Our post ‘History of the MA-1’ focused more on it’s utility and history as an Air Force garment, in this follow-up post the focus is on the best executed MA-1s in men’s fashion. The selections below fall into two main categories: authentic reproductions that emphasize the craftsmanship and detailing of the originals, and re-designed MA-1’s which alter the defining details of the MA-1. Take a look at the full list below
Helmut Lang ‘Bondage MA-1″
Helmut Lang designed these iconic MA-1s with bondage strap details at his peak as a designer. They come in a variety of colors and materials but they all show his ability to blend countercultural staples with a slimme down minimalist design aesthetic.
Raf Simons ‘Pyramid’ MA-1 from Spring/Summer 2000
Raf Simons’ early work was subversive, youthful and raw. This MA-1 looks like it’s straight out of a cyberpunk flick but was part of the collection SUMMA CUM LAUDE, which was inspired both by Mensa students and the gabba subculture. The cut is oversized, puffy and imposing but in a way that I could only describe as ‘near-perfect’. This is definetly a grail for the ages.
Rick Owens MA-1 (Various Models)
Rick is notorious for elevating menswear staples into items worth coveting. Rick’s take on the MA-1 is slim and sleek with clean lines. The clunky Rick metal zips and the modified wind guard put Rick’s signature on the bomber. These jackets come in a variety of styles but my favorites are the ones which are down filled and the ones with metal zippers on the sleeves. I’ve also seen a silk version that is incredibly to the touch but decidedly a little more delicate.
WTAPS MA-1 Fall/Winter 2011
No one should be surprised that WTAPS made this list. WTAPS specializes in modern takes on military garments, and their execution on the MA-1 is impeccable. What I love about WTAPS is that they apply their branding very tastefully and always put a signature on men’s staples without over doing it. They didn’t change adapt the standard Alpha Industries style MA-1 too much from the original, but they did add a few little touches that make it a more interesting/better-fitting piece. Also kudos to them on getting the sage green color and zipper pulls on this one ‘just right’.
Buzz Rickson “William Gibson MA-1”
It’s one thing when brands make faithful reproductions of vintage items, but Buzz Rickson goes further than that. This is the definitive repro MA-1, the legend is that Buzz Rickson spent over a million dollars to prepare production of key elements of this MA-1 (the re-made crown zippers for example). Also stuff of legend was that the MA-1 was never produced in black by Buzz Rickson until the company began getting requests from loyal readers of Pattern Recognition a modern sci-fi novel by William Gibson. In it the protagonist Cayce Pollard wears a Black Buzz Rickson MA-1.
“While Rickson’s had never made a black one, countless black jackets in the MA-1 pattern have been made over the years. It’s been a very popular, indeed classic pattern. These are not made to the specifications of the US military, but for sale to civilians. I gave Cayce one because I thought it worked for her, and I made it a Buzz, because that worked for me. I never stopped to think that Rickson’s didn’t actually make a black one, but if I had, that wouldn’t have stopped me. Hubertus Bigend doesn’t exist either, and I have my poetic license right here, laminated, in my wallet.
To my surprise, Cayce’s jacket immediately felt to me like a *character*, rather than merely a garment, and I liked that.”
“People who complain about the very high cost don’t understand the degree of sheer lunatic obsession that goes into these things. You are very unlikely to ever wear another piece of clothing this well-made. I know I never have. (They are actually better than the 1950s USAF originals, which were only finished to military contract standards.) They spent a million dollars, when the company started up, on machinery to reproduce 1950s USAF-spec Crown zippers. Nobody outside of Japan is very interested in paying for that, they told me, smiling. They have found their niche-market, bigtime.” – William Gibson
Undercoverism Fall/Winter 2011 Leather Sleeve MA-1
While it seems like it’s a trend to put leather sleeves on things, Jun Takahashi shows you how to do it right. Many past UC pieces have played on this theme of mixing and matches elements from different outerwear pieces. In this less traditional take on the MA-1, leather sleeves replace the usual nylon ones and a zipper details is added to the neck. The MA-1 has been stripped of some of it’s bulk and excess and made into this sleek, futurist design. I really love this piece because it opens up new ways to wear the MA-1.
Junya Watanabe eYe COMMES des GARCONS MA-1
Junya Watanabe has an amazing ability to tweak items in ways most designers wouldn’t have imagined. This jacket is kind of a hybrid of a motorcycle jacket and an MA-1. A perfect match if you ask me, especially considering that it looks just as badass reversed to the orange side. A piece any guy should be proud to own.
Komakino MA-1 (Various models)
Komakino is picking up where Raf left off in terms of new-wave and countercultural design. I’ve tried on a few of their MA-1s and they are all superbly cut. Slim and slightly cropped with all the details you want to see on a MA-1 intact. Some are quite plain but my favorite ones by Komakino have graphics hits on the back , arms or body. The White MA-1 in the the first image is from a collaboration with Opening Ceremony for the London Olympics and it remains one of my favorites to this day.
There you have it, eight of the best MA-1s of all time. Did your favorites make the list? If there’s one you think I omitted sound off in the new DISQUS comments. Also if you enjoyed this piece be sure to check out the feature I did on the Histry of the MA-1 HERE.
Words by Rocky Li