The Bomber Jacket Patchwork: Customizing a Classic Leather Style

Leather bomber jackets have been symbols ofcool ever since they emerged from the cockpits of daring WWII pilots. Though styles evolve, the bomber remains an iconic staple of rugged fashion.

In recent years, these jackets have undergone a bold makeover thanks to the rise of DIY customization and patches. Once plain, the classic bomber is now a blank canvas for personal style and self-expression.

Join us as we explore this fusion of fashion and function, and how to deck out your own leather bomber with patches as unique as you.

A Brief History of the Bomber Jacket

Since its wartime inception, the bomber jacket has enjoyed waves of mainstream popularity. But its origins are far from the fashion runways and punk rockers who eventually adopted the style.

The bomber jacket began life as strictly functional military gear. Designed for pilots, it insulated against cold high altitudes while allowing freedom of motion in cramped cockpits.

Iconic examples like the A-2 jacket sported by fighter pilots were made of seal brown horsehide leather and featured thick fleece lining. The ribbed cuffs and waist prevented air from rushing in while the tight collar secured against whipping winds.

When WWII pilots started wearing their issued bombers off duty, an iconic style was born.

Over the decades the bomber remained popular with airmen, college students, athletes, and counterculture groups. Brands like Alpha Industries and Schott NYC introduced models for the mass market. Their simple structure lent itself well to customization.

By the 1970s the punk movement thrust bombers into the spotlight. Musicians like the Ramones, Blondie, and the Sex Pistols emblazoned theirs with safety pins, patches, and spray paint.

The Patched Bomber Jacket Renaissance

In recent years, the punk-inspired patched bomber has exploded back into the mainstream.

Music festivals, streetwear trends, and nostalgia have all fueled this renaissance. For many wearers today, patches are both fashion symbols and badges of personal identity.

Modern bomber jackets offer prime real estate for customization thanks to their spacious back and sleeves. Leather’s sturdy texture also provides an ideal background for patches.

Now both indie designers and luxury brands produce their own patch-ready styles. The personalized bomber has also taken off on DIY scenes through craft sites like Etsy.

Let’s look at some of the most recommended base jackets to deck out with your own patches and flair.

Top 5 Leather Bomber Jackets for Patches

1. Banana Republic Leather Bomber Jacket

This bomber from Banana Republic’s premium collection delivers versatile styling for work or weekends. The lambskin leather shell has a smooth texture suited for patches.

It comes in tan, black, and navy blue. The ribbed collar, cuffs, and hem retain the classic bomber silhouette. At $600, the price reflects higher quality materials and construction.

While minimalist out of the box, it’s a perfect starter jacket for adding your own custom patches. Reviewers praise its durability and timeless design.

2. Schott NYC Buco Leather Motorcycle Jacket

Schott’s motorcycle jacket features many traditional bomber elements like front zipper pockets and ribbed knit cuffs. The vintage look stands out through details like silver hardware and an asymmetrical front zip.

The broken-in lambskin leather shell and satin lining offer supreme comfort. It already comes adorned with branded patches, perfect for adding your own adjacent designs.

Made in the USA and priced at $900, it’s an investment in quality craftsmanship. The biker-inspired style also seamlessly allows for edgy, punk-flavored patches.

3. Levi’s Moto Bomber Jacket

As an affordable option under $200, this jacket from Levi’s makes customization accessible. The polyurethane faux leather lacks the prestige of real leather but permits creative freedom without worry.

The smooth jet black material allows patches to pop. Levi’s built in classic moto elements like zip sleeves and quilted shoulder panels. The hip length flatters casual outfits while lending itself to patches.

This is the perfect blank bomber for experimenting with patches and making the style your own. It comes in sizes up to 4XL for an inclusive fit.

4. The Ragged Priest Lunar Bomber Jacket

This bomber from The Ragged Priest combines punk and grunge vibes. The distressed black leather has an edgy, broken-in look.

The silvery rose prints and fleece panelling offer striking visual contrast for patches. It also features unique details like buckled shoulder straps.

Coming pre-decorated with embroidered roses and the brand’s logo, this jacket becomes your own by building upon its design cues. More punk pins, studs, and patches complete the dark rocker chic style.

Priced around $300, it lets you achieve the bespoke biker look without breaking your budget.

5. Cordura Collection MA-1 Flight Jacket

For traditionalists, this MA-1 style replica channels vintage air force aesthetics. It comes in the iconic seal brown leather with orange fleece lining.

Authentic details include the ribbed collar, storm flap, and jute trim. The leather cord zipper pull and knit cuffs match the original WWII design.

For patches, the simple retro look provides a clean foundation. Flight squadron patches and emblems work seamlessly with the theme. At $500 it captures the past while allowing modern customization.

How to Choose the Right Bomber Jacket for You

Bomber jackets may look uniform, but subtle variations make each one unique. Keep these considerations in mind when selecting your ideal base jacket.

Consider the Leather

Leather quality impacts comfort, durability, and patch adhesion. Smooth leathers like lambskin or calfskin work best. Full grain has the most natural texture. Distressed leathers add built-in character.

Thicker bomber leather withstands wear from patches. Steer clear of thin or stretchy leather that could sag over time. Top stitching around patches also improves structure.

Make sure the inner lining complements the leather. Natural materials like cotton or satin allow for airflow and comfort.

