Bomber Jackets: A Complete Buying & Styling Guide for Men

This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission for purchases made through links. Learn more on my Private Policy page.

Welcome back to the Gentleman's Gazette.
In today's video, the sky's the limit as we dive   into the design, history, and heritage 
of bomber and flight jackets. ♪ Gentleman's Gazette Theme Song ♪ Bomber and flight jackets are an essential 
part of the casual wardrobe, and like many   men's classic garments, they were designed as 
functional workwear for members of the military. It can be a tricky item to get right. After all, you 
want to look more "Top Gun," and less "Top Pun." [scene from "Top Gun"] In today's video, we'll explore these 
classic pieces of outerwear, talk about how you   should wear them, and even give you some advice 
on where to buy them.

First things first, let's get   these terms defined. I don't want to go through 
this whole video and confuse everyone. Bomber   jacket or flight jacket: What's the difference? 
Bomber jackets are often called "flight jackets"; flight jackets, "bomber jackets". And the question is: 
Is this right? Well, they both are. Flight jacket and   a bomber jacket will maintain many of the same 
characteristics, so use the term that you want. Technically, a flight jacket is any jacket that has 
aviation roots, whereas a bomber jacket was a name   that was given to jackets after World War II, and 
the name has stuck. Also, note that there's another   style of jacket that closely resembles the bomber 
or flight jacket, and that would be the Letterman   or varsity jacket. Really the only distinction here 
is the bright collegiate or university colors that   are on a varsity or Letterman's jacket; not to 
mention patches. Coming back to bomber jackets, they were originally intended and designed to keep 
airmen warm in cold temperatures, and many bomber   jackets today maintain those similar features. 
Traditional bomber jackets are typically made   from leather, sheepskin, or fabric.

The jacket is 
cut to the waist, so that way, a pilot or airman   can move around an airplane a lot easier. They'll 
also feature a zipper or buttons to close it. Maybe   they'll have external pockets, and they'll have 
elastic around the cuffs and the hem. Now, that we   have an understanding of bomber jackets. Let's 
grab our aviation goggles, and let's look back   at the history. So, in the early days of motorized 
transport, airplanes did not have closed cockpits, which left the pilot at the will of the elements.
Like, I know that convertibles are nice and all, but driving one in Minnesota – no way! If we look at 
cars in the exact same time period, they were also   open and exposed and, oftentimes, drivers and cars 
would wear long furry overcoats to keep them warm   from the elements as well.

But, if you think about 
aircraft, those coats were too long for flying. The   cockpit of the plane was cramped, and oftentimes, 
the pilot had to enter and exit vertically. There   weren't doors like on a car. After all, no one 
wants to be grounded prematurely by tripping   over a long coat. So, at the time, flight jackets 
were cut a lot shorter than car coats. Also, being   up in the clouds meant that flight jackets had to 
be weather resistant and, at the time of World War I, a lot of the performance materials of the 
day were natural materials. So, flight jackets   were constructed of sheepskin and tough pieces 
of leather. And if you're a film fan, you might   have seen flight jackets on this era pop up in the 
2021 film "The King's Man".

This was a prequel to the   other installments of the Kingsman series, and this 
happened right around the time of World War I.   One of the characters, the Duke of Oxford, wears a 
jacket that's inspired by a lot of the jackets of   that time period. Replicas were then made available 
and were sold by Mr. Porter. Now, after World War I, great advances were made in aviation. Planes could 
claim to even higher altitudes, exposing pilots   to temperatures as low as negative 50 degrees 
Celsius, and that wasn't really comfortable in   unheated, unpressurized cabins of aircraft. Over 
the coming years, many different iterations and   designs of the flight jacket were made. American 
aviator and businessman Leslie Irvin created the   first sheepskin flight jacket for extreme 
conditions at high altitudes. These became   known as "B-Jackets" and were typically made of 
sheepskin. A-Jacket models were constructed from   leather that was lined with wool, cotton, or silk. 
The model type A-1 was the first of a famous line   of bomber jackets and was introduced between 1927 
and 1931.

