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What is a Bomber Jacket?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 21, 2024
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A bomber jacket is a leather or nylon jacket with two front pockets, sometimes with sheepskin lining, and a zippered front. The waist and cuffs may be made of elasticized material. The initial version was a heavy weight leather jacket, specifically designed for pilots who conducted bombing raids. Cockpits were not airtight, and early pilots often flew at elevations where it could be uncomfortably cold. The first ones were called flight jackets, and were produced by both the British and American Air Force.

In 1926, Leslie Irvin made the first sheepskin bomber jacket, supplying these comfortably warm jackets to the Royal Air Force in England through WWII. American manufacturers made the garment in several styles. Today, the one most widely collected is the A-2 design, first made in 1927. Available in either black or brown leather, it was usually lined with silk.

Pilots who had finished basic flight training were given an A-2 bomber jacket, and even though after 1942, other jackets normally made of nylon were designed for the military pilot, the leather version never went out of style. Pilots continued to wear them, and often handed them down to their sons. Also, many soldiers who were not pilots loved the suave look of the garment, inspiring several small companies to make and sell them.

The A-2 bomber jacket provided some warmth, but not enough for gunners and other flight crew. Usually only the pilots wore them while other flight crew wore sheepskin-lined jackets, since they were most exposed to the elements. Hence those people who actually dropped bombs might not wear a true bomber jacket.

When the A-2 style was discontinued by the Air Force, many were disappointed. Also a little jealousy existed because pilots of the Navy continued to wear leather jackets, while Air Force pilots were forced to switch to nylon fabric. This led to years of lobbying to return the more popular leather style, which was ultimately successful in 1988. New A-2 leather jackets were issued to pilots and remain a part of the pilot uniform.

Fashion has frequently copied the A-2 and other styles like it in either leather or fabric. Women’s bomber jackets in bright colors became popular for a time in the 1980s. For most people who enjoy these jackets, getting their hands on a real A-2 is a main goal. You can occasionally find these in thrift stores, and now eBay is the common place to look for them. You should note that you may not be getting a real A-2 bomber jacket, but instead one of those made for non-pilots in England or America.

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Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By galen84basc — On Nov 23, 2010

Don't forget, ladies, you can look really good in a bomber jacket too. A nice lambskin bomber jacket can look lovely, yet a little tough, on a woman's body, and the good thing about a bomber jacket is that it looks good on both short and tall women.

The only thing you have to remember if you're buying a bomber jacket as a tall woman is to make sure you get one that's long enough. It just looks silly if you get a normal length bomber jacket, because it can look like the jacket is cropped, if you're particularly tall.

The same thing applies for shorter women. If you are shorter, then try to get a shorter jacket, and one that's a little more fitted. Quilted bomber jackets can make even skinny girls look a little poofy, so keep that in mind too.

But on the whole, the bomber jacket is a great fashion statement for both men and women, and with shearling being so in this season, it's a great choice for this winter.

By StreamFinder — On Nov 23, 2010

I'm getting my husband a shearling bomber jacket for Christmas this year -- I was a little skeptical at first, since I find some of the older bomber jacket styles to be a little over the top, but the one he finally chose actually looks really good on him.

Of course, it's not one of the originals, but still, I think it gives him a certain pilot-y cool. And I think he's happy just to get a jacket that's not a nylon bomber jacket -- he wore one of those for years and got to where he hated it, so I'm sure the shearling will be a big improvement.

By CopperPipe — On Nov 23, 2010

Bomber leather jackets are so cool! I think that a mens bomber jacket is the epitome of all the many things you associate with pilots -- daring, courageous, a little dangerous, but at the same time still the "good guy."

I have always wanted to get a bomber jacket, but those things are crazy expensive, like you said.

I think that I may just end up settling for something other than the A-2, since you can still get some really nice looking ones even if they're not quite authentic. I'd go for a black bomber jacket, I think -- definitely not a nylon bomber jacket though, those things just look weird to me.

If anybody reading this actually has one of the original A-2s, you have my undying envy!

By anon65458 — On Feb 13, 2010

I have an original G-8 leather, sheepskin lined bomber jacket. I've been told it is an original coat. And it's valued over $3000.00. I need to sell it. How do I go about getting what it is worth?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a BeautyAnswered contributor, Tricia...
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