Choose a Classic Color

Sticking to traditional bomber shades allows patches to stand out. Black, brown, tan, or white bombers keep the focus on your custom details. olive green and navy are also vintage military options.

Consider whether you want your base color to blend with or contrast against your patches. Dark jackets like black or brown make bright patches pop. Lighter bombers let the patches blend in more subtly.

Get the Right Fit

Since flight jackets are meant to be snug, get an accurate measurement of your chest rather than relying on standard sizes.

Stand straight with arms slightly out, measure across your chest from armpit to armpit, then refer to size charts. Bombers should fit close to the body without restricting movement.

A proper fit also prevents patches from cracking or peeling over time. Loose jackets rub patches more and cause them to detach sooner.

Pick a Budget-Friendly Price

Genuine leather bombers range wildly from $100 to $1000. Higher pricing comes from details like:

  • Premium materials and hardware
  • Complex embellishments
  • Hand-finished components
  • Brand reputation

For a first jacket to decorate, mid-range styles around $200 – $500 give quality without going over-budget. Or opt for budget faux leather to freely experiment.

How to Select the Perfect Patches

Once you’ve selected the ideal bomber jacket, it’s time for the fun part – picking patches! Here are factors to consider:

Patch Material

  • Embroidered patches feature dimensional designs and texture. They’re pricier but very durable.
  • Printed patches offer unlimited color and detail like photos or graphic prints. The designs flatten with wear over time.
  • Woven patches have a rough, textured feel. They fray naturally for a vintage vibe.
  • Applique patches have fabric designs stitched onto a felt background. The felt helps adhesive grip to the jacket.

Size Variety

Mixing patch sizes helps create visual interest. Cluster small patches between statement-making large pieces.

Too many jumbo patches can overwhelm the jacket. Scale down secondary designs so main images stand out.

Use your jacket layout as a guideline – sleeves suit longer patches while the back accommodates big designs. Small patches work nicely along zippers, collars and hems.

Cohesive Themes

Most jackets look best when patches share a cohesive theme or color scheme. Music, sports, pop culture and personal hobbies make great themes.

You can find patch sets centered around specific TV shows, movies, or music artists. DIY patches from old t-shirts or other fabrics also let you maintain a theme.

Don’t be afraid to get creative with your own designs!

Placing Patches for Visual Impact

Bomber jackets offer ample empty space to deck out. Follow these tips for adding patches with purpose:

Focus the Focal Points

Place eye-catching statement patches on the upper back panel or between the shoulder blades. These prominent spaces naturally draw the eye.

Frame larger patches in these spots with harmonious mid-size and small patches. Work them into triangular or diagonal formations for dynamism.

Spread Out Evenly

Covering every inch can look cluttered. Distribute patches evenly across all sides of the jacket. This helps them feel balanced rather than chaotic.

Leave at least 2-3 inches between patches and don’t overload any single area. This allows each design’s shape to shine.

Mind the Edges

Keep patches at least 1⁄2 inch from clothing seams or edges. This prevents fraying over time and gives patches room to breathe. Curving patches along hems looks deliberate rather than haphazard.

Patches on leather sleeves tend to lift over time. Sewing around the borders keeps edges in place. Top-stitching also adds dimension.

Harmonize Shapes

Combine geometric patch shapes for an abstract look. Angles, lines and curves work together when planned thoughtfully.

Cluster same-shaped patches in odd numbers – try three circles or five rectangles. This creates visual rhythm and interest.

FAQs About Custom Leather Bomber Jackets

Customizing your own bomber sparks lots of questions for first-timers. Here are answers to some frequently asked patch questions:

Do patches damage the leather?

With care, patches can be removed without damaging leather. Heat softens adhesive so patches can be slowly peeled off. Use leather cleaner to remove any remaining residue.

Avoid pulling too hard or ripping patches off quickly, which risks tearing leather. Test patch glue in an inconspicuous area first.

How do I affix patches securely?

Fabric glue applied thinly provides reliable adhesion. Epoxy adhesives also bond well with leather.

Stitching around patch borders is the most secure application method. Use waxed thread and a leather needle for durability.

Iron-on adhesive patches are another option, fused to the jacket interior. Avoid superglues which become stiff over time.

What’s the best jacket cleaning method?

Spot clean leather jackets by hand using a small amount of mild leather cleaner and a soft cloth. Wipe down patches separately as needed.

Avoid submerging bomber jackets in water. Let jackets air dry away from direct sun or heat which can distort patches and leather.

Can I add customization without patches?

Patches aren’t the only option for personalization! Paint, embroidery, studs and dye are all ways to make a bomber your own.

Stenciling or free-hand painting creates one-of-a-kind designs. Just use leather-safe paints. For embroidery, choose waxed thread to avoid fraying.

Which leathers work least well with patches?

Nubuck and suede leathers pose some challenges for patches. Their soft texture makes it harder for glue to bond. The fibers are also prone to damage if patches are removed.

Faux leather and shiny patent leathers don’t breathe as well either. But you can add mesh lining to help prevent overheating.

Make It Your Own

Today the classic bomber has expanded beyond its military roots into a wearable canvas for self-expression. With endless customization options, you can pay homage to the past while forging your own path.

Whether channeling old school punk or pioneering fresh looks, patches turn basic bombers into bold embodiments of personal style. Let this guide help you make the jacket of your dreams!

The right patches can transform a jacket into your own mobile mural. Now get creative with the endless possibilities and share your punk spirit with the world. What will your bomber say about you?

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