Following the war, a number of subcultures developed that took the bomber jacket under their wing, and the garment itself would see some fundamental shifts, so that modern-day jackets are almost indistinguishable to those originally worn by bomber crew. The first people to adopt the bomber jacket were the bikers and it made perfect sense, of course – they too were exposed to the elements as they rode their bikes, and with wind chill factors thrown in, there was a compelling need to keep body temperatures comfortable as well as providing protection in case of a spill. Tarmac and leather coming together have a useful feature of keeping abrasion wounds to a minimum. Although air forces kept on flying after the war, there was a big surplus of military clothing which could be acquired relatively cheaply, and hence the bomber jacket found a new market.
The original thick soft wool collar lining was great at keeping pilots warm but was a little too bulky for general day wear even though it was a key element of the look, hence the bomber underwent its first of many transformations, dropping the bulky collar lining and now resembling a traditional leather jacket.
Eventually skinheads came to like the look of the bomber and so it transformed into something else entirely. Frequently manufactured from man-made materials such as nylon, it was the paramilitary appearance rather than its protective features that led to its adoption. These variants were cut-down derivatives, now shorter in length but offering a bulky manliness that was complimented by their buzzed heads. Colours also changed to dull greens, shiny blues or matt blacks, or even a claret red.
When skinheads became known for their association with violence and racism they quickly fell out of favour, but their jackets remained, and the bomber jacket, with its new-found adjustments continued to be purchased. Some of the elements of the original design started to reappear, and the fluffy collars came back, together with larger lapels that gave a cosy protective feel that even a steep dive from the clouds couldn’t disturb.
The evolution of the bomber jacket means it is now quite tricky to define what one actually is. It can mean different things to different people, the historic associations can be both positive or negative. Checkout the shelves in your vintage clothing store, you could even find a bomber jacket and not even realise what it was. But if you were a high altitude bomber pilot you would certainly recognise an original 1940s version and you ‘d love it for its original features.