In William Gibson’s latest novel Pattern Recognition, the heroine Cayce Pollard, a coolhunter, wears a reproduction MA-1 flight jacket, 1957 pattern, made by Buzz Rickson’s, which Gibson describes as a super authentic recreation of the original — in a sense more authentic than the original because of the fanatical devotion to detail by the manufacturer. He notes that the uneven seams of the original, the result of sewing the new fabric nylon on machines made to stitch cotton, have been lovingly copied, even exaggerated slightly, to make the homage that much clearer.

It turns out that Buzz Rickson’s is a real company, based in Japan, and that it really does make such reproductions, with all the obsessiveness Gibson so admires.

But Gibson made a mistake. He described Pollard’s jacket as black, whereas Rickson’s only produced the jacket in green, since that’s the only way the Air Force ever issued it. When Rickson’s learned about the mistake, it decided to issue a “Pattern Recognition” edition of the jacket in black. Gibson’s fantasy jacket has thus become real.

Two years ago I posted about the jacket on the discussion forum at Gibson’s official web site. A year after that Gibson noticed my old post and responded to it on his blog. I just discovered his response a couple of days ago — you can read it here:

This still leaves us with a problem. Do we want to wear Cayce Pollard’s black
Rickson’s MA-1, which is, in fact, unutterably cool-looking, or do we want to wear the original Rickson’s reproduction, which is what inspired Gibson, and Cayce, in the first place?

In the end, I opted for the black model, because of its unutterable coolness and as a tribute to Gibson’s great book.

But it’s a complicated question that each man or woman must decide for his or her self.

Here’s a link to the American distributor of Buzz
Rickson’s jackets — all of which are quite amazing and quite expensive:

Buzz Rickson’s

2 thoughts on “THE BLACK MA-1

  1. Burning the jacket with a cigarette would make it an even more potent homage to the one in the novel. Maybe Rickson’s should produce all of the “Pattern Recognition” jackets with that crucial burn mark. They could justify it as analogous to the single deliberate error that Zen masters were said to make in their paintings–a meme that I believe Gibson referenced.

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