We all know them. We all like them. Regardless of our fashion style, we wear them. They are versatile classics, they are both “bad” and “good” and they can be worn, practically, with any occasion. There are only so many reasons to love the leather jacket! Still, do you know where it comes from and how has it changed with the ages? If not, read on to find out the amazing history of the biker jacket.
The Very Beginnings
While most of us associate the leather jacket with rebellious youth subcultures, its birth is related to more conformist and normative environments. Members of the military, most often aviators, wore them at the beginning of the 20th century and, as the Second World War approached, these clothing items became very appreciated due to the warmth and protection they could offer to the people who wore them. In Russia, the leather jacket was highly popular among the Bolshevik commissars in the Civil War.
When it comes to mass production, the beginnings of the motorcycle apparel date back to 1913 when companies such as Schott were opened and started to produce jackets in the ‘20s. Later on, in 1933, Joseph Buegeleisen Co. started to sell motorcycle accessories and saddles in Detroit. In the ‘40s, they began producing biker jackets as well, and, during the same years, the Indian Motorcycles came up with the “Ranger” and “Rangerette” (one model of jacket, for men and women, with the only difference between them being the fact that the zipper on the “Rangerette” was on the opposite side of the “Ranger” model). Harley Davidson also produced leather jackets in the ‘40s (the “Cycle Champ” and “Cycle Queen” models, featuring the famous “Pistol Pocket” holster).
The Second Half of the 20th Century
With the increase in popularity of the motorcycles after the Second World War, and with the rise of new popular icons, the leather jacket started to walk the Hall of Fame, together with famous movie characters, such as Johnny Strabler (played by Marlon Brando), Cathy Gale (played by Honor Blackman), and, later on the Terminator (played by Arnold Schwarzenegger), Neo (played by Keanu Reeves) and Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt). While not all of the above-mentioned characters wore a purely “biker” jacket, it surely had a great influence over their costumes.
Nowadays, the biker leather jacket and are worn on a daily basis by millions and millions of people. Sometimes, they are not even made out of natural fabrics (either to reduce the price or to make them more eco-friendly). Other times, they come in bright, vibrant colors, leaving behind the classic black. And other times, they lose their safety equipment features and they become simple clothing items. Still, they have the same roots and they can all be traced back to the beginning of the 20th century. We wear them with jeans, we wear them with skirts and we even wear them in more formal attires. The biker jacket is, probably, one of the clothing items that survived the longest time span and that’s probably the reason they keep showing up on the runaways as if the years haven’t passed by, as if the “greaser” subculture was still the IN thing.