Popular since their WW1 beginnings, bomber jackets are a classic, statement piece that suits a range of styles. To help you understand how your bomber should look, we go over the best ways to make sure yours fits perfectly.
With roots in the military (created for WWI bombing pilots, hence the name) and the masculine shape, plus its historically stylish and practical features — chiefly comfort, warmth, and ease of movement — the bomber jacket is a traditional all-year round essential in menswear.
Widely considered the jacket of the season, the bomber comes in a wide variety of versatile textures and styling options, easily suiting all tastes and seasonal conditions, from lightweight waxed cotton for spring/summer to exceptionally warm, fully lined leather or suede classics, that can handle the harshest winters thrown their way.
However despite all its advances and easy styling options, getting the fit of a bomber jacket right can be tricky, especially with its unconventional shape. In this handy guide, we’ll cover the best way to pull off this staple piece and show you exactly how it should fit depending on the type and look you’re going for.
Overall Fit of Bomber Jacket
The fit of any piece of outerwear, bomber included, is really important, as it’s the piece that can make or break an outfit. Needing enough space to layer over a range of outfits, while being close enough keep you warm and, well, not look like a sack – a bomber’s fit is just as important as any other piece of clothing. Whether you’re going for a classic bomber jacket shape or a longline design, it’s important that you’re working with a jacket that looks its best and complements your body type.
It’s universally agreed that the most crucial aspect to a perfectly fitted jacket lies first and foremost in the shoulders. If they don’t naturally fit then the jacket is a loss, as even if you’re going for an oversized style, baggy shoulders is never a good look. In this case, the fit is the same as any other jacket and it’s important that it carefully frames your shoulders, giving you a smooth, clean look. To double check that your jacket is perfectly fitted around your shoulders, make sure you’re following these two basic rules.
- The seam connecting your torso to your sleeves should run across the top of your shoulder. Any further down and your jacket is too big. Any shorter and you’re probably having trouble moving your arms.
- There shouldn’t be any creasing around your shoulder blades when your arms are by your side, as this is clear proof that your jacket is too tight around your frame.
Bomber jackets tend to be a little less streamlined than conventional jackets, with the traditional, durable style focusing on a more statement, padded look. However this ‘bulkier’ look is generally created by the materials used, with the leather outing and inner lining causing a heavier finish, and on the whole, you want to go for a fairly fitted look so you don’t run the risk of looking swamped. Because of the naturally cropped design of the jacket, you want to create a flattering V-shape when you have it zipped up, with the padded edge fitting closely around your torso.
The easiest way to tell if your jacket fits properly in the waist is to try it on and see how much excess material hangs on each side and underneath your arms. Anything sticking out more than one or two inches on either side should be considered as being too bulky so you should opt for a smaller size instead.
Chest wise, it should fit comfortably slim, with little to no added weight. You want something that will be form fitting whether zipped up or left open. Length wise, unless you’re going for a modern long line design your bomber jacket should land on the top of your trousers, or just above, in order to elongate the appearance of both your torso and legs in a subtle way.
One of the distinctive features of a flight jacket is the knitted collar that frames the neck, contrasting to the chunkier look of the jacket itself. Originally added in to protect the wearer from the high altitude winds, it’s now a distinctive part of the look, so it’s important that it fits correctly.
The collar generally extends up a little, giving a clean, streamlined look that encompasses the neck. Don’t go for a design that goes too high up the neck as you want to gain a flattering, complementary look, but not get a roll neck finish. Some bombers use the collar area to add in different styles, so this could be a main feature on the jacket.
If you’re going for a more striking, padded design made from a thick material and an inner lining, your sleeves are generally going to be a little bulkier to match with the rest of the jacket. However, if you’re going for a more slimmer fitting nylon design it’s important to make sure your sleeves are fitted and have the right amount of stretch.
Bomber jacket sleeves have a unique design, with each one ending in a knitted cuff that fits snugly around your wrist. Each sleeve should end on or just above your wrist bone, with conventional designs showing a clean contrast in size between the main part of the sleeves and the cuff. You may feel like the sleeves are bulky but on the outside, this is the aesthetic you should be going for.
Bomber Jacket Outfits
Once you have the right idea of how your jacket should fit, you’ve now got to find a way to style it to suit you best. There are so many ways to incorporate a bomber jacket into your wardrobe, with everything from formal to casual outfits benefitting from the striking piece. To get a smart, sleek look, opt for a classic black bomber jacket, and pair it with versatile, streamlined pieces to keep things simple and with a formal twist.
You can go for a range of materials, but if you want to go for a classic, subtle finish, try out a suede bomber jacket to keep things rooted informality. A white oxford shirt is always an easy piece to style, and depending on the weather you can either leave it or layer a simple black sweatshirt over the top (making sure to leave your shirt collar tucked in for the cooler look). Then just keep the rest tidy with a pair of black chinos or trousers and minimal accessories.
For a more casual look, try out a leather bomber jacket, with the high shine material creating a more intense, visible finish that instantly gives your outfit a more laid back feel. Because of this style jacket, you can easily go for a smart casual look with a classic shirt and jeans combination without looking too overdressed.
Grey or green is a versatile colour that gives a less formal finish, so consider it when you’re picking a shirt for a casual outfit. If you’re not feeling a shirt or think it may look too smart, a T-shirt or roll neck will work just as well. The green bomber style is of course a classic, so it has a very casual presence. You can easily mix it with a pair of slim fit black jeans, then finish off with some black and white trainers, giving you a put together yet relaxed outfit.
History of the Bomber Jacket
Like we mentioned before, the bomber jacket originated in the First World War, but there’s more to this staple piece than simple military wear, and it went on a gradual transformation to gain its iconic features. When the first pilots began their skyward journeys, many of the cockpits lacked an enclosed space, meaning cold winds went straight through the drivers.
To counter this, many pilots began wearing long leather jackets, combatting the cold but decreasing the ease of movement. It didn’t take long before the American government created an Aviation Clothing Board when they joined the war efforts, helping with the development of the jackets and leading to the next evolution the bomber jacket. This design featured a wrap around collar to protect the neck and the introduction of cuffed sleeves.
Due to the success of the design, after the war parachute manufacturer, Leslie Irvin, decided to expand his business and created the first sheepskin lined bomber jacket. The design was an instant hit, and to keep up with demands, Irvin hired out separate subtractors to produce more designs, leading to different variations and a growing worldwide interest in the jacket.
When the Second World War came around the practical need for bomber jackets returned, and it became standard wear for every Air Force pilot and crew member. Customisation became popular with pilots, often adding their squadron or more complex artwork to the back of their jackets, not only helping them stand out but creating more of an identity with their work.
Often pilots would record how many flights they’d been part of by adding designs to their jackets, showing off their skill and bravery. The bomber jacket became more iconic with the long reign of the Second World War, and with so many movies made about the war, it became a mainstream part of culture, moving in and out of fashion ever since.
How a Bomber Jacket Should Fit
- Your bomber jacket should fit closely against your shoulders but give you enough space to move your arms freely.
- The collar should extend a little way up your neck to create a clean frame.
- Go for a fairly fitted look so you don’t run the risk of looking swamped.
- The jacket should land on the top of your trousers to elongate you torso and legs.
- The sleeves should have a knitted cuff that finishes at your wrist.
On That Note
So there are various ways you can dress up a bomber jacket, making them one of the more versatile jackets on the market. It’s a good idea to brush up on exactly how one should fit though, ensuring you don’t go overboard with the bulky look, or get one that’s squashing your insides. Whether you’re dressing for a casual day out, or a more formal event, a bomber jacket can be incorporated into a range of looks, and suit a variety of styles.