The bomber jacket is having a moment. While we see iterations of this perennial favorite nearly every season, there’s something in the air right now that has many of our favorite brands putting their own spin on the classic. But you can’t beat the original, which is why we’re excited about our exclusive styles from one of the originators of the bomber: Alpha Industries. The Virginia-based brand landed its first military contracts in the 1950s and began producing authentic flight jackets and field coats for decades before transitioning into the fashion marketplace.
“At Barneys, we’ve always embraced the original or the old-school classic—and we’ve continued to blend them into our ongoing dialogue with the customer,” says Barneys SVP of men’s, Jay Bell. “The MA-1 bomber’s recent emergence in a number of key collections suggested it was high-time to revisit the original, Alpha Industries.”
Central to the success of the company since its founding in the late-fifties was the MA-1, a military-issued jacket that was worn by U.S. Air Force and Navy pilots, as well as air and ground crews. Alpha Industries began manufacturing the style in 1963, and in short order, became one of its leading producers. It wasn’t long before these warm and versatile pieces beyond finding their way out of the cockpit and onto the streets.
“Since its military origins, the MA-1 bomber has been appropriated as the uniform of choice for various subcultures—from British subculture movements of the ’60s to American gay culture of ‘80s—and now by fashionistas worldwide,” Jay continued. “A symbol of rebellion, the MA-1 still conveys a sense of badass affiliation, but with more a more fashion-savvy edge today. It’s an authentic style that withstands the test of time.”
Even with its long history, any style can use a little tweaking, and for Alpha Industries, it’s this desire to remain modern and fresh that has kept the brand feeling relevant for decades. “We pride ourselves as the leader in military-inspired fashion and have stayed ahead of the curve when it comes to the trend,” commented Mike Cirker, a third-generation CEO of the brand. “We are constantly creating ways to bridge our heritage and modern style and have done so since our inception.”
When it comes to today’s resurgence, though, Jay chalks the style’s popularity up to a single factor: Yeezy. “Without a doubt, Kanye West heavily influences the current zeitgeist,” he says. “When he commissioned Alpha to create the Yeezus Tour bomber, it was clear that the MA-1 was about to take flight again. Jeanne Nochowitz, our senior buyer of outerwear, was quick to collaborate with Alpha on exclusive styles arriving now and continuing through the holiday season.”
Those exclusive styles include reversible jackets, as well as styles that pay homage to the pilots of WWII. There’s a longstanding tradition of military personnel bringing back unique souvenir jackets that display traditional Japanese embroidery, though often with American themes. Barneys is carrying options with tigers and eagles, embracing these symbols of power often favored by the military.
Even for a person who maybe isn’t so militarily-minded, though, there’s still a place in your closet for these timeless pieces. When it comes to working one of these standout bombers into your wardrobe, Jay offers this styling advise, “For me, always a purist at heart, I prefer the look popularized in the ‘80s: an MA-1 worn with a white tee, cuffed jeans, and a military boot—and of course, a shaved head. Any variation of this old-school look offers instant street cred.”