This was the first jacket to feature   a knitted wool waistband and cuffs, setting the 
design standard for flight jackets going forward. The A-1 also featured two flat cargo pockets, a 
heavy cotton lining, and horn buttons. It also   had a capeskin exterior. Later on, the military 
eventually abandoned capeskin, which is a type   of sheepskin, as it was just not durable enough the 
model A-2 bomber jacket was introduced in 1931. It was produced and manufactured by various companies 
up until 1943. And because of so many different   manufacturers, different materials were used. But, in 
general, the type A-2 is constructed of horsehide leather, which was much more hard wearing than 
capeskin, and they were lined with silk. The   sturdy snaps and reinforced pockets were still 
there for use inside of a cockpit. The A-2's collar   can be closed completely for more warmth, and the 
pockets were more slim, which is perfect for an   airplane. Meanwhile, in the 1930s, the model B-3 was 
also being developed. This leather jacket featured   a wide sheepskin collar with two other straps 
that could be fastened tightly around the neck for   extra warmth.

This model, like its A-letter cousins,
were used frequently in the 1930s and 40s. Once   airplanes consistently had closed cockpits, the 
jackets didn't need to be as bulky, so the model   B-6 was made. It featured a slimmer cut, a single 
leather throat latch, and it had slashed pockets. As aircraft continued to evolve into the second 
World War, planes began to carry crew members that   were not the pilot or the navigator. That means 
more and more members of the military that needed   to be outfitted for the war in the skies. With 
so many members joining the Air Forces over the   skies of Europe and the South Pacific on bombing 
runs, this is where the name "bomber jacket" came   from.

In 1943, the military introduced the model 
B-10 as a replacement for the other jacket models. This was the first jacket designed with a fabric 
shell and an alpaca lining. It was intended to be   a lighter weight, less bulky, and more versatile 
than its predecessors. Although, it was only   useful for temperatures ranging between 25 and 
55 degrees, the slim design became a favorite. It   became so popular that many non-flying generals 
decided to incorporate it into their uniform. However, the owners of A-2 flight jackets were the 
elite air crew among military personnel, and they   frequently decorated their jackets with artwork 
and embroidery, detailing their combat exploits. The   high status surrounding the A-2 carried over from 
the military into civilian life, and this jacket   remains one of the two most famous and most iconic 
jacket designs to this day. The other famous model   is the G-1. "The model G-1" is now the colloquial 
term for many variations on a leather flight   jacket with or without a fur collar.

Now, despite 
its popularity among generals and other members of   the military, the B-10 was traded out for the B-15 in 
1944, but this jacket's heyday was also short-lived, and it wasn't long until the military shifted once 
again to lighter weight models during the Jet Age   – the MA-1 and MA-2. These jackets also feature the 
knitted cuffs and waistband and typically came   in either a navy or green shell with a bright 
orange lining. Obviously, this also had a functional   purpose as the jackets can be turned inside out to 
be used as a distress signal for downed pilots.

The   MA-1 had a knitted collar, while the MA-2 had a turn 
down-style collar, and the look of the MA-1 closely   inspires a lot of modern day bomber jackets. As 
bomber jackets continue to evolve and iterate, there's no denying the style is still popular 
today. Of course, there have been many different   modern interpretations of the bomber jacket. You 
can find them in many different materials such as   cotton, polyester, linen, wool – the list goes on and 
on. But, there's no denying the timeless appeal.

So, as history has shown many different bomber jacket 
styles come and go, but there are some things that   remain consistent. The bomber jacket is a piece of 
Americana, and it is very prevalent on the Silver   Screen. Not to mention the bomber jacket can be 
quite character defining. So, here are a few of   our favorites. The first would be Indiana Jones' 
bomber jacket. Incorporating many classic menswear   elements into the character design, Indiana 
Jones's famous brown leather jacket is based   on the A-2 model.

