This year the world is celebrating 50 years of Hip-Hop. Join us as we glance back with The Museum of Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) through this epic story of how this music genre influenced the world’s style and our company on a global stage.
Rewind to 1973, a young Cindy and Clive Campbell’s legendary back-to-school party was held in the Bronx, New York. The fresh and new sound that we call Hip-Hop hit the streets of the city and it changed the way that we listen to music forever. Since that time, the music spread around the world, lending its influence to culture and style. Hip-Hop’s artists and fans popularized and transformed streetwear into a fashion movement.
Officially launched in 1975, the Avirex brand was founded by Jeff Clyman. At the time, Jeff was an attorney who flew WWII fighter planes in air shows during his spare time. A military enthusiast and collector of vintage gear, Jeff also created the Cockpit USA catalog of quality handcrafted leather, sheepskin flight jackets and numerous accessories – all designed to keep the history of American Aviation alive!
By 1986, the company opened a flagship store on Broadway in SoHo, Manhattan called The Cockpit with a full size AT6 fighter plane displayed in the store. In addition to the flight gear, Jeff also began producing Varsity jackets to expand the label’s commercial offerings while also staying true to his goal and mission of re-creating nostalgic American apparel.
Back then, the leather business was considered niche. However, Hip-Hop has always been more multidimensional than most people realize. Much of the style encompasses aspiration, inventiveness and individuality. Remixing luxury items with streetwear, playing with proportions, colors and oversized insignias. The jackets created by Avirex at the time offered a chance to stand out in a crowd. A salesperson from Jeff Clyman’s team suggested that we gift a varsity jacket to music artist Fat Joe and the urban market blew open!
The Hip-Hop community at the time intuitively understood the value and craftsmanship of our jackets and adopted the Avirex varsity style as a status symbol of luxury. By the early 2000’s our jackets were worn by the biggest names in Hip-Hop history such as; The Notorious B.I.G., P. Daddy, The Wu-Tang Clan, NAS and Mobb Deep. In 2006, the Avirex brand was sold to designer and entrepreneur Marc Ecko. Jeff and Jacky Clyman continued their passion of reproducing and re-creating historic American aviation apparel under the Cockpit USA brand.
Most recently our Cockpit USA jackets have been worn by Alicia Keys, Migos, Pharrell Williams, Mary J. Blige and Drake on the cover of his Toronto album. As the joint forces of Cockpit USA and Hip-Hop music continued to soar, in 2016 Cockpit USA collaborated with renowned Hip-Hop stylist Mike B. on a capsule collection featuring a Stealth black version of our iconic Top Gun Navy G-1 Jacket that has been worn by Shaggy, Ant Rich and Houston Rocket’s star Chris Paul.
Earlier this month, the Museum of FIT debuted its “Fresh, Fly and Fabulous” exhibition showcasing some of the most iconic styles in Hip-Hip history. Included in the exhibit is one of Jeff and Jacky’s archival pieces from their personal collection. We are truly grateful to be included in this dedication to a culture that impacted the world and our business significantly. One of the more interesting things about the fashion industry - the people who make it happen. A major congratulations to the museum’s curators, Elena Romero and Elizabeth Way! The exhibition is nicely executed. Open from now until April 23rd 2023, be sure to visit the free the FIT Museum exhibition located in Chelsea New York.
Our Cockpit USA Classic Varsity Collection is available to shop today! Taking us back to the classic styles of the 1930s through the 1960s when the evolution of the letterman’s sweater into the Classic Varsity or Award Jacket became an iconic sportswear style. Worn first by high school, college, and professional athletes, the Award Varsity jacket soon found its way into everyday fashion and wear, whether decorated or kept simple and clean.
Shop our Classic Varsity Collection here.