– Sid ViciousThe leather jacket is an iconic piece of clothing. It’s a garment so compelling and versatile that it has relevance for everyone from punks to police officers. That’s because the naturally malleable, breathable material can be styled in an infinite number of ways to suit the needs of the person wearing it. Leather jackets achieved full-fledged icon status during the 20th century in part through their counterculture image portrayed in film and television. Marlon Brando’s appearance as leather-bound biker Johnny Strabler in the 1953 film The Wild One, followed by the greaser looks of Happy Day’s Fonzie and John Travolta in Grease, all contributed to the discourse on the leather jacket. Later versions during the 1980s focused more on the rocker jacket with stud detailing, classic belt-buckle style bottoms (which was actually invented four decades earlier) and slightly oversized flappy collars.
But leather jackets aren’t just for insolent youth on bikers. European air forces began wearing long leather coats as early as 1915, and the trend caught on stateside when leather bomber jackets were created for the U.S. Air Force. The leather kept pilots warm during a time when cockpits were not enclosed. With a bunch of bad boys wearing leather jackets, it isn’t difficult to see how they developed a tough image. But that impression is more than skin deep. Leather jackets were built to last a lifetime — or at least survive a motorcycle accident. The original leather jackets were constructed to act as a second skin and protect the body from major cuts and bruises. While later versions, like the rocker, are lighter and more fashion-friendly, any good leather jacket will manage to endure whatever punches life throws at you.
Leather Jackets On AM
Leather jackets today are all based, more or less, on the biker-bombers of old. Look for modern, structured silhouettes like a racer jacket with a standing button-tab collar or a bomber with epaulet detailing on the shoulders. Either way, the jacket should have a tailored, fitted look and not create excess bulk. The closer it sits to the body and the thicker the lining, the more the jacket will work its magic to keep you warm. Deconstructed versions of heavier winter leathers are also available for warmer climates to capture that bad boy style without packing in the unnecessary heat. Also, keep an eye out for soft, rugged leathers. Supple leathers are more comfortable, and a little distressing shows that a jacket can withstand standard wear-and-tear in style.
Leather Jacket Fact
Fonzie’s famed leather jacket from Happy Days was actually one of at least three he wore during the sitcom’s decade-long run. While on the set, the jacket was so prized that it was kept in a vault. Today, one of the jackets is currently housed as a relic of American history at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.