The 10 Best Men's Bomber Jackets
This wiki has been updated 22 times since it was first published in October of 2016. Modeled after the most famous flight outer garment in US military history — and brought into the mainstream by various punk subcultures — modern bomber jackets run the gamut from lightweight and flashy to nearly tundra-ready. Made from a wide range of synthetic and natural materials, one of these high-quality coats will keep you warm and dry, and will look great while doing so. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki. Skip to the best men's bomber jacket on Amazon.
Top Gun Style
For most people, however, especially growing up in the late 1980s, airshows are likely not the first place they saw a great bomber jacket.
When my father was growing up, he wanted nothing more than to be a pilot. When the Vietnam War rolled around, he signed up, hoping to finally get a chance to fly. Unfortunately, colorblindness put a hard stop to those dreams, and instead he ended up a mole, his 5-foot 6-inch frame just small enough to navigate enemy tunnel systems. From a dream of soaring through the clouds to a nightmare spent crawling underground with a pistol and a flashlight; that was my father’s journey.
When I was a kid, he instilled in me the fascination, the love and passion he had for planes, and for flying. From an early age I attended an air show in Sussex, New Jersey with him every summer, marveling at the stunt flyers, sucking down grainy homemade lemonade, and sinking into the deep mud of all that farmland. It was my favorite day of the year, and it was the place where I saw my first bomber jacket.
Unparalleled in coolness and covered in mysterious patches, the bomber jackets worn by so many members of the audience at the air show, and of course by pilots, were my most coveted material good. I even had a little stuffed bear with a pilot’s cap, flying goggles, and a killer bomber jacket. I couldn’t have been more than six.
For most people, however, especially growing up in the late 1980s, airshows are likely not the first place they saw a great bomber jacket. That honor goes to the classic 1986 action film Top Gun, and we all owe costume designer Wingate Jones a debt of gratitude for bringing us the particular jacket worn by Tom Cruise in the film. That jacket set the standard for what a bomber jacket should be, and it still sells surprisingly well as a Halloween costume.
Today, bomber jackets come in a wider variety of shapes, sizes, and materials than the wool-lined leather models designed for pilots, but the heart of any bomber jacket still beats with a certain spirit of freedom. It’s a combination of all man’s aspirations to flight, finally realized just last century, and brought to the pinnacle of style on the cockpit of an F-14 Tomcat.
A Brief History Of The Bomber Jacket
While my adoration of the bomber jacket might give you the impression that the garment has only truly been around since it was donned by a certain Scientologist, its history reaches back a lot farther than that.
These straps also created what has become an iconic silhouette associated with the bomber jacket, with its bottom hem and wrists held tight against the body.
Also known as a flight jacket, the bomber jacket was designed for pilots in the First World War. The planes in those days had cockpits that exposed their pilots to the elements, and since it gets significantly colder as you get higher in altitude, it was vital that pilots had something sufficient to keep them warm. These pilots, and sometimes their passengers in a second seat (depending on the plane) were responsible for manually dropping bombs on intended targets, which helped give the name bomber jacket to this iconic coat.
Models produced during the Second World War included straps around the waist and the wrists. These helped to keep wind and cold from making their way inside the jacket and stealing body heat away from pilots. These straps also created what has become an iconic silhouette associated with the bomber jacket, with its bottom hem and wrists held tight against the body. Models manufactured later in the century would utilize elastics in place of leather straps to achieve this function.
Nylon became a popular material in bomber jacket production in the Korean and Vietnam war periods, and the terrain in those countries encouraged manufacturers to make them in a green shade that would make for reliable camouflage. Throughout the 1960s, and particularly in the late 1970s, punk and skinhead subcultures took to the bomber jacket as a kind of ironic, anti-establishment fashion statement. It remained a item on the fringes until the mid-1980s, when Top Gun popularized more old-fashioned leather versions of the jacket.
Nowadays, the term bomber jacket encompasses almost any type of jacket with elastic waist and wrist cuffs. For may customers, however, authenticity is an important factor in their decision making process, along with a few other key variables discussed below.
What To Look For In A Bomber Jacket
Choosing a bomber jacket for yourself is going to have a lot to do with your personal taste, and certain models are going to catch your eye more readily than others. Understanding what each jacket offers and the actual functions for some of the features that might appeal to you could help make your decision that much easier.
Conversely, if you’re shopping for a winter coat, and you want it to be a bomber jacket, a lightweight nylon option is probably too thin of a choice.
Material is likely the most important place to start, and it’s vital that you take your climate into account here. Even if you love the look of a leather bomber jacket with a classic wool lining, you won’t get much use out of it if you live in Los Angeles. Conversely, if you’re shopping for a winter coat, and you want it to be a bomber jacket, a lightweight nylon option is probably too thin of a choice. Of course, you can always get more than one jacket, so you’ll be prepared for every season.
Also, take a look on the left upper arm of the jacket. Is there a pocket there? If so, does its zipper have a kind of ribbon attached to it? This is a rare little element of authenticity, as pilots would keep important mission items, often including a small pad and pencil, in this pocket. If one or more of your instruments failed you, writing implements made it much easier to calculate your fuel reserves and flight distances. Tom Hardy’s character in Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk did this to great effect with a piece of chalk. The ribbon makes it easy for pilots to open the pocket without fumbling around for the zipper with gloves on.
Other, admittedly more minor considerations include available colors, additional pocket space, and comfort. If you keep each of these things in mind as you evaluate the great options on our list, you’re sure to find a bomber jacket that will last you for years to come.
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