Iconic Style: RAF Pilot, 1942

Hero iconicstyleraffb.jpg?ixlib=rails 2.1

May 30, 2013 | By Matthew Ankeny

The first in a series where we unearth the story and style behind iconic photos.

Between missions, a Royal Air Force pilot sits for a clip. He’s reading John Buchan’s Greenmantle, a sequel to The 39 Steps (popularized by Hitchcock’s 1935 film noir). He’s smoking a pipe, legs crossed—casual. He’s relaxed. He’s composed. He’s a gentleman.

The pilot's name is Francis Richard Lee Mellersh (sorry to spoil the rumor, but it’s not Simon Pegg). He left his Oxford education to fly for the RAF. He was twice awarded Britain’s Distinguished Flying Cross. He was an Air Vice-Marshall and Assistant Chief of the Defence Staff. He died at 72. His daughter, according to The Daily Beast, describes him as a modest, laid-back man who spoke little of the war. He lived boldly and quietly, in the demure way of the British. 

Mellersh was the son of Sir Francis John Williamson Mellersh, an accomplished pilot who helped down the Red Baron in WWI. Mellersh’s family, in line with their valor, made a keepsake box from wood of the Baron’s propeller. Everything surrounding the image fits the story, as Mellersh embodies the class, boldness and style of the time.

We went a step further to equip your own journey to iconicism. The guide is below:


Buchan’s book is available digitally by public domain, or you can get the hardcover at Amazon. For Mellersh’s footwear, get recreated 1930s-era RAF boots from Lewis Leathers. As every gentleman enjoys a good smoke, pick up an English Estate Pipe, complimented with the best flame on the island, a Dunhill lighter. As for the barber’s style, represent the Empire with Britain’s own Barbour Heritage Faldale Shirt, matched with Banana Republic’s Classic Sweater Vest and paired perfectly with the Apolis Chambray Tie.