21 September 2022

From tattoo covered greasers to modern day influencers: The history of the biker jacket

Ever since its inception in 1913 the biker jacket has been a staple piece in the world of fashion and over a century later, it’s still going strong.

Despite being an inherently functional piece of clothing, the biker jacket has always been a mainstay within the world of fashion ever since its inception in the early 1900s. Whether it’s a burly middle-aged man with admittedly one too many tattoos or a modern-day influencer adding a bit of edginess to their wardrobe, the biker jacket has proved its versatility truly is for everyone. 

The first ever biker jacket was created back in 1913 by brothers Irving and Jack Schott, founders of Schott NYC. However, it wasn’t until 1928 that the siblings would release the world’s first motorcycle jacket – named the Perfecto – for Harley Davidson. This became a big breakthrough in the motorcycle world as it was the first jacket to feature fully functioning zips over its predecessor’s flimsy buttons. Back then one of these jackets went for a measly $5.50, which equals $76 today. 

Schott NYC Perfecto 118

Eventually, people started to realise that biker jackets, put simply, looked incredibly cool. That’s when the biker jacket made its way into the world of Hollywood in the 1950s, thanks to Hollywood icon and heartthrob Marlin Brando who rocked Schott’s Perfecto jacket in the hit film, The Wild One. In the flick, the effortlessly edgy Brando appeared as Johnny Strabler, leader of a California motorcycle gang called the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club.

The actor’s jacket, which featured stars on the epaulettes, his character’s name spelled on the chest and his gang’s logo on the back, was an iconic image of counterculture at the time. Young people in America started to take notice and began taking inspiration from Brando’s edgy style, causing a massive spike in demand for the Perfecto. Somewhat ironically though, Schott’s sales began to plummet as schools throughout the country banned students from wearing leather jackets after becoming fearful of the gang culture they were associated with.

Of course, as the popularity of the biker jacket skyrocketed it didn’t take long for the world of high fashion to get involved. In 1960, 24-year-old Yves Saint Laurent, who was then the head of design for Dior, presented his own spin on the style. As part of a beatnik-inspired runway collection, Saint Laurent revealed a single-breasted, fur-lined leather women’s jacket made from alligator skin, although the collection was widely dismissed by critics at the time.

The biker jackets remained popular throughout the preceding decades, although they eventually latched on to the punk movement rather than the bikers of the past. In the mid 70s motorcycle jackets became an almost mandatory uniform for bands and their devoted fan bases. Sex Pistols, The Ramones and Blondie were just a few who wore the style which continued to represent counterculture and rebellion through the means of fashion.

As time went on, Schott was far from the only name in the leather jacket industry and designers took the style to dizzying new heights throughout the 90s and 00s into the present day. Rick Owens rose to popularity in part thanks to his Stooges and Molino jackets, whilst Kate Moss donned one made by him in an issue of French Vogue in the early 00s. The resulting exposure allowed Owens to stage his first runway show at NYFW in 2002.

As we step into the modern day, leather jackets are still a high fashion staple, which was evident during LFW. David Koma gave us his glamorous rendition of the biker jacket with decorative crystals, whilst providing a slightly bulkier than usual silhouette. Daniel W Fletcher also took heavy inspiration from the classic look with his latest collection, which featured biker jackets with colourful pops of fuchsia, giving a much more vibrant look to the historically gothic piece.

Schott – Classic Perfecto

As you may remember, this is the one that started it all and it’s still going strong today. The jacket is produced from U.S. sourced, drum-dried, hand cut, heavyweight naked cowhide. If you’re looking to embody your inner Brando, then this is your best bet.

Acne Studios – Mock Core Leather Moto Jacket

Acne Studios have made a name for themselves for their Scandi minimalism matched with bold takes on already popular silhouettes. And nowhere is this mire evident than with the Swedish label’s selection of biker jackets. For our pick, this clean and classic style features a cropped fit with a snap-down notched collar and angled front zip which heightens the classic appeal.

Rick Owens – High-neck leather biker jacket

Perhaps you’re looking for something a little more avante-garde? Well, this Rick Ownes piece will certainly do the trick with its incredibly sleek and minimalist take on the usually boisterous biker jacket silhouette.

Yves Saint Laurent – Motorcycle jacket

Saint Laurent’s biker jacket has been an icon since the 60s and it’s still going incredibly strong in 2022. This iteration gives us the tried and tested look we all know from YSL, with impeccable detailing and a dark, Parisian aesthetic that we know all too well.

Gucci – Leather racer jacket

In what’s a deeply contemporary look, the Gucci leather jacket is tough and robust whilst providing a splash of vibrancy to the biker jacket world. The jacket is lined in bright red silk, whilst the back is printed with lyrics to ‘You Got Good Taste’ by The Cramps.


  • Writer Chris Saunders

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