A modern nylon MA-1 bomber jacket
A flight jacket is a casual jacket that was originally created for pilots and eventually became part of popular culture and apparel. It has evolved into various styles and silhouettes including the ‘letterman’ jacket and the fashionable ‘bomber’ jacket that is known today.
The flight jacket
The letter-man jacket
The bomber jacket
Background and history
The bomber jacket originates from military clothing which trickled down into subcultures such as punk and has recently made its way into high fashion. The military bomber jacket was made to be versatile for functionality as it was a lightweight jacket that kept soldiers warm. The B-15 jacket consisted of a fur collar made of cotton which was later changed to nylon after 1945 since it was considered more suitable because it is water resistant and kept perspiration out (Cruz, 2016). Bombers appeared in Europe during the late 1950s and in 1963, the jackets were popularized by European Air Forces and eventually the commercial consumer. Subcultures picked up on the stylish jacket and established it as part of their uniform such as the British skinheads in the late 1960s.
Japan was also greatly influenced by the American fashion sense after the World War II. Notably in 1951, Kensuke Ishizu established his brand VAN that gave Japanese youth culture stylish clothing not found locally such as oxford shirts and slim trousers. The bomber jacket still remains popular during the twentieth century as a part of the grunge and street-wear subculture, whilst the “Kanye effect” further influenced its popularity.
The silhouette of the bomber jacket has not altered a lot compared to the original, although it has an athletic and masculine silhouette with a fitted waist and more generous fit, like the bulky sleeves and extra pockets so as to be functional. The bomber jacket trend inspired a vast majority of fashion designers to reinterpret and revisit the silhouette of menswear today. For instance, the S/S 2000 collections from Raf Simons which changed the original design into a more symmetrical form, the elongated bombers from Rick Owens, floral printed versions from Balenciaga, Dries Van Noten and many more.
The bomber jacket is a neutral fashion item with no limitations when it comes to genders, ages or styles. Shapes of the bomber jackets are modified into dress-like jackets or even one-piece dresses.
Due to high altitudes and breakneck speeds in less advanced airplanes compared to modern day, Royal Flying Corps in Belgium and France started to wear heavy leather flying jackets in the 1910s as leather was considered as the heaviest and strongest material for jackets. Since then, original bomber jackets were made in heavy-duty leather in order to provide warmth for military pilots.
The A2 which was released by the US Army Air Corps was made with high wraparound collars, cinched cuffs and waists, and zipper closures protected by wind flaps and fur linings and had a high durability. Since then there have been various versions of the bomber jacket, from having fur collars, cotton outers and leather straps to knit collars and orange lining in the bomber jacket to aid in visibility in case an incident were to occur.
Materials of the bomber jacket are continuously changed each season to bring unconventional styles that cater to customer’s needs. Not only do designers use leather and wool, but fabrics such as silk, neoprene, satin and gauze are used. Decorative elements like ruffles, embroidered patchwork, lace-ups are also added on the bomber jackets, making them an essential fashion item that comes in a variety of colors, fabrications, and styles.
Bomber jackets originally appeared in a midnight blue hue, which was later switched to a sage green after the Korean and Vietnamese wars since it was easier for soldiers to camouflage themselves amongst the forests or countryside during the 1960s. Bomber jackets became popular in the non-military audience in the late 1960s to 1980s, especially when the English punks and skinheads started taking over the trend and changed the color into burgundy in order to distinguish themselves and their bomber jackets from the original military flight jackets. Brown is also a classic color for leather flight jackets.
Due to the popularity of the jacket, both high street and high end brands have designed the bomber jacket in a variety of hues. Other than the standard navy blue, army green and black, the bomber can be found in pastel tones such as baby pink, blue, mint, or even gold and silver.
Bomber jackets became a popular fashion trend and statement during Autumn 2016 due to celebrity support. Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin and Gigi Hadid have been seen sporting the trend multiple times. The timeless piece was mass-produced due to the versatility of the jacket, most fast fashion stores released the style through manipulation of different materials and silhouettes. An example is the long bomber, an alternative to the classic trench coat for Winter. Being able to look effortlessly stylish and put together is a big selling point. Due to the history behind the bomber jacket, a sense of nostalgia of the 1990s era is brought back from the popularity of TV shows and films showing similar jackets worn by jocks.