This jacket was created for the 
1981 film "The Raiders of the Lost Ark" and features   adjusters on the side for comfort. The jacket was 
created for the film by Wested Leathers in Kent, England, and this jacket can still be purchased 
from the original makers today. Next up are the   bomber jackets worn in Top Gun – specifically, 
Maverick's. Perhaps one of the most famous bomber   jackets in the history of cinema, Tom Cruise's 
care character Pete "Maverick" Mitchell sports an   iconic leather G-1 model in the 1986 film "Top 
Gun". Decorated with various military patches   and insignia, this particular jacket was crafted 
with authenticity in mind. The G-1 jacket was the   standard issue jacket for Naval aviators during 
this film's timeline. Boasting details such as a   dark brown collar and a bi-swing back for added 
mobility, this jacket is a perfect representation   of the military's need for functional garments.
The next one is the bomber jackets in "Batman". While   Jack Nicholson wore suits tailored by Tommy Nutter 
on Savile Row for his portrayal of the Joker in   1989's Batman, his henchmen were decked out in 
bomber jackets.

They wore black outfits topped   with leather bombers that were a hybrid between 
the B-10 and G-1 models, and these jackets were   instantly recognizable in the Joker's signature 
purple. And similar to the Top Gun bombers, these   were covered with patches. However, instead of 
military insignia, these were covered with the   Joker's logo and sets of playing cards. Next up is 
the movie "Drive" and Ryan Gosling's bomber jacket. Riffing off of lighter bomber jacket models, Ryan 
Gosling wears a satin one in the 2011 film "Drive".   With angled slash pockets of the waist and
high-contrast detailing, this particular jacket carries   a particular aura of confidence and individuality. 
And, of course, we have to mention the iconic   scorpion embroidery on the back of the jacket. This 
particular feature was inspired by the so-called   "souvenir jackets" that GIs brought home from Japan 
after World War II, and Gosling himself wanted the   scorpion to feature a symbol of protection.

So, we 
looked at a number of bomber jacket models and, they're placed within history. So, now, we have to 
ask how do they fit with their elasticized cuffs   and hems, unfortunately, they've fallen into a trend 
of recent years with being oversized. Needless to   say, this isn't something that you should be 
looking for as it'll make it look more like a   trend piece. Instead, you should look for something 
that fits close with some room for mobility. This   means picking a jacket with a higher armhole 
like in a good suit jacket. Paying attention to   this area will allow you to raise and lower your 
arms comfortably. Even though the jacket features   elastic at the cuffs and the hem, this shouldn't 
be pulled completely tight when you're wearing   it. This elastic should hug you comfortably 
and allow movement. If it's too tight, it will   be comfortable and, if it's all stretched out, 
it won't help you stay warm. In order to get the   correct body length, you want the jacket to fall at 
your hips.

Remember, this jacket evolved from longer   jackets into a much shorter jacket, so it wouldn't 
be a hassle while flying. So, ideally, you want your   jacket to hit at this height. Just below, it's okay. 
But, the jacket shouldn't cover your seats. On the   flip side, there should be a seal between the 
bottom of the jacket and the waistband of your   trousers. Please, no crop tops here. Now, a bomber 
jacket sleeve length can be a little bit trickier   as this is one of the few pieces of outerwear,
which will have an elastic cuff. So, to get things   right, treat this jacket just like you would a 
suit jacket. Essentially, the bomber jacket's cuff   should end roughly at the root of your thumb for a 
comfortable fit. It's okay for the main body of the   sleeves to overlap the elastic cuff a little, but 
it shouldn't eclipse the cuff completely. That's a   sign that the jacket sleeve is too long. So, when 
it comes to wearing a bomber jacket, you'll want   to pick a plain, unadorned one for the most 
classic look. Whether you go for leather, fabric, or suede, picking something in a brown, blue, or 
green color is timeless.

Bomber jackets also   come in black, but they tend to look a little bit 
odd since black is such a formal color. The easiest   way to incorporate a bomber jacket into a casual 
wardrobe is to realize that casual clothing is   key. So, a t-shirt or a casual shirt or a casual 
sweater is always best as the base layer. Add-on   a nice quality pair of denim jeans and a pair of 
sturdy boots and you're set. This look is a great   way to incorporate classic but casual elements 
in your wardrobe. But, also remember that leather   bomber jackets tend to look more dressed up than 
fabric ones. Also, don't wear a bomber jacket over   another jacket like a sport coat. Not only is this 
a complete clash of formality, but you'll add just   way too much bulk to your outfit. So, if you need 
extra warmth, go for knitwear. We find that if a   t-shirt is a little bit too cold, adding in some 
knitwear is perfect. And in the depth of winter, add   in a chunky knit sweater like I'm wearing today.
Now, you can increase the formality of a bomber   jacket by adding in button-down shirts like an 
OCBD or a flannel shirt.

