Iconic Outerwear — A History Of The Valstarino

28 April 2022

You always know a Valstar jacket when you see one: it’s sharp yet perfectly balanced. It catches the eye without looking a hair out of place. The Italian brand makes a range of classic outerwear designs—field jackets, trucker jackets, overshirts, and a signature “Milano” trench coat—but Valstar is best known for its outstanding rendition of the classic A1 bomber jacket. The secret of all these items is the same: classic outerwear executed with the passion and precision of the best tailoring. Everything is designed with an eye for visual balance and harmony; for the best use of the best fabrics; and with the combination of excellence and excitement that has made Italian design celebrated the world over.


Words by Alex Freeling

Vintage Valstar Advert

Valstar began in Milan in 1911, although it evolved from the Italian operation of an English raincoat maker, and was steered towards independence (and the Italian tailoring tradition) by its early director Sai Vita, a Shanghai-born son of a Milanese traveller. In the early days, the brand was famous for dressing Humphrey Bogart in his Casablanca raincoat. It wasn’t until 1935 that Valstar began making the jacket that is synonymous with its name today.
 

The A1 flight jacket, christened the Valstarino, is almost unchanged since the 1930s. The sleeves might be a touch wider, and the range of fabrics has expanded from time to time, but the essential formula is this: a sporty, shorter body, with a stand-up collar, ribbed knit waistband and cuffs. Two flap pockets at the front are always closed with buttons rather than a zip. The classic materials for the Valstarino are luxurious goat suedes, chosen for their softness and elasticity. The suede is pressed to half a centimetre thick, meaning that it’s nothing like a heavy leather jacket to wear: the fabric is like velvet to the touch, supple and flowing when worn. Chocolate brown, navy and tan suedes are perennial favourites, though from time to time you can find shades from plum to sky blue.


The Valstarino formula allows for considerable variation: there are unlined models for lightness and breathability, and shearling- or cashmere-lined versions for warmth. Beyond the classic suede, there’s soft yet tough deerskin, heavy English tweeds, summer linens, and even technical cotton fabrics which transform the jacket into a showerproof spring/summer option.

If you see a Valstarino being made, the tailoring heritage is clear. There’s the emphasis on natural materials, chosen for how each will perform and age. The production methods: each jacket is cut by hand and takes a full day to assemble. And the sense that, as in a suit, lightness is the hardest thing in the world to perfect, because there’s nowhere to hide your errors, and everything from fit to finish must be exact.

The design, too, suggests a tailor’s eye. Although the bomber is in some ways the opposite of a tailored jacket (shorter, sportier, closer fitting), the high, slim body of the jacket works naturally with fuller, higher waisted trousers as well as chinos or jeans. And because the Valstarino is executed with such precision and polish in every fabric, its clean lines complement a crisp shirt as well as a tee or sweater. The suede trucker is a beautiful casual piece, and the “Milano” raincoat a business essential, but the Valstarino is the master of all trades.

The verve, versatility, and attention to detail have made the Valstarino a Trunk favourite for years now. It’s a perfect expression of the shop’s ethos: a beautifully made, clearly best-in-class garment, that’s not easy to source outside of Milan, but at the same time, one that’s unfussy, easy to wear, and sure to last. Pair with a tee, jeans and sneakers on the weekend, or a chambray shirt and knit tie midweek. After the soft tailored jacket, it might be the single most versatile piece of outerwear a man can own.
 

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