Many menswear classics that we know and love today such as the field jacket and shell jacket have a history rooted in military designs of the past. Modernised, military inspired clothing is going to be big news for the up and coming spring/summer season and the MA1 bomber jacket is set to be one of this year’s biggest trends.
The bomber jacket is our number one investment piece this season however it is much more than that – it is a jacket that was designed to provide the U.S Air Force with comfort and warmth in the skies as they served their countries, as well as being a garment that has stood the test of time in fashion and youth culture since the 1950’s. For this reason we’d like to do it justice and take a look back at its military roots and its rise in to becoming a modern-day must-have.
The MA1 was originally an American military jacket designed for the Air Force. It was first developed in the 1950’s as an updated version of its predecessors – the A-2 and B-15 bomber jackets, created with the pilot’s performance, safety and comfort in mind. The main purposes of it’s design were to keep pilot’s warm in high-altitude, cold weather whilst also being streamlined enough to keep out of the way of plane operation equipment – making time spent in cramped cockpits more comfortable for pilots. Early models of the MA1 had multiple functional details including a tab where pilots could clip their oxygen masks when not in use, loops that held wires running from the radio to the pilot’s helmet, as well as a pen pocket and diagonal slash pockets on the sleeve. One of the smartest features of the MA1 was the orange inner-lining that you still see in modern designs today; the thinking behind this was that pilots could reverse their jackets in the event of a crash to make themselves more visible to rescue personnel. The orange lining is probably one of the most desirable features for purely visual reasons today, to those looking to buy a jacket with an authentic look – perhaps it’s original purpose could come in handy for that mate who always seems to go missing after 1 too many pints (if you can’t think of who that is in your friendship group, it’s probably you!).
So how has a jacket designed so specifically for military use, with functional features that are for most, pretty useless in everyday life, become a menswear classic that we’ll probably never see the back of? As with most re-occurring trends in fashion, we can hold a handful of 20th century youth subcultures responsible including the Mod’s and Skinheads. It just so happens that manufacturers of the MA1 began to make a shift from exclusive military contracts to producing the jacket for civilian use in the late 1960’s – a time when a variety of youth subcultures were on the rise throughout Europe and the U.S. The subculture that most favoured the MA1 and who, if anyone, put it on the fashion map was the skinheads of the late 60’s – 70’s, who adopted the jacket as part of their strict, social uniform, paired with skinny denim jeans, tucked in t-shirts and Dr Martens boots. One of the original manufacturers of the MA1 that made this shift was Alpha Industries – now a brand in its own right. Today, the brand still produces bomber jackets that are military spec replicas, so if you’re looking for a bomber jacket with an authentic look then we highly recommend checking out what these guys have to offer.
With counter culture (mod, skinhead, punk, etc…) as well as military designs both being consistent inspirations for high-end menswear designers, it is no surprise that we have seen the bomber jacket come down the catwalk time and time again. With some designers putting their own twist on the original MA1, and others preferring to stay true to the classic design. This season is certainly no exception with the MA1 bomber jacket enjoying yet another spell in the spotlight.
Whether you’re after a replica or a clean, updated version of the MA1 bomber jacket we’ve got you covered. Shop our range of bomber jackets here.