These are inherently more   relaxed than the typical dress shirt, which blends 
the formality scale very well. To elevate the look, I would recommend trying to keep your shirt tucked 
in. If you're going to untuck it, don't really let   it fall underneath the bomber jacket because 
that can look sloppy. Overall, it's best to tuck   your shirt in. For trouser options outside of denim,
you can go with things such as chinos, corduroys, or   flannels. Don't go for any super formal fabric 
such as suit separates or super fine worsted   wools as there will be a clash of formality.

wool is best for more formal outfits. Linen belongs in   the summer, so you'll be wearing a fall top with 
a summer bottom, and that'll just look off. When it   comes to footwear, stick with canvas or leather 
options. So, work boots or brogues are a great   option, as are canvas or leather sneakers. Steer 
clear of most athletic sneakers as they are not   a part of classic style.

Also, avoid the black 
cap toe Oxfords. Again, the clash in formality   will be way too strong. For leather footwear, 
you can enjoy some more unique materials, such   as hatch grain, pebble grain, or cordovan. These look 
great with a lot of casual elements, especially in   various shades of brown. So, how do I buy a bomber 
jacket, you might ask? Well, you could find a vintage   model, but those can fetch several thousands of 
dollars. Plus, the sizing isn't the same that it is   today, so it might be a challenge. But, if you're 
happy to put in the work, you can go to places   like eBay or you can shop vintage in person, in 
which case Preston and Raphael here have many   tips. Of course, there are many options for bomber 
jackets on the High Street, but keep in mind, that   many of them are just going to be fashion elements. 
Instead, you should go for what would be considered   reproduction bomber jackets. By this, we mean taking 
the design of a older bomber jacket with modern   build quality and materials. They'll be brand new 
and they'll break in and patina with you, meaning   that you'll have a piece that will evolve with you.
Eastman Leather, Cockpit USA, and US Wings offer a   range of various leather models with US Wings 
also offering nylon flight jackets.

In addition, Alpha Industries also offers many good models, and 
they were the original producers of the Top Gun   jacket. Also consider Wested Leather as they made 
the originals for Indiana Jones. A couple others   that I like on the higher end of the spectrum 
would be The Real McCoy or also Private White   has a really nice flight jacket with a shearling 
collar. So, as we touch down on our journey through   the sartorial skies, it's plain to see that 
leather jackets have been soaring in popularity. So, whether you wear your bomber jackets with a 
modern style or with a vintage aesthetic, we would   love to hear more on how you wear them down in 
the comments below? In today's video, I'm wearing a   leather jacket in a brown shade of suede.

It's in 
a flight style and from a maker called the Jacket   Maker. The Jacket Maker sent over some jackets to 
our team, but this video is 100% not sponsored. You   can see that it features two flap pockets right 
on the hips, and it has a button closure. I love   this suede jacket because I really love suede 
as a material and it works really well with the   casual nature of what I like to wear. Underneath, 
I have a chunky gray sweater in a commando style, very similar to what James Bond would wear. This 
is from L.L. Bean. My jeans are a pair of selvedge jeans from Bravestar. I'm wearing a pair of the 
brass boots from Grant Stone. These are in a   waxy, brown commander leather. My socks are a Fort 
Belvedere prototype. They're in this really cool   red, diamond pattern. And since we're talking 
about pieces of aviation history, I'm wearing a   Cartier Santos on my wrist. This was sent 
over from our friends over at Del Rey Watch.

Again, they're not a sponsor of our channel, but they 
send us watches, and we always say, "thank you." If   you want to get any Fort Belvedere products, you 
can check out the link to the shop here. ♪ Gentleman's Gazette Theme Song ♪.

As found on YouTube

You May Also Like

About the Author: Mike I

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *