Interwar Pilot Finds & the Psychology of Leather

I have to warn you, folks: Today I have no insights into the writing process, only interwar period finds and musings on the possible mentalities of some of the earliest airplane pilots in history.

So I was doing some random browsing on the internet the other day…

…as is my idle habit at times, and came across these photographs of a French leather flight helmet from the interwar period (1918-1939).  I think they’re simply beautiful:

French Airaile flight helmet from the Interwar period (1918-1939). Source:


French Airaile flight helmet from the Interwar period (1918-1939). Source:

Idk, there’s just something about leather, folks.

…Whaaa?  What is this?  Why are we talking about leather?

People, I love leather.  Let me tell you: I’ve got three pairs of leather boots, a sweet leather jacket, leather belts, several leather purses and handbags…and yes, even leather gloves to top off the collection.

Brazilian leather boots--bought during a ridiculous clearance, of course! (They look black here, but they're actually a dark green.)

Do I wear them all at once?  Of course not.  That would be silly.


(I don’t wear them often, though.  The boots, I mean.  I get the “are you a model?” question when I do, and sometimes with my jacket, as well.  And since I don’t model, it’s kind of annoying because people don’t believe me!  lol)

The Psychology of Leather

What is it about leather that makes certain folks go batty for it?

They say it’s a symbol of masculinity and power.  So what, does that make women who wear it power-hungry?


Maybe it’s just that being wrapped up tight in leather can make you feel all warm and comfortable and safe–invincible, even.

Maybe it’s a little of all these things, and something more.

For some, like me, you could say it’s almost a kind of fetish–not in the weird, kinky way that I’m sure Western society has ingrained into many minds.  (Okay, this is getting weird…)  Just a particularly strong liking for it.  Perhaps even in the mystical way that it is imbued with superpowers.  (Why else would a leather suit be associate with superhero status?)  And wouldn’t you know, it’s just one other thing that’s leaked over to my heroine and will pop up in my writing every now and then.

I can’t help it.  Leather–real, organic animal hide–is a beautiful material.  Plus, it just feels good.

It’s a quality thing.  Maybe it’s even a little bit primal.  It’s stylish, classic…and even when worn down by time, it remains timeless.

Maybe you understand; maybe you don’t.  (Though, I’m not-so-secretly hoping you do!)

I betchya Amelia Earhart understood it very well, as she was sometimes clad in it:

Amelia Earhart in Newfoundland (1928). From Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.

I could only imagine how good it must feel for a pilot to pull a nice snug, leather flying cap onto his/her head. *sighs* It makes me wonder how Amelia felt in her flying gear.

The Psychology of Individual Articles

Here’s what I think: Hats, leather or otherwise, can make you feel safe; so can a leather jacket.  The jacket can also give you a sense of assuredness, that things will turn out all right.  Gloves (I’m guessing Amelia wore some while flying) are kind of an official statement; they say, “I’m ready to take on this mission put before me.”

And the boots…well, those just finish it all off, don’t they?  A good tug on those laces and you’re set to go.  If anything is a sign of power, a message that “I can do anything,” it’s a good pair of knee-high leather boots.  (Thigh-high?  Well, there’s a difference between “check me out” and “pick me up.”  The difference is but inches.)

Of course, there’s a practical side to all that gear: It protected pilots who flew in open cockpits from brisk winds.  Even so, leather on its own is simply amazing.

Enough about leather!  What about flying?

Well, what about it?  Closest I’ve been to planes are airliners, and I obviously didn’t get to play pilot.  And I won’t be hopping into the cockpit of a biplane any time soon.  In the meantime, I will be checking out this nifty little flight simulator (probably after I graduate and have some more time to get lost in it).  See how that goes.

This game has been around for a while now, but that won’t keep me from trying it.  Here’s the blurb about it off Microsoft’s website:

The year is 1937. The United States has shattered under the combined weight of the Great Depression, regional Prohibition and mounting isolationism. The transcontinental railroad and the budding highway system have become useless as they now cross hostile borders. Commerce and trade leave the ground as air travel now becomes a vital lifeline connecting allied countries — and a national obsession — while daring air pirates and valiant air militias battle for control of the skies. Giant zeppelins crisscross the skies, carrying both passengers and cargo. It is a time of gunship diplomacy and airship piracy. It is the age of the fighter pilot and a time of daredevil adventure and sinister intrigue. It is the world of Crimson Skies…

I mean, why wouldn’t you want to play something like that?

The game’s plane models are more advanced than I was looking for, but oh well.  Still looks like fun.  Too bad this isn’t on the Xbox 360, as that’s how I like to roll…

Oh, snap–they’ve got it on the regular ol’ Xbox!  It’s a date.

Okay, so before I go…there’s actually one other little reason why I think leather is amazing:

Introducing U.S. Air Mail pilot William C. “Wild Bill” Hopson--striking a cocky pose before a flight from Omaha to Chicago in 1921. Source: Amazons link to Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum: An Autobiography.

Bottom line: There is nothing like a man in a suit.

Note to self: one day I’ve got to base a character off that man…

(Okay, you know how they say not to judge a book by its cover?   Well, I confess: I am 100% guilty of doing this.  The first time I encountered “Wild Bill” was in Mavericks of the Sky: The First Daring Pilots of the U.S. Air Mail, and I probably picked up the book because he was smack-dab on the cover–entirely pwning the cover, to be sure.  But really, I promise: It was a wonderful book!  Lots of insights into the dangers that pioneer pilots faced when scouting out the first airmail routes.  Those folks were crazy-brave.)

So, I guess the real question is: Does anyone else have an insatiable craving for leather, or am I just weird?

Or maybe it isn’t leather for you.  Maybe it’s fluffy pink things.  Or white tennis shoes you can’t stand to get dirty.  Or…maybe you’re just normal.  That’s cool, too.

I guess. 😛


Frederick M. Trapnell: The Test Pilot’s Test Pilot

USS Akron releases its N2Y-1 aircraft while in flight. Source:


The heroine in my WIP becomes a test pilot, of sorts, though in her world aeroplanes aren’t quite as developed or widely used as ours were in the 1930s.  Still, I thought this was a fascinating account of a real-life test pilot who lived during the era I draw my inspiration from.  To be able to see his log books and photographs of the kind of test runs he went on…pretty invaluable stuff.  (I get all giddy inside just looking at it.  Takes me to a different time, you know?)

On Doing Research

I’m not really a history buff or especially knowledgeable about aircraft, but I do find it fascinating to read about them every now and then.  Got some books on airships written as early as 1942, and one on planes originally written in 1915!

  • The Story of the Airship – Hugh Allen, 1942 (has pictures!)
  • Military Aircraft in World War 1 – Frederick A. Talbot, 2008; originally published in 1915 as Aeroplanes and Dirigibles of War (kind of boring, actually, but still has a few interesting things in it)
  • The Giant Airships – Douglas Botting, 1981 (it’s got pictures and colored artwork!)

Even with these references, I still like to “modify” things to suit my storyworld, and maybe I’ll get some stuff wrong.  (Someone is bound to point it out if/when I do.)  But I am writing fantasy, for heaven’s sake, not historical fiction (or even alternate history, for that matter).  While I hope to establish some verisimilitude, I do like to play around and so I mostly use this stuff as a guide.

How About You?

Do you ever do research for your novels?  How much, or how little, do you find yourself doing (if you do)?  Is it something you ever get concerned with, or do you pretty much just like to “wing it?”