Monday, February 9, 2009

The Motorcycle Jacket


With impeccable fit and the highest attention to detail, motorcycle jackets must be custom made in order to allow it's wearer the freedom and protection that these pleasure seekers need to achieve comfort and speed while on the open road.  These jackets that represented rebellious youth in America in the 1950's and 60's are not only a means of protection from serious injury, but a fashion statement as well.  They have been a constant inspiration for designers from the high street to haute couture.  While designing menswear in Florence, Italy, I would often reference these jackets to create cool looks.  Because of their visual message of risk, speed, and dangerous activities, icons have been made.

Short, fitted black leather jackets starting becoming popular during World War I when they were worn by aviators.   They represented speed and adventure.  After WWI, leather jackets were inspired by the military wear of soldiers and pilots.  They emulated the A-1 jacket used by the Army Air Corp and were styled with a mandarin collar and button front closure.  This 1920's silhouette was adopted by motorcyclists.  In 1928 Schott Bros of New York designed the first double style leather motorcycle jacket with a zipper up the front and named it Perfecto after the designer's favorite cigar.

In 1947, Ross Langlitz of Langlitz Leathers in Portland, Oregon developed the "classic" rocker style jacket that was similar to Perfecto (you can still get these bespoke pieces today).  In the 1950's and 60's the rocker jacket became the uniform of the unconventional wild ones.  This was epitomized by Hollywood first in the 1953 movie The Wild One starring Marlon Brando who portrayed Johnny Strabler, a young gang leader who wore a cool leather jacket and rode a 1950 Triumph Thunderbird 6T, and then by James Dean in the 1955 film Rebel Without a Cause.  Because of the nonconformist ideals that these Hollywood icons represented, the motorcycle jacket created a stir in society that made a timeless statement about it's symbolism of youth and change.  

The motorcycle jacket has proven its staying power as a source of inspiration for artists and designers alike.

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