[DEEP DIVE] AIRCREW PANT
Welcome back to "DEEP DIVE" where we take a look into the inspiration behind some of our favorite Engineered Garments pieces. In this installation, we are featuring the "Aircrew Pant", modeled after pants used by helicopter crews during American engagement in the Vietnam War, remade and tuned up for the Engineered Garments collection.
America’s entry into the Vietnam War introduced new dimensions of unconventional warfare and forced the United States government to reconsider their approach on the battlefield. A myriad of changes were implemented, including strategic bombing campaigns, sophisticated airstrikes, and search and destroy missions. The one constant facilitating these evolutions was the helicopter, seeing combat action for the first time on a wide scale during this conflict.
Production of helicopters skyrocketed, with well-known models such as the Boeing CH-47 Chinook and Sikorsky CH-53 Sea Stallion deployed by the military for the first time. Of these, no other helicopter saw as much use at the Bell UH-1 Iroquois. Nicknamed the “Huey”, this aircraft was used for everything from search and rescue efforts, emergency evacuation procedures, and as gunships during forward assaults.
With the pilots and crew of the Huey being integral to the “airmobile” doctrine of American tactical efforts, the US military set about designing a uniform that was practical and safe. It was necessary to allow crewmen easy access to items in their pockets while remaining in a seated position. But of greater concern were the fiery crashes and ensuing risk of severe burns to pilot and crew, especially during medevac missions, or “dustoffs” - widely acknowledged as the riskiest operation for a Huey team to undertake.
As we have mentioned previously on this series, the 20th century heralded a flurry of advances in synthetic fiber, spearheaded by DuPont. On Saturday, May 30, 1964, at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a blazing seven-car accident occured, claiming the lives of race car drivers Eddie Sachs and Dave MacDonald and spurring DuPont’s push to mass produce “Synthetic Aromatic Polyamide Polymer”, marketed as Nomex, in order to create garments that could protect against burns caused by cockpit fires.
The US Army Hot Weather Trousers were issued in 1967. Not only were they constructed from the Nomex material - heat-resistant up to 370°C - but also lightweight, durable, and highly breathable, crucial for heat regulation in the tropical climate which covers much of Vietnam. The low conductivity also provided a novel static electricity reducing feature - used to prevent interference with communication equipment and unintended fuel combustion. But the most striking visual feature on the pants was the wide array of pockets, positioned across the pants, including slash front pockets, two shin pockets and two side pockets with zip closures. As most pilots and crewmen operated in the seated position, they were able to conveniently get to the contents of these pockets.
When Engineered Garments designer Daiki Suzuki first moved to Tokyo as a broke design student, he became interested in military pants for their low price, comfortable fit, and good looks. As he purchased more pairs, he dedicated himself to learning the ins and outs of their construction, being able to distinguish what year the item was issued from minute details on the garment. Along the way, he was able to cultivate a deep appreciation for these styles and pinpoint the features that appealed to him. This abiding love for military pants has remained with Daiki over the years, informing both his personal aesthetic and the products he creates.
The Engineered Garments Aircrew Pant retains many of the key details of the US Army Hot Weather Trousers, specifically the utilitarian pocket array, even keeping the knife pocket on the right side thigh pocket - a fascinating touch. Look even closer and you can spot the telltale adjustments and twists that make this item part of the Engineered Garments family. Notably, there are drawstrings included on the hem of the pant legs, as opposed to the original velcro closure, with an additional drawstring included on the waist, in classic EG style. The pant legs also feature a slight taper, straying from the straight leg of the military-issued version and providing an updated style.
Engineered Garments doesn’t make them in the classic Nomex fabric or OG-107 shade, but rather manufactures Aircrew Pants in a wide variety of natural and synthetic fabrics, which may be the most important touch of all - taking a piece of the 20th century and reimagining it for the 21st. For the Spring Summer 2022 season, these pants are available in a lightweight Cotton Ripstop and the supple Highcount Twill, giving new life to a historic design.
Even if you don't plan on joining the crew of a combat helicopter, these pants’ deep history, useful pockets and unique silhouette make them a necessity for everyone’s closet.
The Aircrew Pant is available in the following fabrics:
- Olive Cotton Ripstop
- Khaki Cotton Ripstop
- Black Cotton Ripstop
- Khaki Highcount Twill
- Black Highcount Twill
Available in-store and online at nepenthesny.com