The History of the Motorcycle Jacket
March 27, 2013The History of the Motorcycle Jacket
How Schott’s ‘Perfecto’ Started It All
When you gear up for your ride, you throw your leather jacket on and don’t think twice about it. But how did the leather motorcycle jacket become such a wardrobe staple in the riding community and in every fashion niche that exists? It’s classic, timeless, quintessential—and it all started in Manhattan’s Lower East Side in 1913.
Vice, an alternative news magazine that covers everything from tattoos to music, recently published an enlightening article about the history of the motorcycle jacket, invented as we know it today by the son of a Russian immigrant. His name was Irving Schott, and in 1913 he started a basement factory with his brother called Schott Bros. He achieved coat-making success by selling his hand-crafted sheepskin-lined rain coats door-to-door, branding his top-of-the-line leather creations ‘Perfecto.’
It wasn’t until 1920 that Schott began creating outwear meant for motorcyclists. At the time, motorcycles were not hugely popular and had only just begun doing well commercially. Schott’s introduction to the motorcycle world came when he partnered with a member of the Beck family, one of the country’s most profitable Harley-Davidson distributors. Because riding a motorcycle was such a new fad, there was not a jacket on the market sturdy enough to be worn while riding. Furthermore, jackets back then did not use zippers, so the content of a rider’s pockets would fly out while riding. In 1925, Schott was the first person to put a zipper on a jacket.
In 1928, Schott released what is now universally known as the motorcycle jacket. The diagonal zipper was purely meant for function over form. The angle of the closure worked to block the wind and prevented the jacket from bunching up when the rider mounted his bike. He gave his creation the Perfecto label, and the rest is history.
As hard as it is to imagine, the original motorcycle jackets were seen as strange. That is, until they reached a symbolic status of “cool and rebellious,” thanks to actors like Marlon Brando in movies like The Wild One (1953). The jackets became enormously popular and cemented Perfecto as a name that would forever be synonymous with the leather motorcycle jacket.
Schott NYC, the same company that created the original Perfecto riding jacket, is still in business today. In fact, they are celebrating their 100th anniversary. What’s even cooler is that they still make Perfecto motorcycle jackets today on the same equipment they used that many years ago. Many argue that you won’t find a better quality motorcycle jacket anywhere! But if you want one, be prepared to pay a pretty penny. What retailed in 1928 at $5.50 will now cost you $660! (Personally, we think our Eagle Leather line of traditional riding jackets is pretty great too, and this one retails at $299.99! Use this week’s newsletter coupon to save 20% through April 5.)