A big trend at the moment is the bomber jacket. You can spy it EVERYWHERE, from the instagram outfits to our style queens being snapped popping out to buy some milk . It graced the shoulders of many in the London fashion week street style shots last month. I personally love a little bomber jacket. I always have done, but then again I’m a bit of a tomboy at heart and have a slight weakness for wardrobe icons with a bit of history behind them.
The bomber jacket, like many of the iconic pieces in our wardrobe (well, certainly mine), such as the Breton stripe, bell bottoms, the utility jacket and the Pea coat, earns a shiny gold inspiration star from military uniforms of the past.
The history of the MA-1 bomber jacket
* image via pinterest
The U.S. army aviation clothing board was established in 1917. During WWI It distributed heavy-duty leather flight jackets to its pilots and air serviceman. The jacket design was intended to keep servicemen warm flying planes in the open cockpits. Think ‘chocs away’ vintage shearling collar and cuffs, or Topgun’s Tom Cruise’s roughed up collar and ribbed cuffs.
During WWII, as aircraft design advanced, the planes were now able to fly at higher altitudes with colder temperatures incurring. The leather jackets would get cold, uncomfortable and almost frozen if they become wet with rain or sweat during flight at these new altitudes. A new lightweight warm jacket was needed.
This new flight jacket was designed made from silk nylon, applauded for its warm insulation and quick drying properties. In 1949/50 the MA-1 jacket was born and issued to the U.S. airforces. As WWII continued however, the production of the MA-1 was halted due to nylon rations for parachutes. Once the war was over, the MA-1 became a fixture of the aviation uniform with its iconic orange lining to enable pilots to be seen easily in the event of a crash. By the 1980’s, the MA-1 was phased out by the military.
But this was not the end for the cheeky little bomber jacket. This lightweight nylon jacket was adopted as a staple of subcultural style. It became the street uniform of the skinheads, punks and scooter boys in the 1970’s and 80’s.
* images via pinterest: Ewan McGregor in Trainspotting, The Stone Roses frontman, Ian Brown in his scooter years and cast members of the British film & TV series, This is England.
The street inspo
No surprise to see that the likes of Sienna Miller and Kate Moss have taken the MA-1 bomber under their wing. This jacket delivers an ‘effortless style’ that is successfully dressed up or down. With a full head of hair, Sienna, Kate and Cara give the bomber a new gang to join ranks with!
*images via Pinterest
Where to buy one this season
Good old Toppers have been ‘on this’ trend for the past couple of seasons. They’ve produced a great little MA-1 tribute which is not only the perfect warm Spring jacket but has just the right amount of ‘polish’ with its brass hardware zippers. I have the navy version and absolutely love it. This season Topshop have added an embroidered patch version to their MA-1 range. I can’t see what’s not to love about this bomber. Warm, lightweight, cool and easy to chuck on. Looks great teamed with skinny jeans, Chelsea boots and a band tee but also happily pairs up with a tailored shirt and a pencil skirt. Done!
Zara also have a version of the basic bomber jacket. They have gone for a fresh take on the colours with a khaki and a black option.
Now for the alternative pimped up version of the bomber. This beauty has been spotted on the runways recently and has been flying out of the shops. In the just the last couple of months I have seen the likes of Asos and Topshop sell out of their ‘high street’ versions of the souvenir jacket. This version is attracting the gold stars and gold wallets at the moment. Keep an eye out over the spring and beginning of Summer. Those clever buyers at our favourite hot spots are likely to pull in more designs as they can’t keep it on the shelves long enough. For those of you in the UK, Michelle at Myfashionable40′s has a beautiful jacket from Stradivarius, sadly they won’t ship to North America. All hail the souvenir jacket.
The souvenir jacket
*image via Pinterest
The history behind the souvenir jacket
The souvenir jacket story begins with the ending of WWII. As U.S. servicemen and American soldiers were leaving Japan where they had been based, they were looking for souvenirs and personal keepsakes to take back to the U.S. with them.
