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A brief history: the MA-1 bomber jacket

We take a look at our favourite cover-up, through the ages

Ah, the MA-1 bomber jacket. It’s the perfect throw-on come rain or shine. It looks great paired with smart or casual outfits. Or both. And it’s the one piece that never seems to go out of style. Just ask E Tautz or Christopher Raeburn, who showcased loads of different designs in their latest shows at London Collections: Men’s. But where did it really come from? Here’s a quick run-down of everything you could ever want to know about the trusty bomber.

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From the beginning

It all started in 1949 when the US Air Force decided that their classic leather flight jacket no longer cut the mustard. With smaller planes that could fly to higher (and much colder) heights, they came up with a brand-spanking new design: the MA-1 flight jacket, equipped with the iconic orange lining that we know and love today.

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This is England

We’re back in blighty. It’s a couple of decades later and the bomber has been adopted by one of the UK’s most distinguishable subcultures: the skinheads. The go-to look? A plain tee tucked into turned-up straight-leg jeans, finished off with a pair of chunky Dr Martens boots and an oversized MA-1.  Jump on Netflix and put on This is England for visual reference. It’s an excellent, nail-biting watch too.

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On the big screen

Over in Hollywood, the big blockbuster movies of the eighties were also jumping on the bomber bandwagon, albeit a totally different bandwagon from here in the UK. There’s Steve McQueen’s classic khaki one in The Hunter and Harrison Ford’s iconic leather version in Raiders of the Lost Ark. But the bomber that wins hands-down? It has to be Tom Cruise’s patched jacket in the number one aviation hit, Top Gun. Take it away, Maverick.

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Celebrity appeal

What do Bradley Cooper, Jared Leto and the Beckhams (David and Brooklyn, that is) all have in common? They love a MA-1 jacket. But as Alessandro Michele’s latest Gucci muse, Jared Leto reigns as 2017’s bomber king. Recently we’ve spotted him in everything from pink embroidered satin to padded black quilting. Super-cool.

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One for you, from Tu

But you don’t need to be a Hollywood star or a US pilot to wear the bomber jacket. Tu’s got some great new styles that give Gucci a run for its money. Take inspiration from Jared Leto and try either of these cool versions layered over a printed knit and black jeans. It’ll be your new favourite grab-and-go outfit.