From Navy Favourite to Fashion Icon
The last century saw several iconic American brands born out of a combination of industrial necessity and the country’s cultural heritage. Through both war and peace, the lows and highs of the country have been mirrored in its fashion scene. Spiewak, a company that exemplify this more than most, has grown into one of the premier names in fashion and workwear.
One of the key styles that drove Spiewak’s success was the iconic N1 Deck jacket. Introduced in 1944, the N1 soon became the cold weather coat of choice for the U.S. Navy. Today it has become a classic among repurposed army clothing. The jacket was developed by the U.S. Navy to meet the exacting requirements of sailors fighting at sea in all kinds of harsh conditions. In active service until the 60s, the N1 is the longest serving jacket in the history of U.S. Navy.
To find out more about the N1 and its origins we consulted with Dan Hendricks, creative director of Spiewak.
The N1 was Made by Many but Popularised by Spiewak
“Though Spiewak was one of the original producers, many manufacturers made this coat during the war. Contracts for the US military during the WWII were based on need and the factories had to be flexible to serve the war effort. Spiewak produced wool, cotton, and leather styles for the Army, Navy, and Air Force during the war. I. Spiewak and Son’s experience making uniforms for the First World War helped our ability to adapt to the needs of the US armed forces of WWII,” says the company’s head of creativity.
Spiewak was founded by Isaac Spiewak, a Polish emigrant who grew up in one of Warsaw’s turbulent eras, and later fled to America in 1903. He immediately established himself and his family in Brooklyn and, by 1904 had set up as a family-run garment supplier. Over one hundred years later the company is still run by the Spiewak family – by the great grandson of Isaac Spiewak. The authentic Spiewak industrial line has been trusted by the soldiers of both world wars and is currently worn with pride by thousands of police, fire and EMS agencies around the globe.
Heritage brands offer one to one replicas about the original Spiewak N1
“The N1 Deck jackets Spiewak made in World War II had a shell fabric of cotton jungle cloth, which is a heavy whipcord, with a full lining and collar of alpaca pile. In developing our current version I consulted with Jerry Spiewak who is the eldest member of the Spiewak family and a WWII veteran who wore a Spiewak N1 as an ensign in the Navy. The pattern used is a variation of the one used during the war.”
After World War II, the U.S. military was left with an excess of wartime bomber and parka jackets to sell to consumers, creating the first army-navy shops and forever altering American fashion.
“The jackets we made for the military became popular additions to our consumer collections and the base for our public safety and police jackets. The interest in military styles feels like a current trend when it is actually part of a continuing connection between uniforms and menswear. At Spiewak I am fortunate to have such an extensive uniform background to draw upon.”
Accurate replicas of the original are marketed by brands like Buzz Rickson’s and Pike Brothers. Like the originals, these jackets are lined with rather itchy Alpaca wool and a windproof jungle cloth shell.
Details of the Updated Spiewak N1
The N1 manufactured by Spiewak today is still sewn in the US using American-made tough, weather-resistant Martexin-waxed duck canvas shell (here in dark oak), 100% wool lining and Mouton furs – it’s guaranteed to keep you warm in even the coldest climates. The sleeves are lined with quilted polyester, which makes it wearable with just a t-shirt underneath. The cuffs have inset rib knit. The jacket features an oversized ‘Ideal’ zip and a 6-button storm placket.
“The waxed duck cloth of our current N1 was a good way to achieve the firm hand of the original, use US made fabric, and partner with another American family company Martexin who has been producing waxed finished cottons since the 1800s. The lining is a wool pile knitted in the US. The Alpaca piles I found were too feminine, while the wool pile was the right density and hand. The sleeve lining was changed for the comfort of the modern consumer. Changing the collar to mouton made it more substantial without changing the size or shape and is a nice reference to the mouton we used in B-9/B-11 parkas and flight jackets as well as our World War I sheepskin flying suits. Jerry was very happy with the results, and he can be tough to please.”
Stitch-for-stitch replicas certainly have their place, but Spiewak have successfully taken this iconic jacket and made it relevant for today – meeting the demands of the modern wearer whilst staying true to the company’s heritage.