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The Bomber Jacket

by Bernardo van Eekhout in Lifestyle & Fashion , 27 mei 2015

Dit artikel is ook in het Nederlands beschikbaar

The history of the bomber jacket goes back to 1915, when French and Belgian fighter pilots (or bomber pilots) wore leather jackets to protect them from the cold. After this period did American air force pilots also get these leather flight jackets.

But when these heavy leather jackets became wet because of rain or sweat while flying, this moisture froze at high altitude, making the “old fashioned” pilots jackets cold and very uncomfortable. With the new generation of fighters, a new kind of bomber jacket was needed, that was light, loose-fitting and warm, to replace the awkward leather bomber jacket.

To meet these new requirements, an entirely new bomber jacket was developed from high-quality nylon. During the war, this strong nylon was already used in parachutes. The first nylon bomber jacket was developed in 1946. Three years later, the US Air Force and Navy started using it. In the late 1950s, the first bomber jackets appeared in Europe on the black market.

From 1960 onwards, Alpha Industries began exporting the jacket from the USA. Their customers were Air Forces and various commercial businesses. This new type of bomber jacket could be used throughout the year and gave the pilot the option to open the jacket in warm weather to make it more comfortable. Once on the plane, the bomber jacket was then zipped up for protection from the cold during the flight.

Both the outside and the inside of the first bomber jacket consisted of nylon layers with wool in between for warmth. After a few years, the wool was replaced by a new polyester fibre filling. This material made the bomber jacket much lighter, but also much warmer. The sheep collar was replaced with a smaller knitted one.

The second major change was making the bomber reversible (wearing both sides) with the distinctive bright orange lining. It was a deliberate choice in case of an emergency landing. It gave the pilot the opportunity to wear the bomber jacket inside out to stand out. The original bomber jackets were produced in two colors: midnight blue and olive green. Blue was the color that was used by the US Army, but soon, olive green became the universal color because it was less noticeable, blending in with the natural environment.

Modern bomber jackets are now available in many different colors. In the 1990s, it not only became popular with the “gabber” scene, but also in the gay scene because of its erotic aura. With its spherical silhouette and narrow waist, it broadens and accentuates the male silhouette.

By now, the bomber jacket is a fully integrated part of the wardrobe of modern men. It is a regular and reoccurring garment with international fashion labels each season, but this season in particular it is the absolute must-have. So below is an overview of the designers who presented the bomber jacket on the catwalk.

At Dior Homme, the bomber jacket comes in a fairly short version (loose above the waist) in deep blue with white text printing; a handwritten text by the late Monsieur Dior himself. Kris Van Assche brings a sky blue suede version with push buttons and original amber lining. This season, the most classic bomber jacket is produced by Louis Vuitton in shocking shiny pink, orange amber or silver grey with stitched L.V. emblem at chest height.

Neil Barrett has beautiful prints of expanded Greek sculpted faces on shiny black bomber jackets that evenly run over to the sleeves. The matching sweaters have the same prints. At Givenchy, the bomber jackets are given a couture look with stitched-on raised flowers made of pearls. They do, however, have coarse masculine zippers.



In the New Issue of Gay News, 327, November 2018

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