The History of Leather Jackets in Fashion

Leather jackets have shaped our wardrobes for years, with a strong presence in evolving fashion and personal style. From biker to flight jackets, there are so many designs that we see on a daily basis in the fashion industry, but where did they leather jackets come from? 

We’ve stepped back in time, right back to the early 1900s to uncover the full history of leather jackets within the fashion industry. 

Leather jackets in 1928

Leather flight jackets first appeared during WW1 when pilots wore the jackets to keep them warm in the cockpit. This is why leather flight jackets are generally padded with a fur collar, and perfect for colder weather.

It was 1928 when leather jackets first entered the fashion world, with raincoat designer Irvin Schott designed and launched The Perfecto jacket, named after his favourite cigarettes, for Harley Davidson. These jackets held a similar resemblance to what we know refer to as the leather biker jacket, and the first one sold for $5.50. 

Leather jackets in the 1950s

In the 1950s, leather jackets were seen in Hollywood films for the first time, making their popularity spike. Marlon Brando sported a leather racer jacket in ‘The Wild One’ in1953, followed by James Dean in 1955 wearing the iconic red leather racer jacket in ‘Rebel Without A Cause’. 

Leather jackets in the 1960s

In the 1960s leather jackets' popularity rose again, with the introduction to the music industry. Both The Beatles and Steve McQueen styled leather jackets making them popular in Rock ‘n’ Roll. 

Steve McQueen also sported a leather jacket in his performance with Prefab Sprout and styled an A-2 leather jacket in the film The Great Escape, again increasing the popularity of leather jackets further. 

The Fab Four made black leather jackets part of their signature look, by pairing it with jeans.  

Leather jackets in the 1970s and 1980s

At the height of Rock ‘n’ Roll and for a bid for equality, women started wearing leather jackets on the music scene in the 1970s and 80s. Blondie and Joan Jett were among the first female musicians to wear the jackets, adapted with things such as metal studs, which soon became popular in the female fashion industry. 

Women also started sporting leather jackets in Hollywood films around this time, with Grease released in 1978 and both John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John styling these jackets in the classic look. 

Men’s leather jackets today

The history of leather jackets has led us to leather jackets making appearances everywhere, from catwalks and among celebrities to high street fashion brands and more. Men’s leather jackets are perfect for creating an edgy, cool and confident appearance, as well as being versatile for both casual and smart dress. 

Today, the most common styles of leather jackets you’ll find on the market include biker jackets - a traditional look with a side zip, racer jackets - with a straight zip and popper close collar, bomber jackets - with the most traditional everyday style, flight jackets - perfect for winter months, and varsity jackets - playing homage to American baseball. 

Shop all men’s leather jackets for sale with Camokazi, or contact us for help finding the perfect jacket. 

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