The style history of the bomber jacket

If there’s one trend item that makes every autumn feel like groundhog day, it’s this one. H&M Magazine gives you a brief history lesson on the bomber.

The first bomber jacket was designed in 1917 and had a strictly functional purpose: to keep fighter pilots warm and flexible while operating open cockpit aircrafts. The bomber, also known as the flight jacket, was made for military men. But that was then. 

Through its existence the jacket has evolved in design and function, and has catered to different groups of both working professionals and members of various subcultures. The original styles were made in sheepskin or leather and don’t really correspond with the expectation of what a bomber jacket is in our time. The source of the style we consider classic is the MA-1 – a reversible jacket with a green shell and orange lining, roomy sleeves, cuffs and waistband. It was developed in the mid 1950s to meet that time’s new military demands on comfort and safety. The main producer, Alpha Industries, realised its potential and began mass production. This is when the jacket won popularity on the civilian market and became a part of youth culture in America and Europe. 

In the 60s and 70s, Hollywood embraced the bomber jacket fully and helped make it a so-called It-item. Famous examples are James Dean’s red cotton style in Rebel Without A Cause (1955), Steve McQueen’s leather model in The Great Escape (1963) and Robert De Niro’s olive drab one in Taxi Driver (1975). 

The step from 1970s Hollywood stars to the British working class wasn’t long. When the controversial skinhead subculture emerged, the bomber jacket was as essential for their style as their Doctor Martens boots and stonewashed jeans. But they weren’t allowed to have it for themselves: influential fashion magazines began noticing the item, hip hoppers bought them to enhance their baggy silhouettes, and all of a sudden the item was everywhere. 

Today, the bomber jacket is an essential piece in most people’s wardrobes, a streetwear staple and high-fashion darling. One thing that we can always count on when autumn arrives is the surge in bomber jackets. As a favour, we’ve selected the best ones for sale at H&M right now – check them out below. 

The bomber jacket is modelled by Danish beauty Camilla Christensen (Le Management). Lok Lau (CLM) did her hair, and Nina Belkhir (Mikas Looks) worked her makeup magic.