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Bomber Jackets: Their History, How to Buy Them & How to Wear Them

When it comes to streetwear essentials, no piece is as in-demand as the bomber jacket. Unlike other outerwear pieces, the bomber doesn’t just provide warmth or cover up your entire look. Thanks to a host of killer style details, it enhances your look and becomes an active player in your outfit. If you’re looking for a stylish way to battle falling autumn temperatures, look no further than the bomber.


A Brief History

During World War II, pilots required a functional jacket that helped them stay warm at high altitudes. Cockpits were cramped spaces full of bulky technology. So pilots couldn’t fly in topcoats. They needed something lighter that was just as useful. The A-2 and B-15 jacket styles were born. Both jackets were popular, but the B-15 was most similar in style to today’s MA-1 flight jacket.


Around 1950, the MA-1 became the jacket of choice for the Army. Throughout the Korean War and Vietnam War, it remained a military staple. In the mid-1950s, public servants like police officers began to adapt the jacket for their everyday duties.


For roughly two decades after, the bomber jacket became the outerwear of choice for the English counterculture. The 1980s saw major movie stars like Tom Cruise embracing the style in Hollywood. Now, the bomber is a high-fashion runway creation.


How to Buy Them

Shopping for a bomber can get tricky. A lot of brands refer to their jackets as such but they lack the necessary details. Bombers are defined by their ribbed collars, ribbed cuffs, typically nylon or synthetic fabrication and zipper front closures. Versions with a button front are referred to as varsity jackets. The typical MA-1 flight jacket comes in sage green, reminiscent of its military beginnings. But brands offer a wide variety of colors and patterns.


In terms of fit, this can also be difficult to navigate. Many of today’s streetwear idols like Kanye West play with proportion. So an oversized bomber jacket might be paired with skinny jeans and slim shirts. That’s a style move best left to the experts. Instead, there are some key fit details you should look for.


The most important detail is your shoulders. Pay close to the seam that connects the jacket torso to your sleeves. This seam should hit right at the top of your shoulder. If it falls anywhere below this, you need to size down. And vice versa, if it falls above this point, you need to size up. You shouldn’t see any creasing in this area.


Concerning length, your jacket’s bottom ribbed hem should hit right at your beltline. Any higher and it’s too short. Any longer and it’s likely that it’s too long. The torso should fit a bit snug whether you have it zipped up or not. This isn’t like a hoodie; a ton of excess room is a bad thing. However, it shouldn’t be too tight. You should be able to comfortably zip up your jacket without the fabric pulling at the placket.


Be sure to choose a collar that doesn’t rise too high on your neck. And with your sleeves, opt for a style with some extra padding to evoke the true spirit of the flight jacket.


How to Wear Them


It’s important to note that bomber jackets are a streetwear staple for a reason. This isn’t an outerwear piece that works well with professional looks. If you’re thinking about mixing things up and throwing on your bomber with a woven dress shirt and tie, resist the urge. This is a jacket that works best in casual scenarios.


On the more refined end, the dressiest you should get is with a sweater and woven dress shirt pairing. One popular look is a black crewneck sweater thrown over a white dress shirt. Combined with a dark bomber jacket, the look walks the line between edgy and classic.


However, you’ll get the most versatility out of a bomber jacket with casual looks. Paired with a bold graphic t-shirt or even a solid one, tailored sweatpants and white low top sneakers, the bomber jacket adds a high fashion edge to a look that would otherwise fall flat.


Also, another popular look involves ripped jeans, casual woven shirts and suede Chelsea boots. When wore together with a bomber jacket, the look brings runway style to your everyday life. It’s an elegant look that effortlessly combines elevated style awareness with streetwear edge.


Other variations that work well in several scenarios include leather bombers (not to be confused with leather moto jackets) and patterned jackets. Brands like Shades of Grey abandon the typical sage green or black in favor of subtle prints that resemble watercolor artwork.



If you’ve felt the urge to add a bomber jacket to your wardrobe, you’re on the right track. Just to be sure to nail the fit and style details so you can rock it in style all season long.

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