How A Bomber Jacket Renaissance—And Kanye West—Gave A Classic American Brand A Major Boost
The 30 percent increase in revenue isn't all because of Ye—but he certainly didn't hurt.
BY JONATHAN EVANS | Feb 29, 2016 | Fashion
It's been more than half-century since Alpha Industries introduced its first branded MA-1 flight jacket in 1963, and even longer since the OG bombers that proceeded it (like the A-2 and B-15) made their initial appearance as standard-issue military outerwear. And though the bomber jacket has proven a genuine classic over the course of the last few decades, there's no denying that the style—especially the nylon MA-1, with its knitted collar and telltale arm-pocket—is having a moment right now.
"The bomber jacket is a staple silhouette in fashion, and like most outerwear pieces it follows a cycle with peaks and troughs," says Mike Cirker, CEO of Alpha Industries, which was founded and secured its first military contracts in 1959. When Cirker talks about peaks, he's not kidding: The company's revenue increased by 30 percent in 2015, and sales of the classic MA-1 jacket more than doubled.
Luckily, Cirker and the rest of his team recognised the beginning of the current bomber trend early on: "In this particular case, we first saw the demand increase for the MA-1 two years ago, which catapulted our development process to create variations of the silhouette and a multitude of collaborations."
Most of those collabs have been pretty official, but it was a DIY partnership with Kanye West that launched Alpha Industries ahead of its competitors in terms of visibility. "He first reached out to us to purchase MA-1's for his Yeezus tour," says Cirker. Ultimately, West bought 100 jackets and applied his own logos and patches. "Since then he has become a great supporter of the brand. He obviously has a huge influence on trends and is forward-thinking. He was a year ahead of the runways and we now see [bomber jackets] on influencers and celebrities across the board."
That kind of popularity is a double-edged sword, of course. Too much of a good thing can spell death for a trend. But Cirker isn't worried. "I believe the bomber has still not fully peaked," he says. "It will definitely be a huge trend for another year, and like all major fashion trends will settle down to the masses."
Still, he's already making plans for the future: "That said, we have seen the N-2B style trending in Japan and CWU-45/P flight jacket picking up in Europe, and we expect those to be the next must-have items." If you're in the market, we recommend buying early—at least before Ye does.
First Published in Esquire US.