What Is A Bomber Jacket? (Ask an Effortless Gent)

by Brian Adee  |  in Casual Style

Nearly every article of clothing that we wear today has a history based in its functional use — and a surprising number of popular wardrobe pieces have their origins in military use. 

Today, we’ll be exploring one of those items by asking: What is a bomber jacket, anyway? Follow along as we introduce you to the long and storied history of the first jackets made for aviators, and we’ll answer a few frequently asked bomber jacket questions, too.

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Why Is it Called A Bomber Jacket?

Getting to know the bomber jacket requires heading back in time to World War. This was an era where most of the airplanes used in combat, reconnaissance, and supply missions were primitive enough as to not include coverings for their cockpits.

While this might have been fine during the heat of the summer, the turn towards colder weather meant pilots would be left exposed to the elements.

Enter the Aviation Clothing Board. This 1917 invention of the United States Army was created with the sole purpose of outfitting soldiers with appropriate clothing. This quickly led to the introduction of the flight jacket from which we’ve derived every successive style of bomber jacket; more on that evolution in the next section.

The flight jacket was defined by a high collar, zipper closures, and elastic-snug cuffs and waist. It was truly the ideal companion to the cold weather air travel that pilots would endure throughout World War I and II.

But it wasn’t until the introduction of this military staple into popular culture after the Second World War that it came to be known by its colloquial name: The bomber jacket.

Types of Bomber Jackets

This brings us around to today’s popular variations of the original style. Let’s get right into your options for bomber jackets:

Flight Jacket

The style that started it all is a military-issued flight jacket. This veritable piece of American history is most recognizable in its A-2 style. Made of leather with a cotton inner lining, they’re equipped with hand warmer compartments in the pockets, shoulder straps, and knit cuffs and waistbands.

Schott Lightweight Leather Bomber Jacket

This updated take on the classic MA-1 body features a waxy pebbled cowhide leather for comfort out of the box.

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Your best shot of finding one will be at a vintage store, as they’re no longer in production. The Schott Lightweight Leather Bomber Jacket is a compelling modern take on the classic style, though.

Leather Bomber Jacket

The success of military-issued leather flight jackets led quickly to the development of more contemporary styles of leather bomber jackets. They often eschew the bulkier pockets of traditional flight jackets. Instead, they favor a slimmer fit while retaining the signature elastic cuffs, slim waist, and snapping collar.

Allsaints Ivor Leather Bomber Jacket

Matte black leather for no-fuss outfitting. The Ivor Bomber Jacket is shaped to a regular fit with ribbed trimming and matte metal hardware.

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Allsaints’ Ivor leather bomber jacket is a fantastic example of the style that would look great with dark wash denim and low-cut boots. 

Letterman Jacket

A distant relative of the flight jacket, letterman jackets have a retro and sporty feel. Also known as a varsity jacket, they’ve been co-opted by hipster and streetwear styles and decorated with far more than just the letters of an alma mater.

BK Circus’ Triple Black Bomber Varsity

This jacket features a 100% naked cow Leather Sleeve as well as a beautifully hand-detailed Chenille patch w/ removable pins.

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BK Circus’ Triple Black Bomber Varsity is exactly the sort of style we’re hoping for when we think of varsity jackets. It’s less collegiate chic, and more casual modern: the perfect middle-ground.

Synthetic Bomber Jacket

Maybe the most recognizable of today’s bomber jackets, synthetic bombers are usually made of nylon and polyester. It features a slim fit and variable combination of details from each of the three styles explored above. Anything goes with these jackets, which are most often defined by their choice of detailing.

Alpha Industries Slim Fit Bomber Jacket

B-15 Slim Fit has a flight nylon, water-resistant shell with nylon twill lining and 100% polyester fill. It also features the removable faux mouton collar and tonal color lining.

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Alpha Industries’ Slim Fit Bomber Jacket is one of our favorite examples of the style. It’s slim without being form-fitting, reasonably priced, and a fine blend of fresh and vintage styles.

Are Bomber Jackets Warm Enough for Winter?

With their history as jackets made for pilots to wear in winter weather, we’re absolutely confident in saying that bomber jackets are warm enough for winter.

However, you’ll need to focus on finding a leather or insulated jacket rather than a thin nylon one if you want to stay warm through winter.

Can You Wear A Bomber Jacket in the Summer?

As far as we know, there’s no one bomber jacket that’s so perfectly balanced as to be worn year-round. However, choosing a lightweight nylon bomber can make it a great choice for spring and summer wear. Stay away from leather and insulated jackets for the hotter months, of course.

That’s it for our short guide to the bomber jacket! We hope you enjoyed the read and go away a bit more educated — and maybe even with a new jacket on your wishlist. Until next time!