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ICONIC: The Bomber Jacket

ICONIC: The Bomber Jacket

Iconic: The Bomber Jacket

Cropped, big shoulders and loose sleeves. These days, the iconic and all-American bomber jacket can easily be the staple that pulls together a styled yet carefree look. Filled with a rich history, it is no wonder why everyone from RiRi to the fierce woman on my morning commute is embracing it. Exploring the iconic development of any trend can be the key to understanding how to work it into your everyday life.

Due to its roots, this jacket has carried with it the strong vibes of the whiskey drinking, alpha males in black and white films a la Humphrey Bogart. In 1955, however, James Dean would truly shine the spotlight of young, mainstream america onto it when he sported the now iconic red bomber jacket in Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause.

The trend would later transcend an ocean to influence the fashions of the Dr. Martens-wearing, pre-political and pre-racial skinhead subculture originating from the working class of 1960s London. Of course, in the 1970s, the skinhead culture would influence the punk rock style in downtown New York. Being the brewing pot of culture that New York City was, it would only be a matter of time before the rock of downtown manhattan and the hip-hop of the South Bronx began to influence each other to create such culture moments as Blondie’s MTV hit Rapture where Debbie Harry raps “Fab Five Freddie told me everybody’s fly/ DJ’s spinning I said my, my/ Flash is fast, Flash is cool.” in 1981, carrying the trend of bomber jackets into many cultural pockets through out the 1990s.

Even today’s stars, such as Pharrell and Janelle Monáe, have the US Army Aviation Clothing Board to thank for developing the origins of today’s bomber jacket back in 1917 when pilots operated unheated, open planes.

Tuskegee Airmen sporting traditional bomber jackets. blackarchives.org

Some of the most noticeable characteristics of this jacket remain true to the needs of early US pilots. Having to be seated while flying created the cropped, waist banded look and having to move around in a small cockpit meant that the jacket had to be roomy. Although sticking your cold hands in your pockets was frowned upon in the Army, the flat front pockets of flight jackets were designed specifically for that purpose. It’s gone through many changes (from the A-1, A-2 and B-15 to name a few) in order to accommodate the developments of flying, but the model that most of use have become familiar with is the MA-1 with it’s lighter feel and knitted collar. As fashion has moved forward, we now can shop for much more fitted versions in a variety of colors, patterns, and even cuts. Even the classic varsity jackets we’ve seen on our favorite celebs are versions of the bomber jacket.

It is now 2014 and the bomber jacket is as relevant as ever. This trend continues to evoke the same vibes as it always has: I’m calm, cool, collected and a force to be reckoned with.