The leather jacket is a wardrobe classic that stood the test of time for over a century with its history affiliated with men and their ambition to speed.
Known as the ‘Bomber Jacket’ during WWII, leather jackets were being worn by pilots in the military. Leather was the perfect fabric for its protection and comfort for aviators who were exposed to weather conditions in the cockpit. Using leather as the primary fabric in these jackets was a practical decision rather than a fashion one. It came to be known as ‘Biker Jacket’ after Irving Schott designed the first motorcycle jacket to be sold at Harley Davidson.
The leather jacket became a fashion statement when it was put in the map by cinema stars who turned it into a garment associated with danger, rebellion and masculinity. If you’re a fan of the classics like we are, you would remember at least one of these gents. Marlon Brando was the first one to wear it in The Wild One (1953), followed by James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) and the ultimate cool guy Steve McQueen in The Great Escape (1963). These films made the leather jacket a wardrobe staple for many men.
Decades later, the military uniform got signed over from popular culture to underground culture. A garment first associated with aviation was next adopted by non-conformist punk legends like The Ramones, The Sex Pistols who styled their jackets with studs and safety pins. To wear such an item that signified rock ’n’ roll bad boys and dangerous dudes like Hells Angels, women had to be badasses too, like Sandy in Grease (1978). Although in real life, rock chicks like Blondie and Joan Jett passed the leather look to the ladies.
When Madonna wore one on her 1986 music video for ‘Papa Don't Preach’, she brought it back to the mainstream. Finally, in the 90s, supermodels like Kate Moss and Naomi Campbell took over and truly made it a ‘girl’ thing. However, it is also the same decade that leather blazers and leather trench became a thing, especially in the gents’ scene. You all remember photos of Johnny Depp leaving The Viper Room in his leather blazer or Wesley Snipes swooning with his long trench in 1998’s movie Blade, not to mention boy bands like Backstreet Boys and NSYNC in their full leather outfits.
Today a leather jacket is no longer a symbol of rebellion nor is it associated with one particular scene. It’s synonymous with versatility. It is an iconic staple of the fashion industry that brands keep designing with different interpretations for people of all ages and lifestyles.
Here’s our take on this century defining timeless classic: