After spending over 15 hours on a to jet to Beijing, my rubber legs ambled off the plane, through customs, towards the baggage carousel, where I waited to be reunited with my luggage. I was not too groggy to notice the gigantic Kentucky Fried Chicken mural and chuckle over its absurdity. Across the airport, I saw a man wearing something that caught my eye. As he approached me, I confirmed he was wearing a 1950s era MA-1 nylon flight jacket worn by US fighter pilots during the cold war era.
His jacket was nice. The knit cuffs were not blown out. Its sage green color was not bleached or faded and it still had the desirable nylon webbed tab on the front, where the pilot clips his oxygen mask. I have sold many of these vintage jackets over the last decade to China and Japan and I wondered what the chances were of this person acquiring his jacket from me. As I watched him wait for his luggage, I gathered up the nerve to approach him and ask him about his jacket. I quickly learned that although his English was better than my Chinese, he was not fluent. When I said, “cool jacket” things clicked and I could tell that he was pleased by my compliment. We exchanged a few more words and he allowed me to photograph him in his jacket. Then we departed in different directions.
Despite language and cultural differences, I was pleased to be able have a moment of mutual appreciation with a stranger over a collectible piece of vintage apparel. This could not have been a better introduction to China!