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A Brief History Of The Biker Jacket

Classicly Styled Motorcycle JacketSo, your old lady bought new gear for you choosing from a selection of brand new biker jackets. You light the fire, roll down the road and, well, getting on the gas you power down the lane looking rather cool. Did you know you're a continuing story in a long line of leather biker jacket wearers dating back to the beginning of motorcycles? Leather is a lush, highly sought-after material owners believe sets one apart from the rest of the horde. It seems to naturally fit in with motorcycle riders believing the same thing about them. Therefore, a leather motorcycle jacket worn by motorcycle riders are sort of iconic and have, in fact, been around since WWI days when Army messengers riding motorcycles "borrowed" from airplane pilot gear the leather jacket worn that kept them warm and comfy since cockpits had no heaters.

Biker Leather Jackets Become Shott-y

The Roaring 20s saw a boom with what became the classic style leather biker jacket. Introduced by a couple of Russian immigrant raincoat makers -- Jack and Irving Shott -- the very first specific motorcycle jacket was designed by Irving in 1928 who named it after his favorite cigar -- the Perfecto. Shott made a distribution deal with a Harley Davidson outlet out on Long Island and manufactured these soon-to-be popular jackets in his basement on the Lower Eastside of Manhattan. The first leather biker jackets sold for a whopping $5.50.

Ready for My Close-up

Returning GIs who rode the muddy European roads and desert lanes throughout WWII came home embracing a beginning motorcycle lifestyle that included the wearing of leathers -- specifically a biker leather jacket. The 1953 Columbia Pictures movie, "The Wild One," starring leather clad young Marlon Brando started such a frenzied desire for every post-pubescent male to don such attire. Soon schools across the land issued pronouncements banning students from wearing a leather biker apparel in class and even on campus.

The Ultimate 'Rebel' Look

Additionally, the ultimate "rebel" of the day, actor James Dean, sported a Perfecto leather jacket in the movie, "East of Eden" (1955) and again in his last movie, "The Giant." Dean personified the independent, tough youth who may not always be in trouble, but never backed down from a fight. The young testosterone-laced American males saw wearing a biker leather jacket as a statement aligning them with the image Dean projected "on stage," as well as off. Dean died at 24 in a fiery car crash giving credence to the saying, "live fast, die young and leave a good-looking corpse." Wearing that most classic-looking leather biker jackets -- one with a snap-down collar, zippered cuffs and front with a belt convinced many bikers they portrayed the look of a true rebel.

Leather Rules But...

To most bikers, there is no substitution for leather. However, a combination of mesh material and leather does provide a "lighter" jacket that might create greater comfort when temperatures are steamily hot. Some non-traditional riders, mostly sport bike riders, prefer a lightweight all-mesh jacket.

Keep in mind, quality leather biker gear protects the rider from road rash during a spill while also insulating the bod when rolling during cool weather.


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  • Back to main topic: Motorcycle jackets
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