many don't obsess over such details.  After all, the origin of many WWII squadron caps is debated and likely varied.  I know these companies have to standardize or go out of business.  I like to be quite specific about the few caps that I make as I wear them.  Somehow this doesn't seam to impress the ladies!  ELC has a squadron cap for about $98.  It is as close as I have seen yet but varies a tad from the originals they show and one other forum member said it was so floppy he never wore it.  That might be a bit harsh as they are all a bit floppy and what we expect vs what is realistic might be an issue.  The sentiment is surely understood at these prices.

Spearhead has not had the best reviews from other forum members as far as caps go.  I was sent one of their A-3s and the shape is totally wrong compared to my originals.  The weave of HBT appeared off as well.  I have made two A-3s (lost one off the seat of a motorcycle 10yrs ago), but the material is hard to come by and I don't fancy tearing up WWII coveralls to get the right material. 
Juan at WWII impressions has some good looking A-3s but I have not held one personally.

As far as B-1s, Mash from Japan has one for about $70 and appears nice.   ELC has one for $125 and it had better be spot on!  Again, I have compared mine only to originals and have held no other repros of the B-1.

I do think it pays to be a bit imperfect as not to confuse buyers, there is enough of that confusion already - even with caps.  We expect perfection when there were never such high standards for these items back then.  Perhaps perfection will one day be the sign of a fake!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

B-1 Cap for sale

    Here are a few B-1 caps. Two are originals and two are mine.
    Here are the two reproductions:
The reproduction on the left is spoken for by another VLJ ( forum member.

The one on the right is a recent test cap and is available. It has the best color of any of my B-1s yet - you can see above that it is the best match to the originals.  That was from a batch that took a while to get right.  I may have enough for only one more hat with that material and must now source more.
The imperfections are all related to the sweatband so are not readily noticeable.
Size is approx. 7 3/8 (approx. 23" around head).

$ SOLD $+ $5 shipping to the CONUS. SOLD!

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Theater Made Caps

These are out there but not as easy to collect. Original WWII caps are difficult enough to find, but theater-made gear has never been found NOS in a warehouse. And as they were easily replaced by higher quality caps after the war, few of these crudely made caps exist. Imagine you are stationed in the CBI and your favorite warm weather cap is somehow lost. You can't just pop into the local PX for a new one and waiting for a replacement through channels could take longer than the war itself.  You don't want to daily stand the beating sun on your head and face and no matter how laxed the C.O. you wouldn't be caught outside without something for your head nearby. Most units were equipped with a sewing machine and someone trained on it, apparently often someone in the supply dept. What to do? Grab an extra cotton twill shirt or a pair of chinos and barter yourself a replacement. Here are two such caps. One has a laundry number stamp and the other has O2 mask snaps. The construction is quite crude but certainly functional and well thought out. The first has a three piece crown, the second a four piece crown like the B-1 summer flying cap. The bills are quite floppy but did the job.
Below are a few test caps I made a few years ago that are similar to those above:

Friday, May 4, 2012

WWII Squadron Cap

This is a cap based on a WWII squadron cap. Though unofficial, they were quite popular especially with U.S. Navy fighter pilots in the Pacific theater. These were primarily private purchase caps. I have read that there were issued caps seen in late war catalogs and have even seen a few with Navy labels. I am still not convinced that these were available through channels during the war. In the Korean Conflict, ball caps became quite commonplace with both fighter and bomber crews. Here are two I made:

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Comments on Caps

Many of us have grown used to the "trucker cap". They are simply everywhere and are what the general public now thinks of when you say "baseball cap." Since I started making caps, these production caps have become quite ugly to me. They are ill fitting and bizarre. They all look alike and have absolutely no soul. They are machine made by the droves in China, printed with every imaginable advertizing slogan, and are handed out for almost nothing if not freely. How many garages I have seen with such hat collections displayed - the main differences only in the printwork on front.  That's no collection - that's hoarding!  Honestly, without a color change or different advertisement on front, they look all the same.  I remember a co-worker who was wearing a "Von Dutch" trucker cap. Though at the time it had cost her about $85, it was nothing more than a mass produced trucker cap marketed to the trendy. When asked, she didn't even know who Von Dutch was. She said, "I thought it was a designer." So is today's "baseball cap". WWII caps are quite different for many reasons. At the time, and in service, they were equally common and non-individualized as warranted by the military. But they were well-made and very utilitarian. Though they were made to be disposable artifacts of war the materials used were still of a quality that allows them to survive. One must remember that although most men wore hats out of doors back then, the baseball-style cap was seldom seen on adults. All caps and hats back then, military or otherwise, were fitted - not adjustable. During the war, flying caps were made quickly on the most industrial equipment available but by war workers' hands. They retain that hand fashioned look and feel. The stitching isn't perfect and varies between each cap you see. Though it is fascinating to me who made them, perhaps the most interesting thing is what they stood for and for whom they were made. They were designed and tested for their effectiveness, not their style, for young men in combat situations. For example, the "sundowner" visor, awkwardly boxy, stiff, and extended, was designed to increase protection from the sun for aviators. The button, commonly found on civilian baseball caps and on all of today's trucker caps, was eliminated as they interfered with earphones and were extremely uncomfortable when pressed into the scalp when bumped inside of a cramped airplane or on any part one was unfortunate to come into contact with during a preflight inspection, during in-flight turbulence or other movement in combat, or ground operations.   If you have been around aircraft much you know exactly what I mean.  For some reason, things above your eyesight blur into nonexistence until you hit them with your noggin!
Though wearing caps while flying was actually discouraged fairly early in the U.S. involvement in WWII, it was still common practice presumably due to function. Caps of all sorts were not only used throughout the war, they were often modified. For example the officer service caps were often altered with the removal of the spring stiffener so that headphones could be easily fitted. This led the the famous "crusher" look. Iconic as it was, it was hardly necessary with the availability of other caps and helmets designed for such a purpose. Trendy was an understatement. Simply put, there are many reason that these caps are still functional today.

B-1 Summer Flight Cap

Here is a photo with a side by side comparison of an original B-1 cap to a repro cap I made. This was one of my first caps and I have changed a lot since this photo but it's still fun to look at it. Click on the picture to see it enlarged.