It’s not unusual for the standard-issue military garments of yore to insinuate themselves into the world of men’s fashion – just look at the trench coat, or the epaulette. But in the case of the classic “flight” or “bomber” jacket, the style became just as popular among civilians as it once was with flying aces for a very good reason: flight jackets are as effective at ground level as they are at ten thousand feet.
So where did they come from? During the First World War, cockpits were not enclosed, meaning the Red Baron had to get creative to keep himself warm in the clouds. By 1917, heavy-duty leather coats with snug cuffs and collars to keep out the breeze were already being distributed to U.S. pilots. As technology improved, aircraft were able to operate at even higher altitudes, meaning flight jackets required a lining for extra warmth. When Lt. John Macready set the world altitude record in 1921, reaching an impressive 40,000 feet, he was wearing a shearling jacket lined with wool to stay comfortable in the cockpit.
Most who wear flight jackets today don’t need them for high-altitude exploits, but the aura of ruggedness and adventure remains. At Bonobos, our Balderton Bomber (pictured above) is a contemporary take on the timeless garment; made from supple suede, it fuses a sophisticated construction with a style that can be worn any way you like, be it with jeans and a tee, or a crisp shirt and tie. And whether you’ve earned those wings or not, it will definitely elevate your wardrobe.