At least since the iconic leather jacket, worn by Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing, was recently sold for 62.000 Dollar to the highest bidder, one thing is indeed certain: the timeless leather jacket has reached the Mount Olympus of fashion icons. But leather jackets not only look splendid on screen, although the cult around this sleek garment is to be owed to the actors on stage and film. Classic cuts from the 1940s, designed as sturdy brown leather bomber jackets for pilots, worn by the stars of the era like Gary Cooper in “For Whom The Bell Tolls”, made the leather jacket a cult symbol for the bikers and the rock’n’rollers. Increasing in popularity through famous movies like “The Wild One” with Marlon Brando. The respective rock’n’roll movie not only being the breakthrough for the young actor but also a milestone of youth culture. Brando gloriously impersonating the pretentious Johnny, leader of the iconic rocker-gang “Black Rebel Motorcycle Club”. Fashionably dressed in the signature garments: the black leather jacket, the cocky workers cap and the mandatory cigarette in the corner of the mouth. Naturally, Marlon Brando rode a furiously manly Triumph Thunderbird 6T motorbike in the movie, which inspired the british manufacturer to launch a whole Brando-collection. And henceforth a vintage leather jacket, embroidered with the insignia of the movie (rocker-club emblem, “Johnny”-signature), would be available for order. Different to the original movie leather jacket, the Brando-collection jacket is equipped with state of the art motorcycling protectors and reinforced with double-layer stitchings for increased sturdiness and durability. Because today, the wild life on the back of an iron horse has grown up and matured, but kept the iconic style and rugged sexappeal of the iconic idols.
The wild 70s, the glamorous 80s and the melancholic 90s.
The punk movement of the 70s rediscovered and proclaimed the leather jacket as their item of clothing, worn by famous bands like The Sex Pistols and The Ramones. Although most of the Punk Rock bands back in the day originated from New York – Punk advanced to an utterly serious movement in London, England. In New York considered fashionable, Punk Rock in England happily merged with the deep anarchic anger of the youth culture against the governing system and its institutions and formed a broad subculture movement – further propelled by a harsh economic crisis and the old-fashioned, starchy british class system. Even the leather jackets of the punks were “individualized” and adapted with applications, badges, signs, stickers, rivets, covered in quotes and sketches or torn apart and restitched to display individual character and the ideological rebellion of the young generation.
During the eighties and nineties films and music videos continued to keep the leather jacket an item of interest: “Top Gun”, “Dirty Dancing” and Michael Jackson’s famous “Thriller” music video. Tom Cruise pushed the leather pilot jacket and the Ray ban Aviator-shades fashion-hype to new heights, continuously persistent to the present day. All the better that the rumors over a sequel of “Top Gun” are getting somewhat serious lately. During the 1990s, on the other hand, the leather jacket became dominant symbol of the underground Grunge and Britpop culture – with both musical genres celebrating a deliberate worn-out, don’t-care style. Exemplary displayed by famous british bands like Oasis, The Verve or Pulp: slender legs fitted with skinny jeans, with haircuts grown out over eyes and ears, and – of course – wearing shabby, worn out leather jackets.
Today? All the best from all the rest!
David Beckham wears them, Brad Pitt wears them too and since Leonardo DiCaprio wore one in “Aviator” they are hot as hell and desired like never before: The leather jackets by the traditional british brand Belstaff (LINK). Cut after the classic design of 1920s military jackets, medium length, belted waist, with four sew-on pockets. Belstaff would, in the years to follow, ascend to specialize in “protective leisure wear”. Treasured by bikers, a rugged heavy jacket with the stitched pads on elbows and shoulders for better protection from injuries. Early on prestigious names discovered the quality and potential of the leather jacket. Lawrence from Arabia wore it and Ernesto “Che” Guevara wore it too: when riding the motorbike on political mission through Latin America – without sparking a fashion discussion over it, fortunately. Today the leather jackets by Belstaff are available in various versions and colours, reminiscent of every style movement of the last decades. Since the turn of the millennium fashion follows a liberal lead: whatever works, everything goes and nothing is really new. But the timeless leather jacket still follows the lead of Marlon Brando on his beastly Triumph and the pure taste of freedom and adventure.