Some boy would bring his “leather” aviator cap to school to be used as a football by wrapping it up and snapping it when there were no footballs.
Many of today’s senior citizen men once wore aviator caps. Back in those dear dead days beyond recall, every boy on the block wanted one. They were manufactured when a demand for them resulted from observing open cockpit planes. Their popularity was fueled after the thrilling solo flight by Charles Lindbergh over the Atlantic. The caps were very popular, especially in the late 1920s and 1930s inspired by Lindbergh’s accomplishment.
Prior to his iconic flight, airplanes were still in the “adolescent” stage. Some of us can remember those times when an airplane would fly over, and we would run outside to watch it until it disappeared. We wondered where it came from and where it was going.
Those of us in our “innocent days” would look up at that speck in the sky with its unmistakable drone and the sight to us represented the ultimate in freedom and independence.
Those aviator caps were advertised as “just like the ones the pilots wear.” Once received after ordering, the caps seemed authentic to us. Real leather-framed glass goggles were standard equipment. One could wear the goggles on the forehead or adjust them over the eyes for protection, if needed. A boy looked swell walking down the street looking like a real pilot.
The caps were either black or brown, made of imitation leather material with a canvas backing. The cap came with ear flaps which snapped under the chin. Usually, one of those snaps would eventually break leaving one flap to dangle or curl up.
The goggles themselves — not the glass — were usually made of celluloid and the longevity was limited, depending on the severity of use. The goggles also became scratched with constant wear. Some referred to the aviator caps as leather aviator helmets.
At the time of Lindbergh’s historic flight, many people had never even seen an aircraft close up. Still fewer had ever flown in one. Barnstormers attracted large crowds who relished the airborne risky routines and admired the outstanding skill sets of the performers.
Lindbergh’s feat in 1927 brought him fame, fortune, and prestige and he was admired by young and old alike.
Looking back, Americans have exaggerated their heroes’ achievements, but in Lindbergh’s case, he certainly was an inspiration for boys in particular in that period between the two great World Wars. His flight had captured the imagination of the American public as few other events in our history.
Babies were named after him, as was the “Lindy Hop,” a popular dance of that time.
There suddenly was a thunderous merchandising storm of items manufactured, such as puzzles, tapestries, beanies, model airplanes, wall paper, various toys and special stamp sets. A 10-cent Lindbergh airmail stamp was issued, the first stamp to bear the name of a living person. Lindbergh was also honored on the “Time Magazine” Jan. 1, 1928, cover, as The Man of The Year, the youngest to be so named.
Among those popular marketing items was that precious aviator cap. When we owned one — for all intents and purposes — we were that pilot in the sky maneuvering that motor-driven aircraft.
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