The Bomber Jacket - A Short History

The bomber jacket—or MA-1 if we're being technical—has a longstanding history that stretches from the middle of the 20th Century into today. Starting as a jacket that was best suited for chilly, cramped cockpits, the jacket has become  into an outerwear staple that's seen high fashion reinterpretations for the modern man & woman.

The first incarnation of the bomber as we know it seems to be the MA-1 which began to be issued to U.S military at the end of the 1950s. Made of sage-green or blue nylon, a later incarnation could be worn inside out so that the ‘blaze orange’ or ‘international orange’ lining could alert rescue missions to stranded pilots. 

In 1977 Alpha launched the CWU-36/P for summer and the CWU-45/P for winter which are still in use. Made of ‘Nomex’ the jackets have a turn-down collar rather than the knit standing collar of the MA-1,

When MA-1 manufacturers began shifting from exclusive military contracts to civilian production in the late '60s through the early '80s, a variety of subcultures rose up throughout Europe, the U.S., and Japan.

English punks and skinheads would wear the bomber jacket over tucked in T-shirts, cuffed skinny denim, Doc Martens shoes, and other military-inspired gear like M-65 jackets and M-51 fishtail parkas.

In Japan, as the cry for Americana in the '60s was it's own counterculture movement, there was an increased interest for American clothing imports in the men's clothing market. Japanese guys adopted both the MA-1 and the earlier B-15 as outerwear in the '60s and '70s, wearing it in a much more traditional way, styling it like servicemen in the late '50s or early '60s.

Today's bomber, depending on where you buy it, will either be a very close reproduction of the classic, or tailored towards modern tastes. 

The bomber jacket has also provided countless inspiration to high fashion menswear designers, who consistently revisit and reinterpret the silhouette. Whether you're talking about the now classic Raf Simons oversized "Pyramid" bomber from his Spring/Summer 2000 SUMMA CUM LAUDE collection; Helmut Lang's iconic "bondage" bombers from 2004;  elongated bombers from street goth favorites Rick Owens and Fear of God; or floral printed versions from Balenciaga and Dries Van Noten, bomber jackets are now runway veterans.

There's a reason why the Bomber Jacket has continued to influence culture and fashion for the best part of a century. You cannot replicate the comfort and practicality of a MA-1 or MA-2. For that reason we salute you, the bomber jacket!

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