Made famous in popular culture by Tom Cruise’s character in Top Gun, the bomber jacket is now considered a timeless, classic essential to have in everyone’s closet.
Having existed for decades since the First World War and being a garb of self-expression for various communities, it appears not to be inclined to become obsolete in the world of fashion even now. For that reason, it is a good idea to take note of this piece of clothing and know why it has held its own for so long.
What is a Bomber Jacket?
Typical bomber jackets are distinguished by a shape that is cropped at the waist, with loose shoulders and sleeves. A gathered, elasticized edging characterizes the waistband, cuffs, and collar. They are usually lightweight and best worn for layering purposes in fall and spring.
Originating in 1917 by Dobbs Industries, it was a garment made specifically for the US Air Force. At that time, it is known as “flight jackets”.
Back then, military pilots needed something lightweight, secure, waterproof, and warm to wear in the propellor aircraft. The cockpits of these planes were open. Moreover, pilots had to endure temperatures as low as -50 degrees, soaring through the air 25,000 feet above the ground.
Several modifications occurred over the years as technology improved. The jacket gradually became sleeker as the jets became more streamlined. The fur lining was gradually replaced by elastic to wear parachutes more fittingly. A nylon body for water resistance became more common as budgeting could only accommodate this fabric for parachutes. Zipper fastenings were also later added.
After all these variations, the precursor to the modern bomber jacket finally appeared in the 1949-50s–the MA-1.
From the US, bomber jackets eventually reached Europe (and Japan) through surplus government stores, where they began being donned by civilians as daily wear. It has just as interesting a journey in non-military life.
First adopted by the working class, who were drawn by its affordability and practicality, it became a subcultural symbol against the fashionably-dressed upper class.
However, an offshoot of this subculture, called “Skinheads” that consisted of white working-class men, took up hypermasculinity which the military origin of bomber jackets supposedly alluded to. As a result, this community took up homophobic and racist overtones.
In turn, the queer community adopted the bomber jacket as a counterculture to overwrite the hypermasculinity associated with the jacket. This was also an affront to the fact that the LGBTQ was excluded from military service at the time.
The most public showcase of this is perhaps Bronski Beat’s music video for their 1984 release called Smalltown Boy, where Jimmy Somerville is seen wearing a bomber jacket.
Following its “rebellious” image, the bomber jacket was gradually embraced by more subcultures, from alternative rock, to grunge, to hip-hip.
Finally, it caught the attention of the high fashion industry, as demonstrated by Raf Simons. His collections of Spring-Summer 2000 (called “Consumed”) and Fall-Winter2001 (called “Riot, Riot, Riot”) brought streetwear and luxury together in an appealing harmony.
In this way, the bomber jacket finally became a piece of clothing that was non-discriminatory; everyone could wear it, regardless of border, language, gender, age, or culture.
Kinds of Bomber Jackets
A wide variety of materials are used to make different kinds of bomber jackets to suit the particular needs of the wearer. The three usual classifications based on fabric are as follows:
It can be regarded as the traditional variant of the bomber jacket, given that they were originally made of sheepskin during World War days. A classic choice, although the material marks it on the expensive side.
However, wearing it can also be a means to flaunt one’s status quo. It also gives off a strong, ‘masculine’ appearance than the other types. It is a rather practical jacket, having internal pockets in addition to the usual external ones. Being leather, it is made for colder weather, and the colors and designs available are somewhat limited.
It is the most common variety of bomber jackets available today due to how easy it is to care for and how comparatively affordable it is.
Being lightweight, it is perfect for layering over one’s outfit during fall and spring. Unlike the leather type, polyester bomber jackets can be had in various colors and prints, letting one experiment with many styles. The material also makes it stretch resistant and provides water resistance.
Suede is also a little expensive but more affordable than leather. It is a comfortable and breathable material, and bomber jackets of this kind give the wearer a nice soft and comfortable feel.
It is great for light, casual looks that still look sophisticated, owing to its versatile nature. It is mostly worn during chilly winters and cool breezy weather, but it should be kept away from rain as it can absorb water. It needs to be kept well-maintained for longevity.
Considerations in buying
When looking for a bomber jacket suitable for oneself, look for fit, fabric, color, and fastening features. The fitting should be snug for the wearer, and because it is outerwear, the size should accommodate a layer or two of clothing underneath. The shoulders should fit perfectly for an attractive silhouette, and the waistband and cuffs should sit exactly on the waist and wrists, respectively.
The fabric should be selected depending on the intended weather one wants to wear it in. And although these jackets are made to last, always look for quality stitching, especially when buying from fast fashion brands. Select a color depending upon the occasion and personal aesthetic choice. Lastly, fastening can be considered if the jacket has a detachable collar, making it more versatile.
Best Brands to buy
This is a great choice for military fans as it replicates the classic MA-1 flight jacket, complete with reversible orange lining intended for emergency rescue purposes for stranded pilots.
The military look is completed with brass zippers and leather pull tabs over the front closure. It has several pockets; two on the front exterior, two in the interior, and the left sleeve has a utility and pencil pocket with zipping. The outer layer is made of water-repellent nylon. The orange lining is polyester with poly fiberfill within.
Buy it here!
This bomber jacket by Levi’s is very low-maintenance yet stylish in a few color variants. It is made of water-resistant polyester shell fabric and features two upper chest pockets with snap fastening, two lower welt pockets with zip, and front zipper closure.
Get yours now.
This is a leather jacket which needs some extra care and maintenance. Available in four color variants, this genuine pigskin leather jacket is lined underneath with polyester. It features two external waist pockets and two internal ones.
Buy it here!
This is a heavy-duty leather jacket that provides ample warmth. The fabric, in particular, is a thick sheepskin coated with a nappa leather finished outer shell. It has only two side pockets for keeping the wearer’s hands warm. The warmth and comfort factor is reinforced with a wind flap-covered front zipper, double buckle throat latch, and belted straps at the waist to adjust fitting.
Get yours now!
Where and how can you wear it
Bomber jackets can be a part of casual or smart-casual outfits. The usual casual get-up is to wear it over jeans and a t-shirt during summers and turtlenecks during winter. This ensemble can be completed with a pair of comfortable sneakers.
Opt for chinos or casual trousers rather than jeans; also, take care that the bottoms are well-fitted and not skintight. A more classic-looking bomber jacket in neutral colors is more suitable for this look. Finish with loafers or even boots.
Making it a part of a monochromatic outfit gives off a sophisticated and minimalist look, especially when the chosen color is from the neutral palette. Black glossy leather will add an edgy twist to the overall look, while brown suede can be used in combination with a unique and stylish appearance.
Should you buy it?
Considering the timelessness of the bomber jacket look and the purpose of longevity with which they are made, it is definitely something one should invest in. The versatility and practicality factors are also a big plus towards deciding upon buying it.