Like many men’s garments, flight and bomber jackets were initially made as highly functional work gear for the military. The terms ‘flight’ and ‘bomber’ jackets are used interchangeably, but they refer to the same thing. They’re available in many variations and are used as casual attire to this day. Although used for casual wear today, these jackets have kept most of the features that made them iconic back in the day. Flight jackets are generally constructed from sheepskin, leather or fabric, have a waist-length and feature a zipper or buttons, cuffs, a hem and a collar that can be flipped up around the neck for extra weather protection.
History of Bomber Jackets
Just like other military garments, bomber or flight jackets were named after their basic purpose. The open cockpits of planes during WW I meant that flying was a cold and windy endeavour. As such, these jackets provide heavy insulation and tight closures around the wrist, neck and waist. The first jackets were made of natural materials. By the time WW II was in full swing, planes could fly even higher, exposing pilots to even more severe conditions. Furthermore, planes could carry non-navigational crew and long-range raids over Europe became a crucial part of the war. During that time, flight jackets also became known as bomber jackets.
Bomber Jacket Models
Over the years, a variety of bomber jacket models were made. B jackets were usually based on sheepskin, whereas A jackets were leather lined with cotton, wool or silk. The first popular flight jacket was the A-1, issued somewhere between 1927 and 1931, and it was worn by superstars like Jimmy Doolittle. The A-1 model was the first one to feature knitted wool cuffs and waistbands, setting the design standards for bomber jackets. The A-1 model also features two flapped cargo pockets, a capeskin exterior, horn buttons and heavy cotton lining. Capeskin quickly fell out of fashion as it wasn’t durable enough, and as a result, the A-2 model came into life. A-2 model bomber jackets were typically made using horsehide leather, which is superior in durability than capeskin, and instead of wool, they were lined with silk. You can find both A-1 and A-2 model bomber jackets in virtually any army shop to this day. Initially, A-2 jackets were reserved for elite military aircrew, who decorated them with embroidery and artwork that represented their mission exploits. And with the release of Top Gun, bomber jackets stuck around in the latter half of the 20th century. As a result, A-2 bomber jackets remain some of the most popular men’s outerwear to this day.
Choosing a Bomber Jacket
As aforementioned, you can find a bomber jacket not just in any military shop, but in almost any men’s fashion store. There are three “types” of bomber jackets today – vintage, fashion and reproduction. Vintage bomber jackets are the most expensive, and there’s less choice when it comes to sizing. Due to their high quality, these jackets are still in excellent shape and can cost thousands of dollars. Fashion and reproduction bomber jackets are more affordable, provide the same authentic look and high quality. You can find both fashion and reproduction models in any reputable online army shop for a few hundred bucks.
Wearing a Bomber Jacket
Bomber jackets don’t have a specific sartorial purpose, as they are technically considered work attire. In other words, there aren’t many events or occasions where the bomber jacket is considered the garment of choice. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t pull off wearing it almost anywhere. Men buy this jacket due to its look, making it a flexible piece that allows you to come up with interesting combinations. Bomber jackets fall on the more casual side of attire, as it’s meant to be worn with other performance-driven clothing, such as khakis and flight suits. As such, there aren’t many “rules” when it comes to wearing them. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a couple of things you should look out for when buying and wearing one.
- If you’re looking for a classic look, get an unadorned, plain model
- Leather, fabric and suede in classic colours are the best choices, such as shades of blue, green or brown
- Avoid black bombers, as they’re too formal
- Make sure the jacket fits you properly
- Bomber jackets look best with casual textures like checked shirts and knit ties
- Pair the jacket with canvas or leather shoes to get the most out of the functional and cool aesthetic. Brogues and work boots are great, whereas casual shoes like sneakers and loafers should be avoided
- Don’t wear one over another jacket – it’ll make you bulky
- Don’t wear a shirt that hangs more than a centimetre or two below the hem of the jacket.
- You can wear it with a simple t-shirt, but make sure your shoes and pants are polished