In this leather bomber jacket buying guide, we will take you through the history of bomber jackets and how they got their name, as well as covering both where to buy them and how to wear this iconic wardrobe staple.
What are leather bomber jackets?
A traditional bomber jacket – also known as a leather flying jacket – sits at waist length and has a ribbed waistband. Usually, the cuffs of the jacket are also ribbed. The style is completed with a zipper at the front and four functional pockets at the top and sides. The most popular bomber jackets we are familiar with today are made from leather, but can also be made from polyester, nylon, and cotton.
A classic leather flying jacket had large wrap around collars that provided extra protection for the neck and ears, but newer variations of the jacket don’t always feature this addition.
Why are they called bomber / flying jackets?
Developed by Dobbs Industries strictly for the U.S. Air Force and Navy fighter pilots in the first world war, the flight jacket, as it was originally named, met the functional needs of a warm, durable and weather-resistant jacket for pilots.
In the early days of flight, open cockpits made for cold and windy conditions, and pilots needed to be protected from the elements. This is why the tight closures around the waist, wrist, and neck, and a tough, weather-resistant exterior was necessary.
During World War II a revised version of the original flying jacket was introduced that mirrored the improvements of aircrafts at the time, which were now able to fly at greater altitudes. This created the need for warmer clothing and thus made way for the sheepskin flying jacket.
The name “bomber jacket” can therefore be attributed to the military pilots of this time that were operating aircrafts such as bomber planes.
Over the years, many different variations and models of the leather flying jacket were created. Typically, in the USA, “B” jackets used sheepskin, and “A” model jackets were leather which was lined with wool, cotton, or silk.
1927 – 1931
|A2||1931 – 1943|
|G1||1938 – present|
|B3||1934 – 1943|
|B6||1939 – 1943|
|B7||1941 – 1942|
|B10||1943 – 1944|
|B15||1944 – 1954|
|MA1||1958 – present|
|MA2 or CWU 45||1980s – present|
Why are leather bomber jackets so popular?
Bomber jackets crossed the line from military attire to public attire around the 1960s. Since then, a myriad of brands including Burberry, Barbour and Paul Smith have adopted the leather flying jacket and continue to feature the style over and over again in their range of designer clothing, helping to position it as the popular piece of clothing it is today.
Another reason why this style of jacket is so popular is that it is flattering on everyone. With the ribbed waistband, cinching your waist in, yet keeping a broad shoulder, the silhouette it creates is desirable on all body types.
Finally, the bomber jacket is a perfect mid-season solution because it’s not as heavy as a coat, yet it can add a layer of warmth to your outfit if the weather is not quite warm enough outside – rendering this piece of outerwear extremely practical.
Much like the leather coat and the leather biker jacket, the bomber jacket is an iconic and classic wardrobe staple that never goes out of fashion, making it one of the staple leather jacket styles for men.
How to wear your leather flying jacket
Leather flying jackets really can be worn with near enough anything. From jeans and chinos to boots and canvas shoes – they are versatile enough to dress up or dress down, depending on where you’re going.
Cotton Bomber Jackets
Cotton is the more lightweight and casual version of the jacket and is perfect for in-between seasons. Team a cotton bomber jacket with a grandad collar shirt and desert boots to achieve a smart yet casual look that will make you look the part when going out for dinners and drinks.
Nylon Bomber Jackets
Nylon jackets can take on a more shiny appearance than the other typical styles. Try layering the nylon jacket with a lightweight knitted crew neck jumper in a colour that complements the jacket. Finish with straight leg jeans and a canvas shoe for a simple yet effective outfit.
Polyester Bomber Jackets
Polyester is one of the most common types of bomber jacket you can find on the market and this style is available in a variety of colours.
The lightweight and waterproof properties of a polyester jacket makes them a good choice for layering your outfit whether it’s warm or cold. Choose a navy blue jacket and team this with a smart polo shirt and canvas shoes.
Leather Bomber Jackets
The leather bomber jacket is the most timeless and authentic option. Brown leather will provide you the most versatility, but black also looks classic and smart. Leather flying jackets provide great protection from the elements and can be paired with any casual staples, so this type of jacket is best worn when the weather is slightly colder.
Try a brown leather bomber with chinos and a white button-up shirt for a classic look that is suitable and slick in any situation.
For a more unique and contemporary look, try a burgundy leather jacket with straight cut jeans and a white shirt. Adding a slight pop of colour to your outfit is a great way to create a more modern style.
Tips and tricks when wearing a bomber jacket:
- A bomber looks great with casual pieces such as knitted lightweight jumpers and checked shirts
- For a modern fit, choose a jacket that is cut closer to your torso, with less room in the sleeves, however, keep in mind that the shoulders of the jacket should not feel too tight
- Be mindful that the cuffed wrists should not cause the sleeves to bunch too much and the bottom of the jacket should end at your natural waistline for a flattering silhouette
- Don’t buy the jacket oversized or undersized – you should be able to zip it up over a light layer of base clothing
- For a classic look, don’t let your shirt hang much more than an inch below your bomber jacket. Either tuck in your shirt if it is too long or wear a shirt that is around the same length as the jacket.
The smart wardrobe item that helps tie together so many outfits yet always looks effortless and smart, the bomber jacket is guaranteed to be an item that you reach for time and time again.
Iconic bomber jacket styles
Cinema and television are drenched in bomber jackets, and it has been this way for many decades, which only emphasises the fact that this style never goes out of fashion. Notably, James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) – who sports the iconic red blouson variation, Steve McQueen in The Great Escape (1963), Jack Nicholson in The Shining (1980) and Ryan Gosling in Drive (2011).
The bomber jacket has held its place in both men and women’s fashion and popular culture for decades and shows no sign of disappearing just yet.