The Ultimate Guide to the Men's Aviator Jacket

The Ultimate Guide to the Men's Aviator Jacket

The aviator jacket is an absolute must-have for autumn and winter. So here at The Idle Man, we have decided to create a guide on buying, owning and wearing this absolute classic. We love it and so will you.

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Do you need something that'll inject a dose of proper manliness into your wardrobe? Are you sick of the same old jacket styles season after season? You’ve done the parka, the Harrington and the bomber jacket and you’re out of ideas. Well, we here at The Idle Man we have just the guide for you and it involves a classic favourite of ours; the men's aviator jacket.

The aviator jacket, also known as the pilot jacket or flight jacket is absolutely timeless and is anything but your standard men’s leather jacket. And although you might be thinking the last man to be seen effortlessly rocking an Aviator jacket was a young Leonardo DiCaprio in the appropriately named Hollywood classic The Aviator, at least you know you're in good company. But you don’t need to own an aeroplane or even a pilot’s license to look good in this wardrobe essential.

So sit back and let us tell you everything you'll ever need to know about the modern aviator jacket. Where you should buy it, the different fabrics and styles available, the most favourable clothes, footwear, accessories and colours to rock alongside the aviator jacket. As well as a giving you a host of tips, this guide will you have you looking less like a world war one fighter pilot and more like the quintessentially stylish, manly man you envisaged.

How Does it Differ from the Bomber Jacket?

As any fashion conscious man will know, the bomber jacket is the absolute must buy for this season; we’ve seen everyone from Johnny Depp to Kanye West rocking them, but maybe what you didn’t know is that the design of the bomber jacket or MA-1 jacket comes straight from the men’s leather aviator jacket. Even though we've seen the bomber jacket and the aviator jacket professed as the same thing, we like to view the aviator jacket as the cooler, older brother of the much-touted bomber style coat.

Many top designers have chosen to incorporate aspects of both jackets into their designs, taking the thick leather feel and military style of the aviator jacket and merging it with the trim and tailored aspects of the bomber. Needless to say, jackets of this kind from the likes of Burberry, Rick Owens and Tom Ford will set you back a significant amount. But not to worry, we’ll show you the best ways to replicate the designer style without having to break the bank. And if you are looking to break the bank, then we'll also show you the top of the range aviator jackets that you can buy today. I mean, who wouldn’t want to own an aviator jacket? It really is a proper winter jacket for any man.

mens alpha industries bomber jacket
An Alpha Industries jacket
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

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What is an Aviator Jacket?

To give you a bit of background, the aviator jacket comes from the days in which people used to fly planes without sides or roofs. At such high altitudes, the pilots needed something that would keep them insulated against adverse weather conditions. Even back then, Aviator jackets were the epitome of cool, although these days the designs have lost some of the bulkiness that was once needed to stop the pilots from freezing. Despite this, today’s aviator jackets have kept true to their nature and still provide a practical purpose - another aspect that makes us at The Idle Man big fans.

The Aviator Leather Jacket

Now this is what we're talking about. It’s the fast lane to perfecting a look that many the endeavouring male fashion victim has pined for his whole life. It effortlessly allows you to channel your inner maverick while maintaining an unmistakably timeless look - it really is a perfect addition to your wardrobe. Everyone loves a leather jacket, whether your Indiana Jones fighting off snakes, the leader of a motorcycle gang or the front man of a world famous rock 'n roll band headlining Wembley Stadium, it's a go to piece. So why not take your aviator look a step further with a leather aviator jacket.

What to Wear it With?

We’d recommend wearing the leather aviator over the top of something that perfectly complements it. A chunky knitted jumper or a slim fitted T-shirt will work well. And for the bottom half, aviator jackets work best with dark trousers. You want it to be the centrepiece of the outfit and pale or loud colours will draw away from the jackets rugged resplendence. We’d recommend jeans or navy coloured chinos.

As for the shoes, you can be a bit more liberal. If you want to keep the military theme you can opt for a pair of boots, particularly leather boots or even brogues for maximum outfit coordination. Try to avoid anything that looks overly sporty as it'll counteract the smartness and coolness of the the jacket and give off the wrong vibe.

The Fit of the Jacket

As with all leather jackets or any men’s jacket, the fit is arguably the most important aspect of getting the look right. Too big and you risk looking like a kid in an oversized blazer, get a jacket that's too small and you might look like you’ve borrowed it off your little brother. A smaller jacket can also lead to rips in very obvious places - something you’ll want to avoid especially if you’re spending top dollar. Whether it's slim or baggy, the jacket should end at your waist, with the sleeves ending perfectly at the wrist. A good leather jacket should feel like a second skin, so if you’re struggling to lift your arm above your shoulder, you might want to try the size up.

aviator-jacket-brown-leather-street-style-bomber
An aviator and bomber both have military similarities
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

The aviator jacket is perfect for men of a slimmer build. As the original jackets worn by pilots back in the 1920s and 1930s had elasticated waists and cuffs to make sure that air was unable to get inside the jacket the jacket can be fairly fitted. A classic leather aviator jacket will come with an elasticated waistband meaning this is the feature that can help to accentuate the broadness of your shoulders, generally making you look as if you’re fresh out of the gym. Alternatively, if you’re a bigger bloke you might want to consider an aviator jacket without an elasticated waist as it could make you appear more rounded.

