A Gentleman’s Guide: How To Wear A Bomber Jacket

In the latest edition of A Gentleman’s Guide, we check out the secrets to styling this season’s must-have zip-up:

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  • Photograph by Ms Valentina Frugiuele/Blaublut-Edition.com

Is it any surprise that the big winner in the latest annual Google Fashion Trends Report was the bomber jacket (searches up 297 per cent in the UK and 612 per cent in the US, year on year)? It’s not so much transcended its military roots as blown them right out of the water. Not only is it seen on the backs of such style arbiters as Messrs Kanye West and David Beckham; it’s also flattering, with its waist-minimising and shoulder-accentuating shape, and endlessly versatile, with embroidered (thanks Gucci), outsized (thanks Balenciaga), skewed-retro (thanks Lanvin), and beyond-preppy (thanks A.P.C.) variations. Scroll down for a blitzkrieg of bombers.

SUEDE

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  • Photograph by Ms Marie-Paola Bertrand-Hillion/Press Association

A tan-coloured suede bomber makes a softer, sophisticated alternative to the more prevalent styles. As this gentleman demonstrates, it not only adds welcome tonal contrast to a backdrop of navies and blacks, but it’s also a great piece for the transition between seasons, enabling you to bulk up with a sweater while preserving that essential air of crisp insouciance, even when you’re weighed down, as here, by an unfeasibly large backpack.

LEATHER

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  • Photograph by Mr Adam Katz Sinding/Trunk Archive

Ever since Mr Tom Cruise sported one as Lieutenant Pete “Maverick” Mitchell in the testosterone-heavy 1986 classic Top Gun, the leather bomber with its shearling collar has been, as the movie’s original tagline deathlessly had it, “up there with the best of the best”. Based on the G-1 military flight jacket created by the US navy in the 1940s, it can confer an air of heroism on mere mortals. That could come in the place of a blazer and teamed with a shirt and tie, or, as here, topping off some khaki chinos and accessorised with a Snoopy-esque scarf in a “just blew in in my F-14 Tomcat” kind of way. Wear it with need-for-speed brio, and your ego will be writing checks that your body can most assuredly cash.

GREEN

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  • Photograph by Mr Adam Katz Sinding/Trunk Archive

Nothing says “Libertatem Defendimus” (“Liberty We Defend”: actually the motto of the Second Bomb Wing of the US Air Force) like a green bomber, which can trace its lineage back to the MA-1, the original bomber made from parachute silk that became standard issue in the 1950s for both US Navy and Air Force pilots (first seeing service during the Korean War). Since then, the style has changed little – look for the ribbed collar and cuffs and the front flap-pockets – but its cooption by punks and skinheads gave it an anti-establishment tweak. This gentleman softens the jacket’s militaristic vibe by layering it over less pugnacious pieces, including a white rollneck and a deconstructed blazer – perhaps the ultimate example of sartorial soft power?

SOUVENIR

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  • Photograph by Ms Valentina Frugiuele/Blaublut-Edition.com

We can thank the American GIs stationed in Asia during WWII for the popularisation of the splashy bomber variant that became known as the “souvenir jacket”. They would have Japanese-style embroidery hand-stitched onto their bombers, and the patterns, including tigers, cherry blossom, dragons and the American eagle, would serve as mementos of their time in the Far East. Modern takes on the souvenir jacket have been a catwalk staple for the past few seasons, and this gentleman – Mr Simone Marchetti, fashion editor of La Repubblica – demonstrates the optimum way of wearing them: with a simple, subdued palette, to let your chinoiserie, whether little sparrows or lightning bolts, really take flight.

OUTSIZED

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  • Photograph by Mr Daniel Bruno Grandl

The bomber is the Stradivarius of streetwear – it can withstand any amount of fiddling. Witness its most recent, super-sized incarnation. The sagging shoulders and bunched-up sleeves came courtesy of cult brand Vetements, who added embroidered gnomic sleeve texts and heavy metal pentagrams for good measure, along with a hooded, sleeveless “couture” iteration, in collaboration with Alpha Industries, makers of the original MA-1. Others have since followed suit, and this gentleman embodies the attitude that such a statement garment requires – edgy, cavalier, and, above all, seriously slouchy.

VARSITY

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  • Photograph by IMAXtree

The varsity jacket has always been a heavy hitter, but the modern, luxed-up leather versions, with their bold stripes adding a smart graphic punch, are the Ivy League of bombers. This gentleman hits his own particular home run, contrasting the clean, fitted lines of the jacket with the loosened-up but no less monochrome flourish of the exaggerated beanie and untucked shirt. The mix of shapes and textures adds depth to a look that, while cutting a dash in any modern office, is assuredly too cool for school.

LAYERED

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  • Photograph by Ms Valentina Frugiuele/Blaublut-Edition.com

If you want to do the double-jacket thing, few combos are as explosive as a navy bomber over a classic denim jacket. The bomber’s characteristically roomy shoulder-to-sleeve construction enables you to layer up with impunity. What takes this gentleman’s outfit to strata-spherical heights is its breezy overlapping of casual and formal, from the beanie and colour-pop graphic tee to the pressed chinos. It’s a testament to the navy bomber’s understated versatility. Dressed up or dressed down, it will score a direct hit with just about anything in your wardrobe.

~Mr Porter

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