As the name Bomber might suggest, the jacket has its origins in the military, its plain, utilitarian form and lack of detail developing from its function as a flight jacket for bomber crew. It needed to be bulky enough to keep aviators warm at high altitude but streamlined enough to remain functional. This season’s designs don’t stray too far from this notion. Here, we look at the style’s design history and what it means for menswear fashion today.
The first version, the A2, originated in WWII, a trimmed down version of the original aviator jacket - in leather with a shearling collar, snap button closure and two flap pockets. The second version came in Midnight Blue cotton. Though the shearling collar remained, the flap pockets were replaced with slash pockets that were less likely to catch.
Later, the traditional fur collar was substituted with a knit and the cotton outer layer was replaced with newly developed water-repellent nylon, a feature that’s often still used in modern day designs.
In Britain, the jacket became loved by youth culture due to its availability in military surplus stores and in the 1980s it acquired a distinctly anti-establishment twist, when it became co-opted by punks and skinheads. The bomber became a sartorial emblem of rebellion.
From youth culture, it made its way into mainstream fashion. It has remained a constant over the years due to its styling versatility and transeasonal qualities; its roominess means it’s airy enough to be worn over a T-shirt in the summer and thicker layers in cooler seasons.
It has been quilted to create a streamlined version of the puffer, fabricated in leather and suede and reproduced in a full spectrum of colours, but the basic form has remained the same, tweaked here and there rather than reinvented. For now, we look to this season’s designs and how best to wear them in order to make a stylish impression off duty.