Baseball, biker, or bomber?
Which of the season's most trendy jackets will you opt for?
Harriet Walker says: Baseball
For every woman who wishes she'd had her boyfriend's sports jacket to drape nonchalantly around her schoolgirl shoulders, a solution: buy your own.
No, really – there's plenty of them about this spring. And there's something in this garment's timeless appeal: perfectly preppy – and, yes, bordering on geeky – on a man, but redolent of popular girl, campus living – of teenage rebellion and smoking behind the bike shed – when translated to womenswear. What could be cooler than that?
You might have read a lot about the biker and the bomber but, trust me, the baseball jacket is where it all started. And it's by far the more fashionable for being that little less obvious – the biker's a wardrobe classic, but I can't help feeling it's time to give yours a rest. The bomber, I just can't get behind: for me, it still has bailiff written all over it, even if it does cost £5,000.
Our appetites for blouson jackets have been insatiable in recent seasons – Proenza Schouler kicked it all off in autumn 2010 with relaxed and sportily cut felt jackets that came with the characteristic collegiate ribbed cuffs and collar. Then it was Parisian prepster Isabel Marant's turn to morph an all-American piece of clothing into something more obviously chic: her girlish versions came in pastel pink embroidered with delicate floral bouquets. Balmain, too, has offered a version of the style, in leather and glitzy houndstooth sequins, with a price tag of £4,725.
The new incarnations of this classic style don't simply stick to sporting colours – they're updated in the shades of the season, but by all means opt for something more traditional if you like; that authentic Americana feel is very of the moment.
At Whistles, a wintry version in myth-busting navy and black came with an optional initialling service, customised with Varsity letters to spell out your monogram – all very Frenchie from Grease. And why not? Hers was a winning look – the baseball jacket is nothing if not studiedly cool. That's just what happens when things get a little androgynous. The dropped shoulders, the volume, the casual smartness of it: all conspires to make the baseball jacket the only outerwear option this season, so forget about the little league players and take one out to the ball game with you.
Gemma Hayward says: Biker
What could be better than looking like Danny Zuko? It's probably best to steer clear of the greasy quiff, granted, but that is one perfect specimen of a jacket. Its greatness is proved as soon as he takes it off – he turns into a total dweeb with zero sex appeal. Then he slips it back on and – a-wop-bop-a-loo-mop-a-wop-bam-boom!
Looking like a Fifties high-school boy might not be your desired look, but surely the biker jacket's punk and rock associations give it extreme credibility. It's a bad boy/girl look, and everyone loves a bad-ass, don't they?
The Eighties was probably its most challenging era – George Michael and Michael Jackson, I'm pointing a fingerless glove at you. But thankfully, since then the jacket in question has been endlessly re-invented, everyone seems to have forgotten past transgressions – thankfully they provide endless fancy-dress opportunities – and they are looking towards its handsome future.
Rick Owens with his butter-soft leather draped versions and Junya Watanabe with his structured cocoon-like leathers keep the designer dream alive. Plus, just this month Christopher Kane's spring collection landed on Net-A-Porter filled with floral printed silk bikers, which might be too sugary sweet for some, but are testament that the style isn't over just yet. At London Fashion Week, the sleekest interpretation had to be by Thomas Tait, where slightly oversized wrist-grazing jackets were delivered in black and black-and-white for a thoroughly modern result.
There are not many classics that withstand a revamp, but when the biker jacket was made longer, the fashion press was not afraid of saying it worked. Elongated versions are not only ideal for keeping your bottom warm in winter but they are especially flattering too – Maje, Sandro and Zara all say so. Mix up some fabrics with a contrast sleeve and hey presto, you have the look of a Parisian lady who lunches.
Swedish label Acne is probably the most guilty of regurgitating the style season after season, but as its most celebrated design is a jacket, we can forgive it that. The designers aren't afraid to apply bold colours or adjust proportions. This season's is pea green and cut just below the bust. Wear if you dare and if you are under the age of, say 25.
Rebecca Gonsalves says: Bomber
There's something about the stiff leather and multitude of zips and hardware of a new biker jacket that makes me feel like a phony bad-girl the instant I shrug one on – truly a rebel without a cause. And so, as season after season it is heralded as the perfect trans-seasonal jacket, I feel more than a bit miffed at its stranglehold.
As a nineties teenager, however, the sight of a multitude of bomber jackets on the catwalks last September was cheering – although it stirred a long-dormant sense of injustice, the result of my mother denying me the sage green Stussy jacket (complete with orange lining) that I so desperately wanted to wear over my school uniform. In hindsight, the fact that I was a slight 12-year-old at the time and the jackets in question were more puffed than Delia Smith's all-butter pastry, saying no to me is just one of the things I have to thank my mother for.
First developed by the US Air Force in the Fifties, the MA-1 bomber jacket was designed as lightweight all-weather gear and crafted from the relatively new man-made textiles of the time. Since then it's been re-appropriated by Mods, Skinheads, Ravers and, of course, the infamous Pink Ladies, most notable of which is Michelle Pfeiffer, whose sassy attitude in Grease 2 makes her a far more appealing role model than her dull antipodean predecessor.
Thankfully, more modern interpretations retain the signatures – a slightly boxy shape with elasticated waist and cuffs – but eliminate the volume in favour of something inherently sleeker.
For this season they are sharply cut at Richard Nicoll in soft leather and whiter than white cotton – a life of luxury has steered this garment far from its practical roots, while Jonathan Saunders' electrifying collection featured collared bombers nodding to the men's Harrington jacket. Textured, holographic and bright, these are statement pieces but still sublime. A khaki version from Theyskens' Theory remains true to the original – faded patches make it appear as though it has been rescued from a former pilot's long-abandoned trunk – but with a luxury update.
An assured piece of clothing, the bomber can withstand tinkering by designers, but a complete overhaul is never necessary. Versatile to the last, it can be wrought in a range of fabrics without losing its impact. I think my mother would approve.