The story of the souvenir jacket can be traced back to one U.S. serviceman who took his flight jacket to a local tailor in Yokosuka (the area his base camp was situated) after WWII was declared ended. He asked to have his jacket embroidered with his name and oriental designs as a memento of his time served in Japan.
*image via Pinterest
This jacket was quickly duplicated by others and became popular as a souvenir to take back to loved ones in the U.S. They were cut from excess parachute silk and satin cloth with eastern influenced stitching such as cherry blossom, tigers and dragons. The trend moved from base to base and variations on the style of jacket changed too. The shawl collar version became popular – as did the reversible feature of the jacket. Hence the name of this ornate bomber jacket……….. the souvenir jacket.
The vintage inspo
*image via Pinterest
The Runway inspo
Oh my goodness. Just look at this beauty. Stella McCartney nails her version of the embroidered bomber. Absolutely stunning!
Love Stella’s Hummingbird and horse designs. Cara looks mighty fierce in her brilliant combo of ripped skinnies and kooky sunnies. Outfit perfection.
I literally cannot stop drooling over these gorgeous Gucci images. This embroidered bomber is sublime. I can just picture this happily with jeans and Stan Smiths but it would be just as happy with a dress and heels. Bloody gorgeous.
*Images via Pinterest
The street inspo
You know when Queen Kate is snapped wearing something as unique yet iconic as the souvenir jacket, you’re onto a winner!
Then there is the magic of Emmanuel Alt in her gold star gem from Isabel Marant. Style teamwork at its best!
*Images via pinterest
Where to buy one this season
The Topshop premium reversible version was worn by Olivia Palermo at London Fashion week last month. I love her outfit choice with the brilliant leather culottes – bang on trend, but nails the ‘effortless’ look at the same time. I’m sure Olivia has given this jacket a golden ticket to fly off the shelves.
*images via pinterest
My heart skips a beat for the outstanding Topshop unique version “Ebury” seen on the LFW Topshop runway for the Spring/Summer 16 collection. But this gem doesn’t come cheap at £650 quid. So admiration is all I can show for it. However, there are some lucky dolls out there – it sold out within a few days.
I love these Zara souvenir tributes. The florals are a simple nod towards the Japanese craftsmanship designs of the 50’s. They look great thrown on over a tee and jeans and yet work wonders with a simple shift dress. That’s a nice little wardrobe worker to have at hand. Capsule wardrobe contenders to show the Visa card who’s boss!
Marks and Spencer released this PR shot of their embroidered bomber. I love how they styled it with a little black ribbon and overalls. A fresh take on layering spring pieces.
*Image via Marks and Spencer PR
How I wear mine
I’m such a tomboy at heart and have always had a passion for menswear. I own the navy Topshop bomber purely on the decision that I may already have a few too many green army utility jackets and parkas. I absolutely love them. If I didn’t have a new washing machine to buy (mine just died on me – hate having to buy boring yet necessary things….grrrr!) and the kids’ March break camps to pay for, I’d probably find myself marching to Toppers to eye spy the Green version along with taking a peek at the Zara embroidered souvenir jackets. For now, here I am thoroughly enjoying my navy MA-1 tribute before I head out to take my boys to the park.
Topshop MA-1 navy bomber jacket
Zara stripe top
Zara pencil leg jeans
Stan Smith trainers in gradient Leopard print
Safety pin necklace – from my lovely mate, Michelle x
Capsule lessons learnt
A little (sob) story to share with you, plus a little lesson to learn at the end . I actually had this Zara souvenir jacket a couple of years ago. Absolutely beautiful and so unique. Stunning! I bagged it in the sale at 70% off. Alas, the story ends with the fact that I only went and bloody sold it. Cue some true sellers remorse here. The lesson learnt here is that when embarking on establishing a minimal capsule wardrobe, don’t sell the cool pieces. Don’t think “I’m a mum now, when will I wear it? It’s not that practical. Is it too cool for me to just wear to the park?” HELLLLLLLLLLL NOOOOOOOOO. Sell the blah-ville stuff and keep the pieces that make your heart skip a beat. Oh, how I wish I could be wearing that souvenir jacket now. Silly cow. It doesn’t always pay to be sensible!!!