Choosing the Colour of the Leather

For us, it's pretty simple. Black or brown always catches our attention. A black leather aviator jacket will provide an edgy feel to the outfit you pair the jacket with. Think Alex Turner or a young Marlon Brando. And a brown aviator jacket will be a little less intense due to the softer tone, but will still maintain that the edgy vintage image in more of a subtle way. So depending on how much of a statement you want to make, choosing between a black aviator and a brown aviator will be one of the hardest tasks to do, and if in doubt, why not get one of each!

The Types of Leather

This is the part where you’ll really want to pay attention, especially when choosing a leather aviator jacket that will last. The material is another important factor and can give a lot away regarding price and quality, so it's always good to know what you want.

  • A full grain leather jacket uses a type of leather which hasn't been altered and is in effect the natural skin of an animal, using both sides of the hide. Full grain leather can bear the scars from the life of the animal it has been taken from which over time will make your purchase a wonderfully unique choice. Full-grain is, however, a lot thicker and stiffer, so you should take that into consideration. This can be one of the most pricey options.
  • Top grain leather is another higher end option. The leather is split from the bottom layers or corium (this is actually what suede is made out of) and the top smoothed off leaving a much softer finish. Despite this, the leather remains durable with a more flexible feel and this is one of the reasons most men’s leather jackets available today are made this way.
  • You’ll want to steer clear of artificial leather. Although it may look like the real deal, we can assure you that it is far from it and will have a much shorter lifespan than a genuine leather aviator jacket.

Above all, after you’ve gone out and bought yourself a leather aviator jacket, be sure to take care of the leather, by conditioning it and making sure it doesn’t dry out and crack. As a well looked after leather jacket can last a lifetime.

mens-brown-sheerling-jacket
A shearling aviator jacket needs to be of the best quality
PHOTO CREDIT: Pinterest

The Shearling Aviator Jacket

Just a heads up to those of a thrifty nature - this may be slightly out of your budget. However, if you’re truly looking to invest in something that will last a really long time, the shearling aviator jacket might be something to consider. Shearling can be really expensive… I mean taking out a mortgage on your house kind of expensive, and this is owed to the difficulty required to produce it. Shearling jackets are made by removing a whole piece of lambskin and the wool attached to it. The skin is then tanned giving the outside its distinctive weather-beaten look and the inside warm enough to go hiking across the North Pole in. We’d recommend not purchasing anything but the real deal, because quite frankly nothing compares, so have a shop around for a vintage aviator jacket that's made to last.

The Nylon Aviator Jacket

If leather or shearling isn't really your thing, then a nylon aviator jacket could be the ticket to pulling off this look. This style of men’s jacket remains true to its origins with the same classic military style, but with more of a lightweight feel. Many nylon aviator jackets will come with a fur lining and this, whether real or fake, will provide you with a perfect winter jacket. The colours are usually brighter when it comes to nylon aviators, for instance a green or khaki colour will stand out and give you that classic military look.

If you're unsure about what to wear with the nylon jacket, throw it on over the top of some dark jeans, a jumper and simple crew neck T-shirt for maximum effect. The look should stay casual and classic so overdoing it with too many colours will ruin the overall vibe.

How to Wear an Aviator Jacket

  • Choose a fabric that's stylish and intended for what you need. You want one that will suit both you and the rest of your wardrobe.
  • Shop around, and invest in a quality vintage jacket that will last you more than one season. Don't simply opt for the first one you see.
  • Get the fit right - the jacket should come no lower than your waist and should feel like a second skin. You also need to make sure you have room for your layers underneath.
  • Now you're ready to style out your aviator jacket. Hold yourself like a fighter pilot or film star and enjoy this classic piece.

fighter pilot shearling aviator jacket for men
The original Aviator jackets
PHOTO CREDIT: Wings and Horns

On That Note

So there you go. Pick up one of these bad boys and you can follow in the footsteps of rock stars, gangsters, celebrities and world war one fighter pilots who have all donned the aviator before you. That’s a pretty elite group if you ask us. With such an amazing history it's hard to argue that the aviator jacket will ever become unfashionable. Certainly, with the numerous remakes it has undergone over the years, this is definitely an item that you’ll want to be a part of your wardrobe. So go ahead and check out some of the best bomber jackets in store right now, getting yourself a men’s winter jacket that will last a lifetime.

Author: Sam Gruet

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