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What To Wear?

What To Wear?

The 1928 Arctic pilot edition
By Herb Mathisen
Sep 06
From the August/September 2016 Issue

February 19, 1928, an open-cockpit Fokker Universal takes off from the frozen-over Hudson Strait at a brisk -30 C. When it reaches 8,000 feet, the air around it is -56 C. Yet, three hours later, the pilot lands the plane and, somehow, he’s not a block of ice. Far from it. According to the expedition’s flight lieutenant Thomas Lawrence, the fellow is actually “very comfortable.”

How was this possible? Well, for one, pilots weren’t dressed in trim suits and aviator glasses like today. Their attire was dutifully trialed and tested to protect every inch of skin from frostbite. Right down to the kisser—“a good application of mentholatum afforded the lips protection from the cold and prevented them drying and cracking,” writes Lawrence. Here’s an idea of what these pilots were wearing:

• Silk underwear, beneath medium weight wool, beneath chamois

• windproof two-piece outer Sidney Cotton (“sidcot”) flying suit—outer layer lined with suede leather and fitted with a turn-up beaver-lined collar; optional inner layer made of eiderdown

• wool sweater

• flannel shirt

• high-waist loose-fitting suede leather breeches—similar to a jockey’s

• white wool duffle socks

• moccasins and sheepskin-lined flying boots

• deerskin mitts with duffle-lining and dog-fur wrist fringe

• leather lambskin-lined

• suede face masks, fringe of clipped wolverine fur around the sheets and
chin arc

• fur-lined mask goggles