To meet these needs, a new type of flight jacket was developed from the existing B-15 jacket, which was initially produced in cotton, but later produced in the same pattern but in high quality. The B-15 had a wool collar with pile (a little like fur) carried over from the earlier B-10 that was found to interfere with straps in pratice. Nylon had been discovered prior to World War II but it was not used in flight clothing until after the war, possibly because the demand for nylon for items such as parachutes consumed the available supply during the war.
The first MA-1 jackets were issued around 1949 or 1950 to United States Air Force and Navy pilots and Flight crews. Small numbers were also issued to Army flight personnel. MA-1 jackets first appeared in Europe in very small quantities in the mid-to-late 1950s probably on the black market and at sales of government surplus. In the early to mid-1960s more MA-1 jackets appeared in Europe as Alpha Industries began to export MA-1 jackets and other military clothing to European Air Forces and commercial customers.
The MA-1 has undergone various design modifications during its long history of use, but its classic, highly functional design has remained basically the same. The original design was contained in U.S. Government Military Specification "MIL-J-8279." Changes to the MA-1 jacket were periodically made by the Air Force. These occurred because of the introduction of new textiles, new sewing techniques or new aircraft cockpit design which required a change in the jacket design. The Military Specification was amended to reflect the changes, which was signaled by adding a letter to the Mil. Spec. For example, MA-1 specifications progressed from the original number Mil-J-8279, to J-8279A, J-8279B, J-8279C, etc. The most recent revision, J-8279F, was issued in the early 1980s.
The MA-1 was produced in two colors: sage green and midnight blue. Blue was the original color used by the military, but it was soon replaced by green. During the Korean War, (1950–1953) mixing flight clothing from multiple time periods and colors was not unusual. Presumably, the green was eventually adopted because it blended more easily with the environment should the pilot need camouflage protection on the ground. Modern fashion MA-1's are available in a variety of colors, including the traditional ones and black, red, blue, silver, grey, yellow.