Believed to be one of the world’s most cultural icons symbolizing a unique blend of cool as well as rebellion. With a strong significance of freedom of youngsters of the day, back in the 50s and 60s, it has thrived and evolved over centuries according to some. While the true origination of the leather jacket is debatable as none of the presumptions of its origins have been proven true, it is safe to say that hides and skins of animals have been worn by man since as far back as one can imagine.
Categorized as outerwear, due to them being worn over other garments, leather jackets have served many purposes over the years. Available in different styles and various colours, leather jackets have made a mark on multiple subcultures ranging from military aviators and motorcyclists to musical subcultures that include goths and metal-heads covering several grounds of usage that include functionality and fashion separately or combined.
You may have heard about a certain brown leather flight jacket worn by aviators and members of the military as early as the 1900s particularly during the Second World War. Back then, they were used mainly for functional purposes and were prized for their protection and warmth. Since then, this same leather flight jacket transitioned to one of the world’s most popular style staples that is now known as the leather bomber jacket.
Why the name ‘bomber jacket’?
Word has it that the name was inspired by the people who used those the most…bomber pilots. The jacket was a part of their uniform which underwent further changes over the years, based on the type of hide or skin it was made from depending on the requirement of the wearer. Sheepskin was often included among many others as well as the incorporation of fleece on the inside for added warmth. On the flip-side, leather jackets have also been used by Russian Bolsheviks and were nearly made a uniform for the Commissars during the Russian Civil War and later for the members of the Cheka.
The time the leather jacket was most popular
It was in the late 20th century when the leather jacket received its iconic status on a global scale. This was achieved with much help from Hollywood, starting from the stars who were seen wearing a leather jacket between the 40s and 50s. Actors such as Jimmy Stewart in the film Night Passage to Gary Cooper in For Whom the Bell Tolls as well as Harrison Ford in the Indiana Jones series. The leather jacket was also seen on Tom Cruise in the film Top Gun. These are all examples of action-adventure inspired, simple leather jackets that gave out an element of authority rather than fashion or style. It was between the 50s and 60s where the element of style was visible. Stars such as Marlon Brando in the film The Wild One and Honor Blackman in The Avengers, contributed to making this possible. So much so by the 70s and 80s, films and television shows depicting past eras made it priority to include the leather jacket for authenticity of that time. Fonze in Happy Days and The ‘T’ Birds in Grease are excellent examples of this notable point.
Over the years, leather jackets have highlighted many factors including versatility and diversity. Versatile enough to be worn for various reasons, from protective gear to uniforms and from style enhancers to a combination of both. Diversity enters the picture and is identified through various cultures and sub-cultures that have used leather jackets to highlight identity. This may be via music, film, art, society etc. worn by several different age-groups, from a multitude of countries to the achievement of different ‘looks’ such as a rebel look, a seedy spy, a rocker, a band, a club, or the armed forces. Despite holding some symbolism for different people, leather jackets can be simplified enough to be called the symbol of cool.
Did you know?
Modern day leather jackets work parallel to the meat industry as hides and skins leftover are worked on to achieve various finishes, looks and colours that include different textures and treatments as well. Leather jackets are produced in countries such as the United States, Canada, Mexico, India and Pakistan. What’s really cool is that people living vegan lifestyles or who are looking for economic ways to look good with leather jackets can do so by going for fabrics that mimic real leather which can include PVC and Polyurethane which are amazing alternatives for authentic animal skin and hide.
Resources: Wikipedia, Manrepeller, Soulrevolver, Theidleman and Geeksofdoom