Welcome to “What I Wear to Work.” A series on, you guessed it, who wears what to work. Obviously things have changed, drastically, since we launched this series (see our other series, What I wore today working from home). But some people are still very much going to work. Because, for example, it’s hard to fly planes from your home office. If you’re one of those, and want to be featured, see the bottom of this post for instructions. Same goes for those of us who are still doing the WFH thing. Be safe out there.
About the Author: An Air Force pilot for the last 11 years, Mike is currently stationed in the Washington, DC area. He’s currently assigned to getting various official folks from point A to point B by getting a big metal tube with wings to go up and down in a controlled manner. Although he’s often told what to wear by the government, he enjoys finding the right wardrobe pieces that are long-lasting and sharp-looking. Mike also documents his global flying adventures on his successful Instagram page – @vectors_to_final – where he provides followers an inside look at flying and the occasional dad joke (or three).
Background: While the Air Force is transitioning during the next few years to a camouflage “two-piece” flight suit, regulations still authorize traditional flight suits for daily wear. And unless pilots can really see themselves in the new camouflage uniforms (which would defeat the whole purpose), they’ll continue to standout in the green uniforms that easily identify them as “zipper-suited sun gods.”
The Flight Suit: CWU 27/P Nomex Flight Suit – $200. Technically called a “flight duty uniform,” the Air Force issues this uniform not only to personnel who perform flight duties on aircraft but also individuals in specific space and missile jobs due to its comfort and utility. While flight suits have been around since pilots first took to the skies, this “pickle suit” design (i.e. CWU 27/P) emerged in the 1970s and is made of Nomex, a flame- and heat-resistant fabric. Granted flame resistance isn’t a priority for, say, guys controlling satellites from a computer, it is important if your plane catches on fire. (Plus, the seven pockets are super useful for holding snacks…)
The Boots: Nike SFB Field 2 8-Inch Tactical Boots in Sage Green- $105. Following the same safety trend as the flight suit, pilots can only wear boots on a “Safe-to-Fly” list. Footwear on that list meets specific requirements like fire-resistance or tread grip. As a result, the boots that qualify tend to be clunky and aren’t overly comfy. These Nike boots are NOT on that list. Super light and comfortable, they are my everyday boots for when I “fly the desk” and am not on the flight line.
The T-Shirt: Soffee Military Tee in Tan – $7. Soffee is better known for making cheerleader shorts and Ranger Silkies (a nylon short that’s just a tad on the “too short” side for me). They also make great, comfortable t-shirts but, in the end, it’s just a t-shirt… Besides color requirements (and my personal preference for tag-less shirts), any tan t-shirt does the job.
The Socks: Fox River Boot Socks in Coyote Brown or Sage Green – $17. As Mark pointed out in his “What I Wear to Work” post, the Fox River boot socks are by far the best boot sock I’ve bought. Though these socks are on the expensive side, their durability and comfort won me over. I only discovered them a few years ago but have been slowly replacing my other boot socks as they wear out.
The Flight Cap: Air Force Officer Flight Cap (plus rank) – $22. Standard uniform hat. Pilots end up having to replace their flight caps sooner than the average Airman however. Because you store the hat in the bottom flight suit pocket when it’s not being worn, the pocket’s zipper tends to snag the flight cap’s silver braiding. Over time the flight cap looks overly abused on one side of the cap and needs replaced. Pro tip: I keep an extra flight cap in my car so when I inevitably forget my hat in the morning rushing out the door, I’m good to go before I step out of my car and walk to my office!
The Jacket: A-2 Flight Jacket from Pop’s Leather – $495. If they’re not wearing the issued Nomex flight jacket in cold weather, pilots are rocking the leather A-2 jacket. And the best A-2 jacket is made by Pop’s Leather just outside of an airbase in Turkey. The super soft calfskin leather and fur-lined pockets make this jacket 1000% more comfortable (if not warmer) than the Nomex jacket. Every new pilot on his or her first layover in Turkey visits two places: one of the many rug shops for a Turkish rug, and Pop’s Leather to buy a shoulder holster and, of course, an A-2 jacket.
The Sunglasses: Randolph Engineering Aviators – $239. Admittedly these sunglasses are expensive and there are excellent alternative choices out there like the AO Aviators. Randolph Engineering Aviators however were standard issue at the start of pilot training and I’ve been using them ever since. While these aren’t my only pair of sunglasses, these glasses sport two features crucial for when I’m flying – unpolarized frames and bayonet temples. Planes (and their electronic displays) are generally older than you think. And with many planes still relying on cathode ray tubes or early LED displays, polarized lenses will filter out part or sometimes all the display. Not cool! On top of that, the thin bayonet temples make the glasses comfortable to wear underneath a helmet or close enough to your head that they don’t disrupt the seal around your ears if you’re wearing a headset.
The Watch: Elgin A-11 US Army Air Forces Original Issue – $495 (if you can find one). I’ve had this watch for a little over a year and love to rock it in a flight suit because of its history and overall “cool” factor. Small compared to modern timepieces, this 32-mm manual watch was originally issued during World War II. The A-11 is actually the name of the “production standard” or watch design that several watch companies produced including Bulova, Elgin, and Waltham. One cool thing about the A-11 is that the design of the watch changes a bit depending on the manufacturer, but generally it’s a black and white watch with a pull-out crown. (For instance, mine features red 24-hour marks overprinted on the glass dial of the watch.) I also lucked out and found a watch with a “new old stock” band: that is, the watch band is original stock but never used. If you’re interested in hunting one of these down, I’d search on eBay or a military collector’s website.
If you want to take this for a spin (or try the home version! We’re still taking What I wore Today Working from Home submissions), send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with who you are, what you do, and what you’d like to submit. To be featured, we’ll need a picture of you at work, as well as the details on what you’re wearing/usually wear on the job. Final image will have to be cropped down to 1500×840 pixels, so, keep that in mind when shooting. Landscape mode please, and let’s keep anything from the chin up out of it, since our eventual robot overlords will one day scalp the web for faces that they can scan and plaster onto their metallic skulls to increase their “trustworthiness.” Note that sending an email with your picks and a pic doesn’t guarantee publishing. We gotta have some variety, y’know? That’ll help your chances. But be yourself. And get your employer’s permission if you’re gonna get specific with your place of work. If you get fired, that’s on you. Good luck. We’ll be in touch.