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By Matt Glazebrook, 20 October 2016

As its name suggests, the classic bomber jacket has a military heritage. Created for US pilots in the 40s, the bulky leather G-1 has became something of a cult streetwear item over the years, thanks in no small part to Tom Cruise's turn in Top Gun (where it was paired with aviator sunglasses and a toothy grin). But it's the more comfortable, soft-shelled cousin of the G-1, developed a decade after the 1986 blockbuster, that’s arguably the more enduring style icon.

cult item: bomber jacket

Picture: Rex

Warm enough for hanging around street corners in, yet lightweight enough not to hamper you when scarpering from pesky authority figures, the bomber has long been a youth tribe staple. James Dean's iconic character in Rebel Without A Cause, troubled teen Jim Stark, sported a version, while the collarless, nylon
MA-1 – matched with cherry red Dr. Martens, tight blue jeans and a freshly shorn bonce – became synonymous with the 70s skinhead scene.

cult item: bomber jacket

Picture: Getty

Though the skinhead movement's descent into knuckleheaded neo-Nazism (as depicted in Shane Meadows' This Is England) threatened the bomber's universal appeal, credibility was restored by the embrace of the item by the hip-hop movement in the late 80s and early 90s. Public Enemy were noted fans.

cult item: bomber jacket

Picture: Xposure

Today, the versatility and classic, waist-length cut of the MA-1 ensures its status as a timeless wardrobe staple. Traditional olive green, navy blue or black varieties will see you right through autumn after autumn – or you can opt for a burst of seasonal colour (rust, caramel, burgundy, or even orange) for a bang-on-trend approach. Some of the beloved bomber derivatives offer even more opportunity for a stylistic statement – the woollen Letterman jacket with its leather sleeves and all-American varsity badges, and the silky sukajan featuring Japanese-style embroidery.

cult item: bomber jacket

Picture: Splash

Throw an MA-1 over a longline tee and skinny jeans for simple streetwear steez that’s all about the silhouette. Or swerve past the streamlined approach and emphasise the bomber’s boxiness by piling on the layers underneath – oversized tee, hoodie, plaid shirt, etc – and adding looser-fit jeans or joggers and a chunky pair of military-style boots down below.