A Crash Course on the History of the Bomber Jacket

By Charlie Colville

2 years ago

From army uniform to wardrobe staple

Signalled as one of the biggest trends of AW22, the bomber jacket is about to hit our wardrobes with a vengeance – but this runway-ready coat has a much grander origin story than you might expect. Want to find out more? Read on for a crash course on the history of the bomber jacket.

A History of the Bomber Jacket

What is a bomber jacket?

A staple of pop culture and the modern fashion landscape, bomber jackets are a casual piece of outerwear characterised by their puff sleeves, shirt collar (usually Shearling) and gathered, ribbed cuffs and waistband. While largely made from leather, many bombers are made from polyester, nylon, suede and cotton, and they come in a whole range of colours – although classic styles are usually black or brown.

Where do they come from?

The original name for the bomber jacket, the flight jacket, was coined from their original function; designed to keep fighter pilots warm during the First World War. The earliest recognisable rendition of the bomber was created by the US Army’s Aviation Clothing Board, which designed the first heavy-duty jacket. Featuring a distinctive high wraparound collar, zipped front and fur lining, this design was to set the blueprint for the modern bomber jacket.

American stuntman Leslie Irvin, known for flying in balloons and performing acrobatics (and designing parachutes for the US Army), designed the first sheepskin flying jacket – and in 1926, he set up shop in the UK and began supplying the Royal Air Force with outerwear. This partnership lasted long into the Second World War, where planes began to ascend into even higher (and colder) altitudes. At this time, warm clothing was essential for the pilots navigating the air from uninsulated cockpits.

The bomber jacket was – and still is – synonymous with the armed forces, despite now being a widely-used fashion item. The trend follows in the footsteps of other ‘military chic’ stylings, like camo print and black lace-up boots, and has been made all the more popular by the likes of 1986 action film Top Gun.


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But from the 1960s, the bomber jacket found a new home among society’s teenagers. From London’s leather-wearing skinheads and mods to the American high school jock (who made the baseball and letterman styles so covetable), and then on to the early 2000s hip-hop movement, the bomber has been reimagined in multiple ways for multiple audiences.

And while traditionally a menswear piece, the bomber jacket has since become popular with all genders. Women have been wearing bomber jackets for decades (just look at 90s icon Drew Barrymore), and now we’re seeing it pop up on everyone – with fans of a good bomber including Gigi Hadid, Kanye West and Chris Evans.

What will it look like in the future?

Leading luxury brand Louis Vuitton even opened its AW22 collection with a take on the classic bomber jacket, worn by Squid Game‘s Hoyeon Jung, in a blend of masculine and feminine styling. Setting the tone for the new season, the brand hinted that we’ll be seeing a lot more of this specific jacket in the near future.

Hoyeon Jung modelling on the runway for Louis Vuitton

Louis Vuitton AW22 (c) Louis Vuitton

And while it’s true trends come and go, the bomber never seems to stay out of our wardrobes for very long. The varying styles of the classic jacket mean that it can be worn throughout the seasons, whatever the setting. As part of its modular clothing system, for example, B Corp certified menswear label L’Estrange London has released a new bomber jacket that combines the innovation of a waterproof membrane hidden with a sleek and smart design.

Ideal for the urban dweller, the Hydrowool Bomber is built to tackle all occasions. It’s fully lined and features a breathable wool membrane that is both waterproof and windproof. The layer, which can be compared to the innovative Storm System, acts as a barrier against the elements, keeping you warm and dry whatever the weather.

Man in black bomber jacket and shirt on gold background

(c) L’Estrange

This functionality is matched step-for-step with a luxurious feel and look, with the protective barrier acting as a next-to-skin comfort lining that helps create a slim silhouette, making the bomber ideal for city street style. It even clips to L’Estrange London’s signature quilted vest, allowing for even more styling combinations and versatility. Whether dressed up with a shirt and slacks for an evening out on the town, or casually layered up with a jumper and jeans, this is a wardrobe essential for the next generation. Here, the bomber enters a new chapter as a dynamic hero piece ready to evolve with the modern metropolitan.

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Man in black bomber jacket and shirt on gold background

Featured image: L’Estrange London