On the Boardwalk is by no means Marlon Brando’s most memorable film, but there is one element of the 1954 film that sticks in the memory: an absolute finisher of a sheep’s flight jacket. It’s a melancholy silhouette of unapologetic masculinity, if there ever was one.

Then, two years after, it’s James Dean’s turn at Giant in this timeless military garb. Or who can forget Tom Hardy, who puts his obscene traps in a stunning flight jacket, like the megalomaniac curse in The Dark Knight Rises?

The History Of The Flight Jacket

As with most timeless male silhouettes, military necessity has been the breeding ground for clothing innovations, and the flight jacket is no exception. The A1 flight jacket, which was first worn by USAAF pilots in 1927, developed into the A2 silhouette 14 years after and has been an irrepressible feature in men’s collections ever since.

Of course, there have been a lot of bomber jackets and aviator jackets since then, but it was the A2 that was the model for many of the bomber styles that line our collective wardrobes today.

In the 1940s, the A2 was typically built with horse skin, which means it was super sturdy and had nothing to do with the calf sheepskin iterations that luxury brands are now pedaling.

These huge jackets were designed by an American aviator and specialist named Leslie Irvin, who also invented the parachute system with a tear cord. Irvin used sheepskin from a breed of Devon sheep and added the huge collar, which is still a feature of many sheepskin jackets today.

As technology advanced after World War II, pilots were able to ditch bulky jackets in favor of thermal flight suits made of lighter technical fabrics.

Types Of Modern Flight Jacket

Although there have been some iterations of aviator jackets in the last century, you can really narrow down contemporary styles into two categories: sheepskin aviator jackets and bomber jackets.

The first, of course, are iconic winter silhouettes, which the vast majority of luxury brands produce in some form, as well as a number of specialized leather brands that produce faithful reproductions of the original models.

Many high-end designers are moving away from sheepskin these days and opting for synthetic fleece lining, but if you ask us, a natural fur with a natural sheepskin lining will last you a lifetime, and probably that of your children too, if you take proper care of it.

Bomber jackets, on the other hand, are more of a trans-seasonal style, often made of nylon or light cotton and with a ribbed collar, cuffs and hem. Bombers, of course, have integrated into the streetwear culture, have always been a feature of various subcultures (especially the skinhead and punk movements) since the 1950s, and have even been the role model for college jackets.

The Best Flight Jacket Brands

Saint Laurent

The super slim monochrome aesthetic of the Parisian fashion house Saint Laurent may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you consider aviator jackets, but the historical brand has always been a masterful producer of high-quality leather silhouettes, including aviator jackets.

If you are looking for a luxurious calfskin style with a partial sheepskin lining, then Saint Laurent is definitely worth a visit. In addition, it also produces a number of more stylish bomber jacket styles, almost exclusively in black.

Elsewhere, although not necessarily bombers, their varsity jacket options are bomber silhouettes in every way and are made of 90% virgin wool with leather details, perfect for fans of the luxurious streetwear aesthetic.

Chapal

Chapal, which has been producing some of the best leather jackets in the industry since it was founded in Paris in 1832, is the house of choice for exquisite luxury aviator jackets.

In fact, he claims to have made some of the earliest iterations of the aviator jacket as we know it, including the iconic 1965 version worn by French heartthrob Alain Delon in Once a Thief.

If you are looking for a flight jacket that will become an heirloom that you can pass on to your child or simply frame as a work of art, the Chapal Colorado Sheepskin bomber jacket B3 is the pinnacle of aviation outerwear.

Stone Island

Cult favorite Stone Island has long been famous for its innovative approach to fabrics, in particular, for technical diversity, so it should not be surprising that every season it produces a number of stylish bomber jacket variants.

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