Second Sunrise Archive: Vintage 1950's Swedish Army M/1954 Dispatch Riders Leather Jacket "Ordonnansjacka"

A few weeks back when I was looking through the Swedish auction site Tradera I saw that someone had listed what might just be the most iconic garment ever issued for the Swedish army! In Swedish we call it the "Ordonnansjacka" which  translates to a dispatch rider jacket, used by army motorcyclists. The earliest versions of the jacket dates back to 1915 and apparently those earlier variants should be of a completely different model. In 1955 they started experimenting with materials other than leather, mainly because of expensive leather prices. The material was changed from goat leather to grey cotton canvas and 1960 to a green cotton canvas. The green canvas version is the one that is easiest to come across today. The jacket remained in service up until the late 20'th century.

Lately the popularity of the jacket has really taken off and I suspect that one of the key factor is that it was featured in the the book "An Archive of Menswear" published in 2015 by the great vintage store and archive called The Vintage Showroom located in London. Since then I have noticed a lot of different manufacturers making their own contemporary interpretations of the jacket, for which I am more than happy! I believe that it is more interesting to find inspiration elsewhere than to keep reproducing the American vintage military garments year after year. Don't get me wrong, I do love American vintage but I find it far more inspiring to write about and to share Swedish vintage and history at the moment.
.

Swedish dispatch riders jacket
.
The front of the jacket
.
When writing the story behind this jacket you will inevitably end up mentioning a small Swedish town known as Malung, the place that was the center of Swedish leather industry through most of the 20'th century. Malung was already an important region in the seventh century when millstones were mined and exported from the area. Back then fur was already an asset that went on export but it would take another millennium for the leather industry to arise. It is said that the weather conditions in the area made it hard to make a living by farming only so people were in need of side jobs. During the short spring and summer farming was the main occupation and during the longer autumn and winter season millstone mining and leather crafts became a way to make a living. 

It wasn't until the late 19'th century and the rise of the industrial revolution that a handful of farmers decided to change focus and establish the first leather industries in Malung. Pretty soon others followed and eventually Malung was the center of Swedish leather industry! In the early 21'st century the Swedish army was preparing for war and ordered their leather equipment from Malung, which gave the leather industry a push in the right direction.
The heydays of the Malung leather industry was connected to the wars, and first and foremost after the ending of WWII in 1945 when people were looking at a brighter future. Swedes had more leisure time and that was to be devoted to outdoor activities! This was similar to what happened in USA and other countries as well at the same period. Luckily for Malung, leather was considered the highest fashion at that time and the business flourished for the factories. At it's peak in the 1960's there were nearly 200 leather factories in the area!
Unfortunately all good things must come to an end and leather production in Sweden suffered a hard hit when imported garments increased in the 70's. Unable to compete with the wages found in other countries, the Swedish garments simply became too expensive and most of the leather factories in Malung went bankrupt within a decade. Today only a handful of leather manufacturers remain in the area and Malung is now considered a tourist resort where people can go skiing and enjoy other outdoor activities. 
.
Swedish dispatch riders jacket
.
The back of the jacket 
.
Swedish dispatch riders jacket
.
On the inside of the front we find the makers mark. Oljon is short for Ohlsson & Jonsson and was founded by Fall Johan Ohlsson and Sangsta Erik Jonsson in 1924. Next to the text Oljon one can read "Leather products, Malung" and underneath the tag is a size tag, in this case size 50. 
.
Vintage swedish dipatch riders jacket
.
On the inside of the jacket stamped on the flap that is buttoned to properly close the double breasted front we have the "crown" marking used by the Swedish army.
.

Prior to 1942 a single crown was used because the Swedish army was subordinate to the king. In 1942 the army decided to start using only one symbol for all the equipment and the three crowns symbol was decided to be the new standard. The three crowns had already been used by the Swedish air force since the 20's but it wasn't until 1942 that it was decided to be the new standard going forward. 

In the case of this jacket it is however hard to tell exactly what is going on. The shape of the crown is definitely the younger version but it appears to have been stamped twice. Could it be that the first stamp to the left didn't end up looking good enough?
Underneath the crown we can see the number 4 in a circle. This might have been a different kind of size marking rather than using the size 50 tag that's located on the makers mark but I am really not sure what the number is referring to in this case.
.
Vintage swedish army dispatch riders jacket
.
On the front of the jacket we have the one and only pocket on the jacket. This large pocket was most likely used to carry maps and other messengers that needed to be delivered.
.
Vintage swedish dispatch rider jacket
.
The pocket flap, opened.
.
Vintage Swedish army dispatched riders jacket
.
The double breasted front is buttoned on the right shoulder to secure the jacket properly, and the two top buttons are wooden toggles. It is said that the use of toggles made it easier to button and unbutton a garment if one was wearing gloves, a famous example being the wool duffle coats used by the British navy. It is possible that the same idea goes behind the design for this jacket. 
.
Vintage swedish army dispatch riders jacket
.
The jacket unbuttoned. The inside of the jacket is fully lined with a grey woolen fabric for additional insulation. 
.
Vintage Swedish army Dispatch Riders Leather Jacket
.
There is a strap that reaches around the neck that can be closed up with the brass hook at the front. I can imagine that it was appreciated if one was wearing the jacket riding in foul weather. The length of the strap can also be adjusted for a custom fit around ones neck.
.
Vintage swedish army dispatch riders leather jacket
.
On the inside at the back of the neck there is a leather hanger.
.
Vintage Swedish army dispatched riders leather jacket
.
At the bottom of the front there are two brass hooks that fasten with the D-rings on the opposite side. 

.
Vintage swedish army dispatch riders leather jacket
.
On each side of the jacket there are eight brass eyelets with a leather strap that can be tightened for a more secured fit. This will prevent the cold wind from entering and creeping up the wearers back. 
.
Vintage Swedish army dispatch riders leather jacket
.
The inside of the side adjusters. 
.
Vintage Swedish dispatch rider leather jacket
.
The sleeves are lined with wool and at the end of the lining there are knitted storm cuffs with a tight fit around ones wrists, preventing the wind from entering. Worn with a pair of leather gauntlets when riding one could make sure that ones wrists stayed protected. 


Regarding the material of this jacket it is made out of goat leather. It is said that goat leather has the benefits of being soft, supple, lightweight, resiliant, more durable than cow hide and even naturally water resistant. All of these abilities might have been the reason why one would prefer using goat skin in a motorcycle jacket intended to withstand tough weather.

As for the condition of this jacket it is almost perfect for it's age and I don't think it has been used much at all. The lining is intact and the leather is still soft. 

We are happy to have this iconic jacket as part of our archive and if you like to examine it closer you are always welcome to visit us in our store. We will be happy to show it to you! However the jacket is not for sale.

If you want to read more about the vintage garments we have in our collection we would recommend you to have a look at our last blog post, where we presented a Vintage Rocky Mountain Featherbed Womens Leather Vest!


6 comments

  • ioqQCazRvkjuMA

    kblcgpaGfKiyOo
  • EngKPsYJiHOIj

    bmfYWxKhSoX
  • airukcpYJfE

    tDJwkTNibm
  • VbXAiLgWaU

    iANrtjRMFogZJy
  • I have the exact jacket 😏

    Michael Botten

Leave a comment