Designed as a year-round flight jacket in the 1950′s, the MA-1 works great as an all-around durable, inexpensive jacket for autumn, spring, and winter. It is wind-proof, water-proof, well-insulated, and the slick nylon lining allows for freedom of movement inside. The jacket is reversible and the lining is typically high-visibility orange (to help locate downed pilots). Just flip it inside out, and you have a warm, high-vis jacket that’s perfect for bike riding in the dark. I have had mine for three years and use it mainly for commuting during cold weather.
This iconic jacket, of course, received some notoriety from its role in William Gibson’s Pattern Recognition. Gibson clothed the main character in a Buzz Rickson black MA-1. Funny thing is the jacket was originally issued only in green or blue, so Buzz Rickson, a meticulous creator of replicas, never offered an MA-1 in black. But eventually, they started making a special edition “Pattern Recognition” black MA-1.
You do not have to spend close to $500 for a Buzz Rickson, though. In order to get a genuine MA-1, you can buy military surplus or get a new one made by Alpha, the original supplier to the government. New Alphas run about $90. I got my perfectly-serviceable, cheap knock-off for $30.