The Ultimate Guide to the Classic Bomber Jacket

Military clothing’s design ideas, particularly its function-over-form trademarks, have become part of everyday, civilian fashion.

The bomber jacket is one silhouette that has survived decades of appropriation (and ascends to become a style staple). The jacket set a new benchmark for functional outerwear, evolving into an emblem of subculture and playing a vital influence in how the style was employed for self-expression. It was one of the first designs to bridge the gap between civilian and military clothing.

Bomber jackets are a useful addition to any wardrobe. They’re durable, stylish, and versatile, with enough cuts and fabrics to suit everyone’s preferences. This is the kind of jacket that almost everyone owns these days: it’s zip-up or button-up, short, with cropped hems, a little attitude, knitted cuffs, and a lot of versatility.

However, bomber jackets come in various styles, and the broad, imprecise brushstroke it’s been painted with betrays its original utility and purpose—to protect military pilots. Nevertheless, the bomber jacket has evolved into much more than a relic of a bygone era; it has left its wartime skin and become one of the best outerwear pieces of all time.

It has appeared in many classic films, embraced by everyone on and off-screen, and played a role in the uniforms of various style tribes and subcultures. In short, never before in the history of fashion has so much been owed to so many people.

On that note, read on for the ultimate guide to the classic bomber jacket.

An Overview of the Bomber Jacket’s History

a modern nylon MA-1 bomber jacket

The bomber jacket (which is not to be mistaken for the Harrington jacket) is just one of several items with military history. Like the trench coat, peacoat, and parka, the bomber has a timeless appeal that defies trends and seasons; it was born of military necessity and has since evolved into a part of popular culture.

The first version of this inexhaustibly cool jacket dates from the 1920s. Airmen used to wear longer, heavier shearling jackets keeping them warm (the cockpits were open-air at the time) but were generally impractical. To restrict airflow up the arms, the cuffs needed to be knitted, the hem needed to be reduced to allow for more flexibility when piloting, and huge pockets needed to be created for vital flying things.

The US Army Type A-1, originally issued in 1927, was America’s response. The basic bomber recipe was set after that. Over the years, the A-1 was modified and reintroduced in different incarnations, from the A-2, which debuted in 1931 with button snaps, a zip, and a leather collar, to the nylon MA-1 that debuted in the 1950s.

The bomber’s appeal among civilians is unsurprising, especially given the cultural icons depicted in them. Consider Steve McQueen’s performance in The Great Escape, Marlon Brando’s performance in A Streetcar Named Desire, or Tom Cruise’s performance in Top Gun. The bomber jacket took center stage in these films.

From the 1980s-era subculture to Ewan McGregor’s Mark Renton sporting a khaki version in the opening sequence of Trainspotting, the bomber has long been associated with skinheads. It has recently been worn by celebrities such as Ryan Gosling and David Beckham. Whether you’re going for a sports-luxe, preppy, Scandi, hip-hop, or streetwear vibe, the jacket will work.

Different Styles of Bomber Jackets

a delivery man wearing a bomber jacket and holding a package

Black Bomber Jacket

When it comes to bomber jackets, black is always a safe bet. A black bomber jacket is not only stylish, but it is also adaptable and can be worn with many outfits. Choose a black nylon bomber for a sleek athleisure style.

A black leather bomber is excellent for edgy outfits, while suede and wool styles are ideal for a smarter look. Once you’ve found the one that’s appropriate for you, all you have to do now is match your outfit to it.

Burgundy Bomber Jacket

Between the 60s and the 80s, punks were the first to adopt the burgundy bomber jacket. The jacket is still beneficial for adding a splash of attitude to your appearance today, and it may be worn in several styles.

Pair a burgundy bomber with black trousers and a black hoodie or t-shirt to complete the look. As a result, you’ll have an edgy, laid-back appearance that’s ideal for the weekend.

Olive Bomber Jacket

Olive bomber jackets and those in different colors of green are also fashionable. The unusual color complements the jacket’s military design and is great for creating a stunning casual ensemble.

An olive bomber looks best with basic pants like jeans or chinos as an accent piece that can enhance the rest of your outfit. It’s also the most flattering when paired with neutrals or earthy tones.

White Bomber Jacket

Even if it isn’t the most common pick, a white bomber jacket is a great statement piece. The style is unusual without being overly aggressive, making it ideal for a fresh spring look.

Due to its neutral tone, you can wear a white bomber with various hues. Pair it with other light pieces, like tan chinos or soft blue jeans and white sneakers to complete the outfit.

Red Bomber Jacket

A red bomber jacket is a great choice for individuals who want to be on-trend. A bold red bomber is not only more fashionable than other colors, but it also makes a terrific statement item. As a result, the look works best with classic-toned basics.

Pair a red bomber with a white crew-neck T-shirt, dark blue trousers, and sneakers for a basic yet attractive look.

Long Bomber Jacket

There are many different bomber jacket colors to choose from and various fits and styles. A longline bomber jacket is such an option worth thinking about.

A longline bomber finishes farther down the body than other bombers, which end at the top of the hips. As a result, it’s a terrific winter choice that may produce a remarkable statement look. Just make sure to pair it with slim pants to balance out the chunkiness.

Leather Bomber Jacket

The leather bomber jacket is a classic fit that never goes out of style. To wear the winter classic, start by deciding on a color.

Black is very useful for creating an edgy vibe, and it goes well with a black hoodie or T-shirt, slim black trousers, and boots or sneakers. On the other hand, other colors, such as brown, can give a little softer look and go well with white T-shirts and blue jeans.

