Nowadays not all commercial pilots wear hats but a lot of airlines still have them as part of their uniform. The origin of the hat itself, and indeed the general look of today’s pilots uniforms, stems back to the 1930’s.
Prior to this era, most pilots’ attire was derived from WW1 military style clothing which was very practical and usually consisted of khaki trousers and leather bomber jackets.
In 1931 however, things began to change when Pan Am introduced routes to South America using flying boats nicknamed Southern Clipper and American Clipper. In 1937, they then began services to the UK and France and in 1939 they commissioned 6 Boeing 314 flying boats into service allowing them to fly transatlantic operations on a weekly basis.
Because Pan Am operated flying boats, they decided to introduce a new uniform that was more in the style of a naval officer as they considered their captains to be as much sea skippers as skippers in the air. It was also thought that this new uniform would put passengers minds at ease when seeing the pilots in their professional attire.
Thus was born the first generation of the pilot uniform which consisted of black trousers, black double-breasted blazers and… a white naval officer style combination cap.
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