The History of the Biker Jacket

The History of the Biker Jacket

When it comes to looking into what the biker jacket is, a few things spring to mind: style, ruggedness, tattoos, and of course, bikes. There’s a number of iconic characters that have made the biker jacket what it is today - looking into the past of James Dean, Elivs Presley and Marlon Brando, all of these icons oozed style and an unapologetic sense of individualism that just so happened to spread throughout the globe.

But still to this day, the biker jacket is an enduring wardrobe staple for any man or woman that wants to dress with an edge. This jacket has stemmed from a practical need to a hall of fame piece with around 100 years worth of heritage to its name.

Now if you’re familiar with the stories section over here at BODA, you will be aware of our jumps back into history as we look at where the most iconic of styles came from… Now, let’s see what makes the biker jacket so special.

How The Biker Jacket Was Born

The biker jacket first entered the world when the style was founded by brothers Irving and Jack Schott in 1913. However, it wasn’t until 1928 when their brand, Schott NYC, released the world’s first motorcycle jacket - named the ‘Perfecto’ - for Harley Davidson. This was the first ever biker jacket that featured functioning zips, allowing the wearer to wear it layered, as well as it being super easy to take on and off.

Its predecessors were fastened by buttons, but the addition of zip closures ensured better manoeuvrability and protection. The jacket was priced at $5.50, which back then, was quite the sum. But nonetheless, it gave effortless style, practical wearability and safety to its wearer.

How Hollywood Got Hold Of It…

Once the 1950s hit, the motorcycle jacket shot to fame. More specifically, Hollywood heartthrob, Marlon Brando, rocked Schott’s Perfecto in the hit film, The Wild One. Here, he played a gang leader - this only added to the jacket’s rebellious connotations. After this movie hit the screens, the biker community really got a hold of it, leading to a fresh resurgence of biker gang culture. Tattoos, beards and bikes became the ‘in’ thing, but if you saw one of these guys in the flesh, you wouldn’t expect a friendly come-together.

Confidence, effortless and bursting with attitude, the motorcycle jacket instantly became a symbol for an entire generation of youths.

Moving On Up!

Following the post-war era of the 1950s, the revelation throughout the world of after the years of battle brought the “Swinging Sixties”. With this, came a lot of partying and a new sense of freedom which saw people become more open and experimental with how they dressed and carried themselves. The motorcycle jacket became a hallmark of the young and carefree, with everyone from up-and-coming musicians to The Beatles sporting biker jackets as a symbol of counterculture. 

Then moving onto the 1970s, rock music became the musical genre of the generation, with greasy-haired, tight-clothed rockstars adopting the biker jacket as their official uniforms. Most iconically, The Ramones pushed the biker jacket towards the mainstream sphere by wearing it on the cover of their world-famous albums, Rocket to RussiaLeave Home and Road to Ruin. The imagery that came along with these album campaigns catapulted the style into a new dimension, leaving the doors open for decades to come.

Punk Rock Came To Play

As the badass trend of rock dominated the years before it, like any great genre, it had to evolve. During the 1980s, Punk music came under the spotlight and the subculture gave the motorcycle jacket its most notorious transformation of all. The style of the jacket became so popular, designers such as Vivienne Westwood, along with rock bands beginning to lead the charge of the iconic look… But it wasn’t just the style that it was representing. 

The biker jacket became an emblem of an anti-government, anti-establishment movement that lasted for the duration of the 80s. During this time, mixed with an injection of heavy guitar riffs from the Sex Pistols, wearers would style their jacket over-sized, combined with metal spikes and studs.

How Is The Biker Jacket Respected Now?

After the Punk Rock era began to lose its popularity within society, a new rivalry was created. The mods and the rockers began to go head-to-head as the motorcycle jacket was reinvigorated and softened by Hollywood in the 1990s. The classic look was seen on the backs of popular A-Listers such as Leonardo DiCaprio, Brad Pitt and Johnny Depp. Such stars began to shape the way the biker jacket was portrayed by the world. Some people loved it, some hated it. But, the look was still respected, just in more ways than one.

As time has moved on, more towards the present day, the motorcycle jacket is still considered as a legitimate wardrobe essential for stylish men of all ages. The difference is that the style has been adapted to match any man or woman, depending on their style. 

Everyone from high-street brands to the luxury designers such as us here at BODA produce their own takes, meaning there is something for every budget and taste.