By the time she disappeared somewhere over the central Pacific Ocean, during a doomed attempt to make a circumnavigational flight of the globe in a Lockheed Model 10-E Electra, Amelia Earhart’s legacies included becoming the first female aviator to fly solo across the Atlantic (for which she received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross), a wealth of bestselling books about her aviation experiences, and the formation of The Ninety-Nines, an organisation that provides professional opportunities to women in aviation. An addition to Earhart’s legacy is a tobacco suede jacket, inspired by the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to the U.S. mainland. It is made by Chapal, the French producer of leather jackets and coats whose backstory more than qualifies it to cut audacious pieces such as this. Originally founded in France in 1832 as a tannery (a facility it still has in-house), Chapal’s early contributions to aviation fabric technology — including ways to improve shearling’s water-resistance — prompted military authorities to commission the house to provide jackets for the French air force during WWI. Chapal also developed, patented and provided the famous waterproof shearling that you now find on the B3 jackets for the US Air Force during World War II. Helmed by Jean-François Bardinon (representing the sixth generation of the family) since the early 1980s, the brand also offers footwear as well as jackets that manifest Bardinon’s love of vintage motoring — well worth checking out if you share his affection for an ilk of outerwear that has a hefty Britpop/mod tinge to it.
The brand’s aviation outerwear lines remain the dominant strands of its DNA, though. The Chapal AE 1932 is crafted from sheep’s leather and features a cotton lining and knitted cuffs as well as large flap pockets at the front, horn buttons and a non-intrusive collar, which vastly improves its layering credentials. Of course, any aviation jacket exudes the spirit of exploration, independence, bravery and confidence. But this, along with its stablemate, the A1 — also available from TheRake.com — offers something different: more scope for nattier, dressier versatility. There aren’t many flight jackets under which a knitted tie looks as in situ as a polo or roll-neck, and this is a clear example of a garment genre bowling a googly. Given how harmoniously both the rich tobacco hue and the light grey suede sing with darker blues, we recommend an indigo-dyed denim shirt and/or smart navy trousers to make up a covetable ensemble.
In addition to Chapal's classic AE 1932 and A1 jackets, the brand has updated its offer this season with some stunning statement pieces, foremost among them the sheep's leather USAAF, based on the style worn by US Air Force A2 and G1 pilots in the 30s. It is ribbed at the cuffs and waist, has a detachable golden sheepskin collar and just oozes old-school masculinity. Then there's Chapal's minimalistic take on the classic fur collar bomber, cut from sheep's leather and lined with Fox Brothers' houndstooth wool flannel fabric. Both jackets are incredibly versatile, easily dressed down with jeans or dressed up with a pair of winter-ready flannel trousers.
Two other highlights of this season's collection comes in the form of boiled wool. Although Chapal is best known for its leather work, do not underestimate its prowess in making killer silhouettes from wool, as evidenced by its navy boiled wool double-breasted 1814 jacket, which takes the shape of a sort of pea coat/Perfecto jacket love child with two front pockets and turned-back cuffs. It has that difficult to achieve rebelliousness to it and as such would work perfectly with a Brando-style white t-shirt and dark denim jeans. Alternatively, Chapal have also created a unique black boiled wool and sheep's leather cape for those freezing winter days when a single coat just isn't enough. If you can pull it off then you don't need our style advice, but for what it's worth, we'd suggest you throw it over a relaxed black single-breasted great coat for a chic but head-turning monochrome look.