Bomber Boys Is The Fashion Book Of The Year

The links first. The book. The YouTube channel. The author.

Bomber Boys, by John Slemp, is an archive, it is a history book, it is a work of art, it weighs more than I do, and it is the best fashion book of the year. Bomber Boys is a collection of transcendent photography of American A-2 flight jackets, the art that adorns them, the stories of the men who wore them, and an essay on their impact on American fashion.

The book is BIG. It is a square foot easy, 370+ pages. It is produced to hold stellar photography and stories you will never forget. Did you know that in WWII 25,000 women applied and 1,830 were accepted to serve as WASPs? (Women Airforce Service Pilots). The gentleman in the spread above was General Charles McGee. Slemp photographed him twice, the second time at the age of 101, attending an annual aviation gathering at AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI. From the book, “When I asked him why he felt it imperative to attend the week-long event at his advanced age, he replied, It’s important for the kids to know what is possible…”

Equally fascinating are the explanations of the unique artwork the pilots wore on their jackets. Each piece has its own meaning, many of them way more complex than you would imagine.

This type A-2 flight jacket belonged to Calvin E. McCart, a tail gunner attached to the 570th squadron of the 390th Bomb Group. On the front left of the jacket is the 570th squadron insignia patch, a joker with 4 aces behind it. The name “Mac” is painted on the front right of the jacket, a man parachuting is painted below the name. McCart flew 35 successful missions over Europe, this is signified by the 35 bombs painted on the sleeves of his jacket. The name “Shuttle-Babe” is painted on the back of the jacket above artwork. The artwork on the back of the jacket is a B-17 flying through the clouds with the 8th Air Force logo behind the plane. Throughout the course of his 35 missions McCart survived 3 emergency landings.
WWII P-51 pilot Bob “Punchy” Powell flew three missions,-over 16 hours-during the D-Day invasion.
Bomber Jacket Exhibit – Military Aviation Museum – Pungo, VA

The website for the book, where you can order it, is worth a tour as well. The book comes packaged as the collectible it is, and I have returned to it again and again for two weeks. 5 stars (see what I did there?)

Please visit the site for more information and to buy the book.

11 Comments on "Bomber Boys Is The Fashion Book Of The Year"

  1. Oh yeah
    A-2s are totally A-1.
    The perfect flak jac for asphalt aviating.
    I don’t fly a B-17 but I call my Vespa the “Songbird”
    Classic style from the “Americana look book”
    Over and out.

  2. whiskeydent | April 11, 2024 at 12:18 pm |

    It’s sad these jackets didn’t become a tradition. My dad was a career USAF pilot and I don’t recall seeing him or anyone else on-base in one during the 60’s. Then again, I was age 0-10.

    In ’70, my dad returned from Thailand with a “party suit,” a light cotton jump suit with his name, eagles and patches of all the units in his wing sewn on. It was cool, but not near as cool as the WWII era jackets.

  3. I can attest that this is a terrific book!

  4. roger sack | April 11, 2024 at 3:45 pm |

    My Dad served in the Eighth Air Force in WW2. Nothing brave or glamorous.
    He was a dentist who actually landed in Normandy as part of a field hospital,
    a few days after D Day. I got the leather jacket from him. It was plain with only
    the Eighth Air Force badge. I wore it in High School and later passed it on to
    my nephew

  5. MacMcConnell | April 11, 2024 at 7:58 pm |

    I had my father’s horse hide A-2 he wore in WWII. He flew P-38s in the Pacific. I used it alot riding my Bonnie to school everyday. Unfortunately, it was stolen out of a locker at an away football game my senior year.
    The A-2 flight jacket (not bomber jacket) was discontinued as standard in about 1944 for the US Air Corp and reinstituted by President Regan in 1987.
    In the US Navy the equivalent is the A-1. The A-1 is similar, but has a bi-swing back and a mouton snap or botton on collar. The Navy has always worn them since their original inseption.
    When I think of a bomber jacket I think of a B-2 jacket. It’s a sherling goats skin jacket. It also has matching pants or bib overalls. I imagine it got pretty cold outside the cockpit of a B-17.

  6. I’ve never been a huge bomber jacket guy (on myself, anyway), but this post reminds me of that pic of JFK in what appear to be grey flannels. Look up “jfk leather bomber jacket.” What a stellar dresser.

    P.S. What ever happened to Will AKA “Sacksuit” ? I haven’t seen him in a while. Anyone know how he’s doing?

  7. MacMcConnell | April 12, 2024 at 11:05 am |

    That JFK image is an example of a US Navy A-1 flight jacket.

    • Ah, I see. I wasn’t kidding when I said I wasn’t much of a bomber jacket guy. Shows how much I know. Cheers.

  8. Drake’s lookbook dropped the other day for any of those who are interested:

Comments are closed.