Fashion: Bomber jacket is this year's It piece

The bomber jacket is this year's surprise fashion hit, pretty much perfect for all occasions. Stephanie Smith has tips on what to look for and how to wear. Plus the M&S Archive has its first fashion show.

Wednesday, 4th May 2016, 2:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th May 2016, 4:09 pm
Quilted bomber, £69; shirt, £25; bag, £35 - all Limited; shorts, £35, at At Marks & Spencer.

Lightweight but cosy, practical yet chic and good-looking in that utility kind of way that means it works with anything – no wonder The Bomber is the jacket for spring.

It was all over the international catwalks, from Saint Laurent to Gucci, the result, or so some stylistas say, of the Vetements effect, referring to the current influence of the radical designer French fashion collective and its revolutionary anti-fashion approach.

Whatever, the High Street loves it. Step along to Topshop and New Look and you’ll find satin bomber jackets with elaborate floral prints and embroidery, many oriental in mood. At Marks & Spencer, there’s a quilted bomber jacket that looks far more expensive than its price tag.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Printed bomber jacket, £240, Hunter; palm print sweater, £75, Lee Jeans; 501 denim shorts, £45, Levis. All at House of Fraser.

Once upon a time, bomber jackets were associated mainly with skinheads, in khaki or black, along with Doc Martens, but no longer.

They are based on styles of aviation jackets designed during World War II to be less bulky than leather flying jackets. Then came the MA-1, the blouson style jacket issued to US military in the 1950s, in sage-green nylon with a bright orange lining. It was redesigned to be worn inside out to make stranded pilots easier to spot on rescue missions.

The fashion credentials of bomber jackets were perhaps first noted in 1954 by Marilyn Monroe who threw one on over her tight-fitting dress. Streetwise youngsters would pick up MA-1s from army surplus stores. In the early ‘90s Jean Paul Gaultier turned the bomber into cutting edge fashion.

Marilyn got it right, because the blouson shape of bomber jackets means that they do tend to look best teamed with tight-fitting items of clothing underneath, and this summer that means ripped skinny jeans and cropped slim trousers.

Metallic silver knit bomber jacket, £45, at River Island.

That said, they can also work over dresses of all styles, including tunic dresses and maxis, and over wide trousers too, if the shapes streamline. There’s a choice of length when it comes to bomber jackets, from short and cropped to mid-thigh and slightly oversized, so experiment to make sure you get the proportions right for your height and shape.

The satin bomber, especially embroidered, is good for day or night. Gucci teamed a silver bomber with a green skirt, but any kind of sheeny bomber will work for evening, giving a streetwise sporty luxe effect.

Easy and versatile, bomber jackets can suit everyone and, once tried, they are hard to give up. So, if you decide to invest in one of the many on the High Street right now, bear in mind that it’s an item you might well be wearing for a few years to come. Choose wisely.

Meanwhile, retro fashion lovers will have the chance to see gems on the catwalk next Saturday, May 7, when the M&S Company Archive in Leeds hosts its first vintage fashion show ‘Dressed in Time’.

T Sateen printed bomber kjacket, £60, at Topshop.

The free show will feature fashion from the 1930s to the present day, chosen from the 70,000-piece archive based at the University of Leeds. Expect to see glamorous gowns and beach pyjamas worn in the thirties, war time fashion from the forties, vibrant colours and prints of the fifties and sixties, right through to seventies flares and eighties power dressing, as the catwalk brings the past to life.

The show will also include the styles and trends that inspired British fashion icon Alexa Chung to curate her new collection Archive by Alexa, which launched last month, and her pieces will feature on the catwalk alongside the vintage items.

The ‘Dressed in Time’ fashion event takes place from 11am until 3pm with three 45-minute fashion shows scheduled for 11am; 12.45pm and 2.30pm. Booking is essential as places are limited. Entry is free. Go to

Printed bomber jacket, £240, Hunter; palm print sweater, £75, Lee Jeans; 501 denim shorts, £45, Levis. All at House of Fraser.
Metallic silver knit bomber jacket, £45, at River Island.
T Sateen printed bomber kjacket, £60, at Topshop.