Posted by Chris Pilarski on Jan 4th 2024

From the Cockpit to the Runway: Iconic Aviation Clothing Pieces

With its tradition of glamour and appeal of adventure, aviation has continually provided a platform for a niche within fashion. The uniforms worn by pilots and flight attendants continue to become symbols of aviation, flair and adventure, transcending their original functional purpose. These garments, such as the classic flying jacket, the sophisticated A-line dress, and bold hats and neckwear are emblems of classic styles. For now, let's take a close look at the origins of the most iconic aviation apparel and accessories. 

Flight Jacket (Nylon Bomber Jacket) 

The bomber jacket, or flying jacket, has its roots in the early 20th century. Although the jacket's original purpose was to serve military pilots, it has since evolved to stand for courage and expertise in flight. The MA-1, which first appeared in the 1950s, became an instant classic because of its ribbed cuffs and vivid orange lining. The bomber jacket is still a must-have for both sexes on city streets and runways today because of its versatility, rugged good looks and association with the courageous pioneering spirit of pilots. 

A-2 Leather Jacket 

Another aviation symbol that has become a fashion icon is the A-2 leather jacket. Its introduction in the 1930s coincided with its widespread use by pilots serving in the United States Army Air Corps during WWII. The A-2—made of premium leather—had a unique collar, zippered front and ribbed cuffs. Its classic style and link to valor in the battle helped ensure its continued success. Aviation fans and trendsetters alike have taken a shine to the jacket for its classic good looks and historical relevance, making it a hot commodity in the fashion industry. 

Aviator Sunglasses

Sunglasses with an aviator lens are among the most iconic and long-lasting pieces of aviation attire. They first appeared in the 1930s as a means for pilots to shield their eyes from the damaging effects of glare and ultraviolet radiation when flying at high altitudes. The sleek metal frames and teardrop-shaped lenses were soon associated with pioneering aviators like Amelia Earhart and Charles Lindbergh. Celebrities and movie stars helped propel the iconic style into popular culture, solidifying aviator sunglasses as a mainstay of fashion. 

Pilot's Hat (Aviator Cap)

Based on military dress uniform hats, the pilot hat is an iconic symbol promoting a distinguished profession. The military look of these caps add an aura of authority and professionalism promoting respect for the role and pride of position of the wearer. The pilot hat remains the standard bearer of holding onto the glamour of air travel. 

Pilot's Watch 

When it comes to accessories, few things are more sought-after than pilot's watches. Keeping accurate time was vital for pilots in the early days of aviation, which is where the pilot's watch got its start. Watches from industry leaders Breitling and IWC were among the first to include features like chronographs, big, legible displays and specialized functions for pilots. Some watches even pay respect to the tools used by pilots in flight by including features inspired by aviation, such as slide-rule bezels. 

A-Line Dress or Skirt Suit 

Flight attendant's skirt suits and A-line dresses represent the chic aesthetic of the airline business. These ensembles, designed to project an image of polished professionalism, have been around since the mid-century. The A-line dress embodies the polished and fashionable style of stewardesses with its fitted bodice and gently flared skirt. The tailored jacket adds to its powerful and fashionable appearance. These iconic artifacts not only represent the era of aviation but also inspire current fashion, demonstrating its impact beyond the cockpit. 

Pillbox Hat or Beret 

The pillbox hat and beret are classic options for flight attendant's headgear, lending an aura of refinement to their attire. Jacqueline Kennedy popularized the pillbox hat in the 1960s, elevating it to a status symbol thanks to its flat crown and straight, upright sides. Inflight departments quickly embraced this fashionable item, which they used to glam up their clothes. Because of its gentle curves, the beret exudes an air of informal elegance and creativity. 

Scarf or Necktie 

To liven up their outfits and give a touch of class, flight attendants would often accessorize with scarves knotted in a variety of ways. A traditional pilot adornment, the necktie conveys an air of seriousness and command. Although originally designed for use with aviation uniforms, these items have since become fashion mainstays. Contemporary designers highlight the scarf's versatility by incorporating it into their catwalk shows, ensuring the necktie remains a symbol of sophisticated taste. 

Trench Coat or Overcoat 

In the aviation sector, trench coats have their roots in World War I. The thick fabric, belted waist and double-breasted design of the coat shielded British military leaders and pilots from the severe weather that befell them in the open cockpits and trenches. Because of its combination of functionality and chic design, the trench coat quickly became a staple of stewardess uniforms. The stewardesses could stay fashionable and protected from the elements in all kinds of weather. 


Legendary aviation attire has a rich history of elegance and functionality. Everything from the sturdy bomber jacket to the timeless trench coat still remains a symbol of courage, adventure and refinement. From the cockpit to the catwalk, these iconic pieces—loved by pilots and fashionistas alike—continue to make an indelible mark on the fashion industry.