A veritable staple that has been beloved for decades and remains a firm fixture in contemporary menswear, the bomber jacket doesn't look set to go out of style anytime soon. As per usual, it plays a key role in this year's autumn/winter men's collections, with many of the top brands offering a new season take on the style. Read on for a quick background of the bomber jacket, as well as how to integrate one into your wardrobe and our pick of the best men's bomber jackets to buy in 2021.

A brief history of bomber jackets

The classic silhouette is rooted in military tradition: originally created for American fighter pilots in World War Two, it was designed to withstand cold temperatures at high altitudes and take up minimal space in the cockpit, thus needed to be warm, slim-fitting and lightweight. Initial designs of the first modern bomber, the B-15, featured a soft cotton shell (which was eventually replaced by more water resistant nylon) and a wraparound fur collar. As technologies evolved, the B-15 was replaced by the MA-1, which had a knitted, elastic collar and 'international orange’ lining that could alert rescue missions to stranded pilots in the event of a crash.

By the late 1950s, bomber jackets had entered the mainstream style consciousness, garnering popularity in Europe, Australia and Japan. The 1960s saw the adoption of the bomber by British skinheads, followed by mods and punks. Reinterpreted as a symbol of rebellion and anti-fashion, the bomber then became a key staple of '90s and early '00s grunge and alternative style, worn with Doc Martens, ripped jeans and plaid shirts. Inevitably, it wasn't long before high fashion designers took note, integrating various iterations of bomber jackets into their collections – from Raf Simon's camouflage version in his autumn/winter '01 “Riot, Riot, Riot” collection to streetwear powerhouses BAPE and Stüssy's takes.

Today, bomber jackets may have evolved beyond their military roots, but their tried-and-tested style has endured for a reason. Renowned for their reliability, versatility and that undeniable air of self-assurance they emit, they're worn by everyone from famous rappers (we're looking at you, Mr. West) to east London's trendy style set. Which brings us to...

How to wear a bomber jacket

Not only is the bomber jacket flattering, thanks to its waist-minimising and shoulder-accentuating shape, but it is also highly versatile. The characteristically oversized shoulder-to sleeve construction provides endless layering options without looking forced or uncomfortable. 

The most obvious context for a bomber jacket is a casual setting: it really comes into its own when worn with a low-key outfit, thrown over a plain white tee and teamed with your go-to jeans and a pair of high-tops. This is by no means your only option, however. Given the bomber's inherent versatility, feel free to have a bit of fun by dressing yours up slightly if your workplace calls for a business casual dress code. Wear it with an Oxford shirt, tailored trousers and leather trainers for a look that straddles the casual and professional spheres.

Best bomber jackets to buy in 2021

Wax London Yellow Wool Check Hybrid Bomber Jacket

Wax London is one of the most exciting labels to come out of London in recent years: we can't get enough of its sustainably-made staples. The brand particularly excels in the realm of outerwear. Take this jacket, for instance. Fusing the silhouettes of a bomber jacket and coach jacket, it offers the best of both worlds. The bold yellow jumbo check colourway will inject your winter wardrobe with a much-needed dose of colour.

SIRPLUS Brown Moleskin Bomber Jacket

SIRPLUS' take on the bomber jacket is smart yet simple. Made in England from a smooth cotton moleskin that's soft to the touch, it's fully lined with a striped Italian surplus cotton body and finished with real horn buttons. Team it with a plain white tee, your favourite pair of blue denim jeans and leather trainers for an effortless weekend look.

Form&Thread Utility Baseball Jacket

This baseball-inspired bomber-meets-worker jacket from Form&Thread will lend your outfit a slightly sporty feel. Made in Portugal form mid-weight 100% cotton herringbone, it boasts a super soft feel and versatile boxy fit, guaranteeing it staple status in your wardrobe. Choose from a selection of easy-to-wear hues, including Olive, Soft Black and Slate.

Axel Arigato Keith Haring Varsity Bomber

Created in collaboration with the Keith Haring Studio, Axel Arigato's limited-edition Varsity Bomber Jacket honours the innovative and iconic art of the renowned artist. Crafted from a hard-wearing combination of wool and vegan PU leather, it's the perfect layer for the cooler months.

Flax London Navy Blue Linen Bomber Jacket

Forget what you think you know about linen: the famously lightweight, breathable fabric is most commonly thought of in the context of breezy shirts, but as Flax London is setting out to demonstrate, there's so much more to it. Case in point: this classic bomber jacket, reinterpreted by Flax in a 225gsm stonewashed Belgian linen. The understated silhouette will work with any outfit: from a casual weekend uniform of jeans and sneakers to tailored trousers and an Oxford shirt.

Oliver Spencer Hartnet Charcoal Linfield Bomber Jacket

Oliver Spencer's take on the classic bomber integrates elements of the Harrington jacket for a versatile everyday outerwear option. The combination of the charcoal Prince of Wales check and faux sheepskin collar make it a cosy cold weather staple that will see you through the autumn and winter months in style.

A.P.C Bronze Jacket

This classic bomber jacket from A.P.C is an elegantly understated and timeless wardrobe addition that will serve you well for years to come. The beige hue is versatile and easy-to-wear, while the super soft woollen collar is the perfect finishing touch.

Now for another outerwear essential: discover everything you need to know about the humble chore jacket.