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Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Wrong Stuff

Yesterday we looked at being who we want to be, and using both external 'props' like clothing, and behaviour to achieve that goal.

And then there are posers...or more properly, poseurs.

These are the folks who dress the part they've never played.

Being involved in aviation for most of my life, I've seen quite a few. Aviation posers tend to affect the same stylized 'look', a blend of Top Gun and The Right Stuff.

First, sunglasses. The distinctive wire-rimmed Ray-Ban 'Aviator' glasses are useful, comfortable, and have 'the look'.

Next, the flying jacket. It can be the leather A-2, or a knockoff. Some prefer the nylon version. Few go whole hog and buy an Irvine jacket, the fleece-lined marvel that was issued to the Royal Air Force (the Irvine jacket is both expensive and hot, which may account for its rarity). Some add flight suits - overalls with a lot of zippered pockets.

Watches! No Top Gun Aviator with The Right Stuff is complete without a huge wristwatch...sorry, chronometer. It has to have a lot of functions. It doesn't matter if you don't know what they are.

Finally, patches. No jacket is complete without patches, right? Preferably, bloodthirsty regalia that testifies to the wearer's martial prowess. One step beyond patches is artwork - paintings on the back of the jacket, often mimicking aircraft nose art (the individualizing artwork painted on the noses of warplanes - the most familiar example is the 'shark-mouth' of the American Volunteer Group in World War Two - the 'Flying Tigers').

Put it all together on a serving military pilot, past or present, and it's right. Put it together n a civilian, pilot or not, and it's posing.

The issue is really one of propriety. The accouterments mentioned are typically earned - even the sunglasses, which military pilots buy after their first solo. These are not badges of rank - they're badges of honor, of belonging to a group of individuals who are set apart by skill, courage, and commitment.

Commitment is the important part. A military pilot has taken an oath to protect the country, at life's risk. You can't buy that in a store.

This applies equally to the current pilots of restored warplanes, at least in my accounting. Yes, they've done posterity a service by spending literal fortunes to keep our aviation history alive and flying. And yes, there is some justification for 'dressing the part' at airshows, so that the people of Now might know what the Heroes of Then looked like.

But it's not 'stuff' to 'strut'. You can't buy that right.

What do you think?

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