Motorcycle Jacket

AKA: Biker Jacket

How to say it: as it looks

Traditional Features: 

body template

  • hip length
  • offset zipped front closure
  • several pockets
  • belt at hem
  • traditionally has epaulettes
  • press studs on collar
  • zip closure on cuffs

Origins…

…of the style: The motorcycle jacket as we know it now was introduced in 1928 by Schott in New York City. It sold for $5.50 through the Long Island Harvey Davidson retailer and is reportedly the first jacket to have a zipper on the front. It was called the Perfecto.

Prior to the release of the Perfecto, motorbike riders wore jackets based on aviator or military styles. They were often made from brown goatskin, had buttoned fronts, mandarin collars and were much shorter than the motorcycle jacket of today.

The Perfecto jacket was an immediate success amongst riders and through the 1940s and 50s was adopted by the Rock and Roll world. In 1954, Marlon Brando wore the Perfecto ‘One Star’ in the film ‘The Wild Ones’ and cemented the jackets popularity and cult status. The jacket became so popular that it was banned from being worn in many US schools, and was even banned from sale in various parts of England and the USA due to its being perceived as the symbol of youth rebellion. This connection with rebelliousness was enhanced by the original Rebel without a Cause, James Dean and the popularity of the ‘One Star’ skyrocketed as Dean’s star rose and fell with his untimely death.

Over the decades the motorcycle jacket has been adopted by various cultural groups as a means of identifying themselves as a group that stands outside the law – Greasers, Punks, Goths and Metalheads, just to name a few, have all included the jacket as part of their ‘uniform’. The Punk movement is particularly connected with the motorcycle jacket as they adopted and personalised the garment with patches and pins as a way of expressing their anti-establishment sentiments and their desire for individual freedom. Perhaps the most iconic biker jacket wearing punks are The Ramones, who took the stage at New York’s CBGB in 1974 in their Schott Perfectos and caused quite a stir.

But rebels and punks weren’t the only ones to be drawn to the motorcycle jacket. In 1960 Yves Saint Laurent was the first designer to show a Perfecto inspired jacket on the runway, and the biker jacket has graced catwalks from Chanel to Burberry in the years since.

While originally made from horsehide, The Perfecto is now made from steerhide for men, and lambskin for women. On the fashion front, the Motorcycle jacket is made from everything from high end leather in various colours, to PU, cotton, twill and denim, and the name ‘Motorcycle’ or ‘Biker’ jacket tends to indicate the style of the garment, rather than the complete leather jacket package.

…of the name: The names ‘Motorcycle’ and ‘Biker’ jacket came about because the jacket was originally designed to be worn while riding a motorbike. The name ‘Perfecto’ was chosen by the designer Irving Schott and his brother Jack because it was the name of their favourite cigar.

For a more in depth history of Motorcycle Jackets, try Schott NYCWikipedia, SSense or Glamour.

Random Facts

  • Irving Schott was commissioned by the US Air Force during WWII to produce Bomber Jackets and Pea Coats for the armed forces. They continued to do so for the next 60 years.
  • Motorcycle jackets made for actually riding bikes are thicker and heavier than fashion versions and have extra padding on the elbows and such to protect the rider.

21st Century Motorcycle Jackets

Whether it is made from cotton, twill, nylon or traditional leather, the style of a modern motorcycle jacket is unmistakable and maintains many of the features of the original Schott Perfecto.

Helmut Lang Oasis Saint Laurent Theory

Top Row – Helmut Lang, Oasis

Bottom Row – Saint Laurent, Theory

 

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