Bombs Away

Text by Daniel Kam

Photos by Nydia Hartono 

After getting a Kanye West seal of approval, bomber jackets have become a staple in streetwear and are now working their way onto the runway. Menswear season continues and designers from across the world are releasing their own takes on the classic jacket. Many collections featured bombers with a simple nontraditional color variant while some were more out there like Calvin Klein's silver reflective bomber. Each brand uses their own combination of colors, textures, and sporadic zipper placements to be unique but the classic design is always there. The iconic look with fitted cuffs, orange interior, and fitted neckline has remained the same since the jacket was first introduced by the American military during the mid 1950s. Officially known as the MA-1, the jacket was originally designed to provide fighter pilots better protection as their planes became more powerful. 

The United States wanted the best for their pilots so each design choice on the jackets served a specific purpose to provide them with the best safety. The fitted neck was designed so parachutes could properly deployed. Previous jackets featured the equally iconic fur collar which would get in the way of the parachute harness and cause failure in emergencies. If a pilot were to crash, the bright orange interior of the jacket can be used to help them get spotted by search and rescue. The traditional color of the jackets depended on the period a soldier was wearing them. Early on many pilots wore a “midnight blue” color MA-1 but for the Korean and Vietnam War the color was changed to “sage green” to help better camouflage soldiers.

Quickly after the Vietnam War the jacket was no longer be used by the military but it quickly found a home in many subcultures. Like many of us, the jacket went into an angsty phase during its teen years and became a part of punk movements across the world.  From the 1960 onwards, bomber jackets, military boots, and cargo pants became the go-to outfit of punks and skinheads alike. As time went on the jacket stayed a favorite in the countercultural communities and could be found on many rap star in the ‘90s through the early 2000s. 

Kanye West was not the first person to bring bombers to runway attention, the jacket first started making appearances in collections around 2013 and is one of many designs menswear has inherited from the military. A large portion of menswear staples can be traced back to military designs and while some designs changed, the bomber has always stayed consistent as it continues to provide the same comfort, warmth, and style that it has since the ‘50s.