Fashion is a big deal for many people around the world, but only a few know that it is quite an issue for the IAF too. Major (Res.) Itzik Bran, former Head of Clothing Department, talks about then and now
Noa Fenigstein & Naomi Zoreff | Translation: Eden Sharon
A quick glance at the passers-by on the Israeli street reveals a broad range of styles: designer clothing, street fashion and army uniforms. While fashion trends are always making headlines, not many people are familiar with the stories behind IAF uniforms.
The blue officer uniforms, the famous flying jackets and even the multi-colored overalls, each have a unique story behind them. For the first time, Major (Res.) Itzik Bran, head of the Uniform Department between 1987-2000 and a graduate of the “Shenkar” School of Engineering and Design, reveals a few secrets from the IAF locker room.
Everybody wants a pilot’s jacket
Back In the late 1990s, Major (Res.) Bran arrived at a Paratroopers battalion in northern Israel to estimate the needs of the soldiers.
“When I first arrived at the battalion, the paratroopers complained about the army coats: ‘We look like common soldiers and not like combat soldiers, we want the same flying jackets the pilots get’”, Bran recalls. “Back then, the pilot’s leather jackets were a status symbol. Everybody wanted the same look”.
In response, Bran quickly took their jackets to a near-by sewing workshop, cut the bottom part and the collar and created a shape that resembles the formal IAF flying jackets.
“A week later, Shaul Mofaz, the then-Chief of Staff, paid a visit to the battalion and saw the coats. He was impressed and ordered their distribution to the rest of the soldiers. That is how the former pilot jackets inspired the style of today’s formal IAF coats”.
The infantry soldiers were not the only ones who wished to resemble pilots. “One of our big projects was making the overalls for the IAF ground crews. They insisted on overalls although they are less comfortable to work in”, notes Bran.
To this day, the multi-colored overalls are a trademark of the force. The technical crews, for example, wear blue overalls. The flight inspectors wear gray overalls and the aerial teams – pilots, weapon system officers and flight engineers – wear green ones but only the aerobatic team wears white overalls.
When addressing fashion in the IAF, women’s clothing cannot be overlooked. In 1994, there was a significant change in the woman’s uniform, after many complaints were received. The main argument was: “it makes no sense for a 40 year-old woman to wear a uniform designed for an 18 year-old soldier” and so the process of designing a new uniform style, began.
“It was also a hierarchical revolution”, states Bran. “The demand came right after the influx of female officers and influenced the men’s uniform as well”.
What made the project possible was the timing.
“Following the Oslo Accords, there was an atmosphere of peace”, says Bran. “Everybody felt that there was finally time to discuss less urgent matters, such as uniforms. The demand was for a less-militaristic and more comfortable uniform”.
Today’s diverse uniforms are a product of that process – different uniforms for men and women and for officers and conscripts.