Along with the G-1, the MA-1 Bomber jacket is one of the most widely reproduced military jackets on the market today. First developed by Dobbs Industries (which later became Alpha Industries) for the United States Military in the 1950s, the MA-1 was the predecessor of the heavier B-15 Flight Jacket. MA-1 jackets were originally constructed from a high grade cotton, but that quickly changed to the then scarcely used nylon (nylon was discovered pre-World War II but found more immediate uses such as for parachutes etc). A thin layer of double faced wool was used inbetween the nylon outer shell and lining before also being replaced by the newly developed polyester fiber fill interlining.
The rapid technological updates of fighter planes from propeller to jet engine meant pilots were flying at much higher altitudes and therefore much colder temperatures. Before this change, flight jackets were made from leather and were usually fleece lined, meaning if any water got into the jacket, it would freeze at low temperatures and become extremely uncomfortable. The amount of equipment in the cockpit also rapidly increased, so the need for a slimmer, more mobile jacket became more immediate. A quick entrance and exit of the cockpit was essential. The B-15's fur collar was also replaced, upgrading to a knitted one as the fur would interfere with pilots' parachute harnesses and also hold water, thus weight, if wet.
The MA-1 was originally produced in both blue and the now classic green, with the military actually issuing blue for a time before updating to green, presumably for increased camouflage ability when a pilot was on the ground. However, sometime during the 1960s, the lining on MA-1 jackets was updated to a vibrant orange, so that pilots that were stranded on the ground could be easily located for rescue.
Although they were issued solely for the military, MA-1 jackets began to trickle down into the civilian market through black sales and the selling on of government surplus. Brands such as Alpha Industries then began producing slight variants solely for the public market during the mid to late 60s.
As they became more available in the subsequent decades, the MA-1 was adopted by various subcultures in the UK, including a cluster of very early mods, but most notably the skinheads. The bomber jacket became a crucial part of their tight knit wardrobe, often being teamed with skinny denim and Dr Martens boots. Green or black was often the colour of choice, on top of a maroon version, which, along with black, was never issued by the military at any point in the jackets history.
A.Four's SS15 collection is heavily inspired by dancehall culture and a young Bob Marley, but a refined take on military-esque utilitarian styling and functionality has always been a constant theme running through each collection, and of Kazuki Kuraishi's design output as a whole. Small twists and graphic detailing often make the difference in a big way.
The A.Four MA-1 is built from a lightweight nylon, and it forgoes the traditional idea of having an inner lining seperated by a polyester filled interlining. As a summer season jacket, it makes sense and gives you an added breathability you wouldn't necessarily get with a military spec MA-1. The beige colourway is a nod to the classic desert camouflage, which is rarely found on MA-1's.
But it's the graphic elements of the jacket that make it stand out from the rest. Very few labels and designers can successfully merge military silhouettes with contemporary graphics, but A.Four have that knack. The sleeve graphic, 'Live at the Witch Trials', the debut album by The Fall, not only sounds cool as hell but has shades of the combat rock mentality, style and attitude championed by The Clash in particular in the late 70s. The rear Research and Destroy graphic fits that bill too as it ironically flips a traditional military tactic on its head for a totally new meaning.
The MA-1 jacket is possibly the ultimate military silhouette; a streamlined update on previous tried and tested military outerwear, where the unnecessary and uncomfortable has been replaced with the ultimate in functionality. A.Four take it one step further with the lightweight durability that is perfect for summer, but can be layered up underneath for equal parts comfort and warmth in the winter. Winner all round.
T28 Pilots, Florida, 1950s
Young skinheads, Newcastle Upon Tyne, 1970s
Military styling has been a huge influence throughout the 20th century. For the spring season refined Japanese brand Unused have taken one of the most iconic military jackets, the MA-1 Bomber, and revised it for women in a beautiful off white colourway.
Developed in the mid-1950s, the MA-1 Bomber jacket was produced to replace the flying jackets used in the United States Air Force. Due to modernisation of aircraft, from propeller to jet engines planes were able to fly at much higher and colder altitudes, the old fleece-lined leather jackets needed an update. Thanks to the discovery of nylon, these new MA-1 jackets were produced to be warm and comfortable and were able to protect against temperatures as low as -10°C. During the 1960s, MA-1 jackets amongst countless other military silhouettes began being reproduced commercially. They were adopted by punks, mods and skinheads in the 70s and found their way into high fashion in the 1980s with Jean Paul Gaultier and London based 90's cultural pioneering magazine The Face. The MA-1 still remains one of the most reproduced military jackets to this day.
One of Unused's biggest influences is vintage clothing and the idea of fabric suitability. Choosing something as classic as the MA-1 Bomber to reappropriate with updated materials. The first noticeable thing about the Bomber Jacket is it's silky, off-white tone – an extremely rare sight in military inspired garments. Not much has changed from the original design other than subtle updates and detailing. With oversized arms and body featuring ruched sleeves and elasticated cuffs, it’s the ideal, boy-ish, outer layer, that nods to the reappropriated 90's versions. It will keep you warm through the colder months with room for layers underneath and it's also ideal for the awkwardness of trans-seasonal dressing. A classic that will never go out of style, Unused Japan's version of the iconic MA-1 Bomber jacket is a unique update that you're unlikely to find anywhere else.
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'Alex Works' from The Face 1988, Neneh Cherry in 'Buffalo Stance' video 1988