Suede Bomber Jacket

A suede bomber jacket may not be suitable for wet days, but it may give you a fashionable and sophisticated look. The fabric gives the outfit a fresh spin on the traditional bomber jacket.

When buying a suede bomber, bear in mind that beige, brown, and stone are the most flattering colors. White, black, and navy tones, on the other hand, can have a bigger impact.

When to Wear a Bomber Jacket

a woman wearing a bomber jacket

Casual Occasions

A bomber jacket is an excellent outerwear choice for informal events and may be worn with chinos, jeans, or casual pants. Additionally, you can wear a T-shirt or a sweatshirt on top in warmer weather or a sweater in colder weather. Sneakers are a common choice for footwear and go well with any bomber jacket style.

Smart Casual Occasions

A bomber jacket might not be your first choice, but it might be a great choice for a classy casual occasion. Select a refined style in a neutral color, like black. Then all you need to do is ensure the rest of your wardrobe is professional enough to balance out your casual jacket.

Match your bomber with a collared shirt and a pair of slacks or chinos to achieve this look. When it comes to shoes, choose something formal but not overly so, such as loafers, leather trainers, or suede derby shoes.

How Should a Bomber Jacket Fit?

 

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It’s important to get the appropriate fit when buying a bomber jacket. To accomplish so, choose a style with fitting arms and a slim body that sits snugly on your shoulders. Traditionally large, bombers are now worn closer to the body with only enough space for a layer or two underneath.

Also, make sure the length and sleeves of your jacket are appropriate for you. The bomber should ideally end at the waistband of your jeans, while the sleeves should end right before your palms, at your wrist bones.

The Best Ways to Style a Bomber Jacket

 

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Having a bit of definitive advice on how and when to wear it is helpful with so many options. Here’s how to make the most of any outfit, from semi-formal to streetwear.

Jeans and a Bomber Jacket

When it comes to a night out, a bomber jacket is the counterpart of a party jacket—the ideal compromise between looking sophisticated and easygoing. It can effortlessly take slim-leg jeans and a crew neck shirt to the next level in one fell swoop (and most likely get you past the door staff as well).

However, before you run out and buy any bomber jacket, there are a few things to think about. Not all bombers are made equal, like with most things. The fit and quality material is non-negotiable if you’re wearing one to stand out from the crowd.

Satin bombers, for example, provide a touch of luxury while also serving as a useful counterpoint to more common fabrics like denim and cotton. On the other hand, leather bomber jackets take premium to a much new level.

Regarding fit, make sure the sleeves are narrow, and the top sits right at your waist; otherwise, you’ll look boxy and like you’re stuck in an 80s fashion rut.

Trousers and Bomber Jacket

We’re firm believers in bombers as a viable alternative to the classic blazer, having come from the more formal school of bombers. It provides a bit of street cred to an otherwise classic ensemble when paired with slim-leg trousers cropped just above the ankle.

But be cautious. If you match a bomber with quality wool trousers, you run the risk of seeming top-heavy if you throw on a puffy Nylon variation. Higher-end finishes and darker colors will help to counteract this while also ensuring that you look your age. Cashmere and suede are two wonderful combinations that look terrific in the office as well as in the bar.

Shirt and Bomber Jacket

Some people find it difficult to wear a bomber jacket with anything except a crew neck tee shirt. And, to be sure, the abundance of outfits with an elasticized, scooped collar lends itself to this look. But why do the same thing as everyone else when you can do something better?

If anything, seeing a casual jacket paired with a collared shirt has an element of surprise to it. A colorful bomber can bring a laid-back vibe to an otherwise formal shirt and tie ensemble.  Here, contrast is crucial, so search for materials and colors that complement one another.

T-Shirt with Bomber Jacket

Kanye’s use of the bomber spurred a true revival of the garment in its most basic form. And it’s not without reason. This hip-hop singer turned fashion designer knows how to dress in the ordinary like no one else.

Pairing jeans with a graphic shirt may seem stale, but adding a bomber over the top breathes new life into the style. More than that, it embodies a level of casualness and street swagger that most gentlemen can only aspire to.

But dressing like Kanye when you’re not Kanye is no easy task. A simple, neutral foundation is essential if this is your first excursion. A properly-cut black, white, or grey shirt will last you a long time and is well worth the money.

However, what you layer on top is entirely up to you. Experiment with colored linings and unique hardware touches.

Hat and Bomber Jacket

Nothing conceals a night on the tiles quite like a bomber and a baseball cap. This is a go-to for a long-haul flight or weekend brunch, and when done perfectly, it’s a killer combination.

There may be a few ground rules to follow, even if they are simple. First and foremost, avoid varsity-style bomber jackets if you’re wearing a cap with a logo. Logomania should be limited to Hollywood stars and middle school football players.

Second, don’t match your cap and jacket too closely. Try mixing unusual colors like khaki and navy or camel and burgundy to stand out from the crowd. You can also mess around with other types of headgear.

Appropriate Shoes for a Bomber Jacket

Shoes may make (or ruin) your bomber jacket outfit when it comes to balancing it out. If you’re too gritty, you’ll come across as a Justin Bieber impersonator; if you’re too polished, it’ll feel weird. Instead, go for the middle ground when it comes to formality.

If you’re wearing your jacket with jeans, a pair of suede boots is a must-have. They scream relaxed without saying informal since they lack the shine and luster of leather. Plus, when Autumn arrives, you’ll be able to wear them with anything.

Dress sneakers are the next best thing if boots aren’t your thing. The quality finish lends a touch of class to any casual ensemble while maintaining just the perfect amount of sartorial appeal.