SPEND: Now Is the Perfect Time to Buy a Bomber Jacket

The classic pilot coat gets an update this spring—here are the five best ones to buy.

James Dean and co-star Corey Allen in Rebel Without A Cause.

Photographer: Keystone/Getty Images

The bomber jacket, that iconic style popularized by James Dean, Marlon Brando, and Top Gun-era Tom Cruise, has been around since the early 20th century, when it was worn as a protective layer for fighter pilots who had to endure frigid open cockpits. In the 50's, leather gave way to nylon, and the jacket got thinner, lighter, and included a a bright lining, visible from the sky, in case a pilot needed to be rescued on the ground.

In the decades since, the bomber, also known as the MA-1 flight jacket, has evolved into something that's worn casually in cool spring and fall weather—something fashion people call a "transitional garment." These newer incarnations, all over this season's men's runway shows, have dropped the nylon in favor of fabrics such as light suede or washed cotton. It’s a slimming, youthful coat that looks handsome on men of most ages, and now's the perfect time to wear one, paired with boots or classic sneakers. Here are our five top picks:  

Rag & Bone Manston Jacket

Source: Rag & Bone New York via Bloomberg

Bombers typically come in an army green or navy, so this Rag & Bone version, in all black, has a simple, modern twist. ($595,

Coach Nylon MA-1 Bomber

Source: Coach via Bloomberg

Coach's navy nylon option features exposed zippers and knit rib trim. It's also water-resistant, so can be worn as an alternative to a light rain trench.($395,

Rick Owens Blistered Suede Bomber 

Source: Mr Porter via Bloomberg

This Rick Owens grey suede jacket adds a blistered finish, which lends a cool, worn-in character. ($2,305,

Moncler Timothe Shell Jacket

Source: Mr Porter via Bloomberg

The army green shell by Moncler plays up the jacket's vintage roots, and even has two pockets specifically for pens. This one doesn't have a lining, so it works best for warmer temperatures. ($810,

John Elliott Washed-Cotton Bomber

Source: Mr Porter via Bloomberg

John Elliott makes a washed-cotton bomber with patches and panels that's meant to look like you've already put it through the wringer, even if you're just planning to wear to Sunday brunch. ($580,


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