Flashback Friday: Who wears what in the skies
Finnair was founded 95 years ago this month – and the age of flying has surely developed since then. So, buckle up and join us for a walk down memory lane as Blue Wings recants the pleasures of modern globetrotting.
Have you ever wondered why a pilot’s uniform looks the way it does? What once started out as an outfit of practicality has now turned into a fashion runway combining both form and function.
Practical fashion statement
In the early days of air travel the flight deck was cold and windy. A pilot and his cockpit crew wore flight jumpsuits fashioned after military attire. The clothing was made of durable leather with oversized pockets to fit radio headsets, tools, and other equipment. Flight boots kept feet warm and safe; the aviator helmet came with attached goggles; and a neck scarf was worn to ward off draft.
The uniform is born
Things changed in the 1930s. As technology advanced, so did attire. Similar to that of naval-style design, the uniform consisted of a double-breasted blazer, trousers, a white shirt, a tie, and a captain’s cap. During the winter, pilots sported a buckled wool coat with fur trimming. The uniform communicated a sense of confidence and professionalism, and to this day the look remains.
Designer suits arrive
In 2011, Finnair’s pilot uniforms got a fresh makeover to coincide with Finnair’s brand renewal. Designed by acclaimed Finnish designer Ritva-Liisa Pohjalainen, on-duty pilots wear a timeless dark blue suit with platinum badges and epaulets: four stripes for the captain, three stripes for senior first officers, and two stripes for first officers. Topping off the uniform is a striped tie by textile designer Marja Kurki and a cap featuring the familiar Finnair “F” emblem. The female Finnair pilots wear the same uniform, but they can choose to wear a scarf instead of a tie and a dark blue cape instead of a winter coat.
Pilots usually carry a briefcase, which always contains a passport and pilot licence – however, no longer included is an aircraft flight manual or printed flight documents. Thanks to technology this documentation is now conveniently stored on a smartphone. So, if you see a pilot or a cabin crew member using his or her phone during the flight, it’s probably to go over flight-related details (and not their Facebook feed)!
Text Laura Iisalo
Photos Finnish Aviation Museum archive collections: Finnair Oyj and Gunnar Ståhle