History of the Bomber Jacket | RES IPSA - RES IPSA

History of the Bomber Jacket | RES IPSA

Vail, CO — Our Crochet Bomber Jacket with Shearling Collar from our Winter 2024 release is now available online. Each one-of-a-kind jacket is crocheted by hand in a co-op of local women we created in the outskirts of Marrakech, and then we piece together the final pattern at our atelier. The jacket is trimmed with a collar made from authentic shearling. 

Our Crochet Bomber Jacket with Shearling Collar is the newest among our crochet collection—one our most exciting and popular collections, exemplifying our slow-fashion process. 

Crochet Bomber Jacket with Shearling Collar

The bomber jacket, also known as a flight jacket, has its origins in military apparel. It was first introduced by the U.S. Army Aviation Clothing Board in 1917 to keep pilots warm in the uninsulated, open cockpits of World War I aircraft. In the latter half of the 20th century, the bomber jacket transitioned from military uniform to a symbol of counterculture, including within the LGBTQ+ community, who reclaimed the jacket as a symbol of freedom for all to wear proudly. By the 1980's, Hollywood stars like Tom Cruise cemented the bomber jacket’s mainstream status and has been a fashion staple ever since.

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Shop the Winter 2024 collection now available in stores and online. Read on for the full story of the bomber jacket.

History of the Bomber Jacket

Features & Functions

The bomber jacket silhouette was originally known as a ‘flight jacket’, and these jackets were created by the US Army Aviation Clothing Board in 1917 to keep WWI pilots warm in the uninsulated, open-air cockpits of the early fighter planes. Unlike modern cockpits, planes in the WWI-era did not have enclosed cockpits, and this exposed pilots to the freezing temperatures at high altitudes and breakneck speeds.

Following the leads of France and Belgium, the standard aviation leather jackets created by the US Army Aviation Clothing Board in 1917, and by 1932 featured several key features that functioned to protect pilots and crews against the unfavorable conditions:

  • Leather body (horsehide), 
  • High wraparound collars,
  • Cinched cuffs and waists,
  • Full-zipper closures protected by wind flaps,
  • Additional warmth with fur linings.

Over time, several variations of the bomber jacket fluctuated—not in the body silhouette—but with internal and external features. Many of these changes were based on developments, mobility, and increased altitude and functionality of the pilots and parachuters. In the 1940's and 50's, post the classic A-2 design (1932), the B-15 jacket featured a fur collar (similiar to our crochet bomber jacket with a shearling collar), more slanted (and practical) pockets, and leather straps to keep oxygen masks in place at higher altitudes. 

Later, the fur collar was replaced for a knit collar to avoid conflicting with the parachute harness. The shell of the jacket eventually switched from leather to cotton as jet technology demanded warmer and more light-weight fabrics. The jacket also began to feature a water resistant nylon body and a reversible orange lining to aid with visibility in potential crash situations. 

Function to Fashion

By the late 1950's through the 1980's, similar to popularity of 'sukajan' souvenir jackets, the style spread throughout the US, Japan, and Europe from military life to civilian life, as did anti-war movements and counterculture, and the jackets became more popularly worn and sought over by communities outside of military culture—both in civilian and celebrity life.

In The Great Escape, one of the first feature Hollywood films to immortalize the jacket, Steve McQueen wore a re-issue of the A-2 jacket. Note the forward-facing front pockets (not slanted), cinched-knit cuffs, and the absence of any fur collar or lining. 

At one point the jackets were adopted and worn by racist and homophobic communities in the 1960's, 70's, and 80's in London. The LGBTQ+ community in London responded by adopting and wearing the jackets to reclaim the style and renew its meaning towards freedom and away from hatred and bigotry. The jackets could then be worn peacefully and freely by all. As the jackets went from symbolizing hypermasculinity and towards movements of inclusivity and love, they found homes in many sub-cultures and other communities including in groups that promoted rock, hip-hop, grunge and more. 

Bomber jackets surged into mainstream popularity after being featured on the big screen in the 1980's. Most notably, Harrison Ford wore a bomber jacket in Indiana Jones and actor Tom Cruise wore a bomber jacket in Top Gun—cementing the style in the modern menswear wardrobe. 

Since the 1980's, many brands have recreated their own version/aesthetic of the bomber jacket all inspired using the original boxy silhouette. The timeless modern style bomber jacket has endured over 100+ years, and some originals are still around today due to their extreme durability. 

Crochet Bomber Jacket with Shearling Collar

Shop Crochet Bomber Jacket with Shearling Collar 


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