From the skies of aviation to runways all around the world, the leather jacket has become synonymous with fashion and is truly a timeless piece. Dating all the way back to the 1920s the Leather jacket has withstood the test of time and cyclical trends to be what it is today, an iconic piece of American history.
Creation of the First Leather Jackets – 1927
Primarily worn by military aviators to keep warm and protect themselves from the elements. These early jackets were made of horsehide and were designed to provide warmth and flexibility to the pilots. Many people think that the first major leather jacket given to aviators was the L-2, but it is actually the A-1. The A-1 jacket was designed by the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1927, and was the first leather flight jacket to be issued to military aviators. It featured a front-button closure, two front pockets, a wool-knit collar, cuffs, and waistband. The Type L-2 jacket was introduced as a replacement for the A-1 in 1930. The L-2 jacket was also made of horsehide, but featured a front zipper closure and a shirt-style collar, which was considered to be more comfortable and practical for pilots. The change from A-1 to L-2 along with the front zipper and shirt style collar system can be accredited to Irving Schott and his ‘perfecto jacket.’
Perfecto Jacket – 1928
Irving Schott introduced his ‘Perfecto’ leather jacket as a fashion item instead of a military uniform. named after his favorite cigar brand, the Perfecto used a front zipper rather then buttons for its front closure system, this was a huge risk as buttons where the norm at the time. His jackets where created with motorcycle riders in mind and his design had an advantage, an asymmetric, double-breasted cut that allowed riders to lean over their motorcycles without feeling constricted. They where widely popular due to their great blend of comfort and protection while also being just $5.50($83.84 taking account for inflation).
Leather jackets made their way to the silver screen in the 1950s. The first actor to break into the scene with a leather jacket was Marlon Brando. He wore Irving Schott’s original design in The Wild One. Because the leather jacket was perceived as a symbol of defiance against authority, many schools outlawed the “Brando look.” On top of that, both The Beatles and Elvis incorporated leather fashion into their look, appealing to mainstream rock and roll fans around the world. The leather jacket was officially becoming a pop culture icon of its own.
Pop Culture and Rock
The popularity of leather jackets continued to grow as bands such as Duran Duran, The Sex Pistols, and The Ramones tried their best to preserve that rebellious edge. By the 1990s, leather jackets were a pervasive part of fashion and culture, including the variety of men’s leather jackets worn by bands and artists like Backstreet Boys and Kurt Cobain.
In the 90s the leather jacket represented a blend of subcultures, alternative music scenes, streetwear, and film and television. It embodied a sense of rebellion and nonconformity. Artists like Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. incorporated leather jackets into their signature styles. It became common to see hip-hop artists pairing leather jackets with baggy jeans, oversized jerseys, and Timberland boots. Iconic characters such as Neo in “The Matrix,” played by Keanu Reeves, donned black leather jackets, contributing to their sleek and futuristic image.
The emergence of pop punk and emo music genres in the early 2000s led to a resurgence of interest in leather jackets. Bands like Green Day and My Chemical Romance embraced the punk aesthetic, with leather jackets becoming a staple part of their stage attire. Movies like “Fight Club” contributed to the leather jacket’s modern day influence. Since 1927 all the way to the 2000s, the leather jacket evolved from a symbol of rebellion to a versatile fashion staple. Its association with various subcultures, iconic movies, and influential musicians ensured its enduring presence in pop culture and fashion.
Written By Sammy Aronoff