Photo Gallery: Stylish Pilots of the Early 20th Century

It’s disputed whether French aviator Adolphe Pégoud flew the first loop in an airplane 100 years ago this month on September 21, 1913, or if Russian pilot Pyotr Nesterov did it two weeks earlier. Either way, it’s been a century since somebody pulled off the aerobatic maneuver, and helped kick-start a new era for flight.

German pre-war postcard depicting Pégoud's loop
German pre-war postcard depicting Pégoud’s loop

Pégoud, whose nickname was Roi du ciel (King of the Sky), died in an air battle during the First World War — shot down by a German pilot he had trained before the war — but his accomplishments and his distinctive sense of style will live on, just like the good clothes and general badassery of the following other pilots from the first half of the last century.

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Baroness Raymonde de Laroche

This Parisian-born daughter of a plumber was not of noble birth, but she was so taken by Wilbur Wright’s 1908 demonstrations of powered flight in her hometown, that she convinced a friend to teach her to fly, eventually going on to become the first woman in the world to receive an “aeroplane” pilot’s licesce.

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Manfred von Richthofen

What can be said about the Red Baron that hasn’t been said before? He remains, to this day, one of the most well-known pilots ever.

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Albert Ball

Not only was he England’s greatest pilot during the First World War, he also would have made one hell of a great Downton Abbey character.

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Lydia Litvyak

The Russian pilot was the first woman to earn the title of fighter ace.

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Willy Coppens

This pilot from Belgium came away from the First World War with plenty of medals, and also as one of history’s greatest balloon busters; the fearless military pilot is known primarily for destroying enemy observation balloons.

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Bessie Coleman

The first female pilot of African-American descent, Coleman left her job as a manicurist in the Chicago White Sox private barber shop to study abroad in France. While there, she learned to fly in a Nieuport Type 82 biplane in 1921, and earned her international aviation license from the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.

She also knew how to rock the hell out of some aviator headgear.

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Pancho Barnes

California-born Florence Leontine Lowe spent her early years dressing up like a man so she could hang out with Mexican revolutionaries — hence the name Pancho — but eventually took up flying in her late 20s. She flew in several air-adventure movies of the 1930s, including Howard Hughes’ Hell’s Angels, and when her crazy days were over, she opened up the famous Happy Bottom Riding Club

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Jimmy Doolittle

The famous pilot from the Second World War was good enough to have a raid named after him

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Please look at this photo of members of the Tuskegee Airmen before you ever try and wear a white scarf. If you can’t pull it off like them, then it isn’t worth it.

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Amelia Earhart

You should really know about her by now. 

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Chuck Yeager

General Chuck Yeager: The first pilot to travel faster than sound/really good looking guy. 

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Amy Johnson

A pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary during the Second World War, Johnson made history in 1930 when she became the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia.

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Eugene Bullard

The first African-American military pilot, Eugene Bullard left America for Europe to escape racial discrimination, eventually ending up in Paris where he became a decorated First World War soldier, as well as an early master of the side-eye, as evidenced in the above photo.

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Nancy Love and Betty Gillies

The first women to fly the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bomber were also really snazzy dressers.

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Charles Lindbergh

Lucky Lindy mayhave had plenty of faults, but he is Charles Lindbergh, and this is a post on well-dress pilots…