The History Of Leather Jackets

A brief history about the evolution of the leather jacket

the history of leather jackets

We consider clothing a necessity of life, along with such things as food and water. In the early beginning garments were worn for functional purposes, giving us protection and warmth.

While fashion have evolved to meet different needs, from undergarments to kilts to shorts to pants, one thing has remained constant since the dawn of humanity: we are still wearing skins.

Since the prehistoric times, hominids (human-like mammals), wearing animal skins goes back approximately 400,000 years. Also In recorded history, pieces of leather dating from 1300 B.C. have been found in Egypt. Primitive societies in Europe, Asia and North America all developed the technique of turning skins into leather goods independently of one another. The Greeks were using leather garments in the age of the Homeric heroes ( about 1200 B.C. ), and the use of leather later spread throughout the Roman Empire. 

In the beginning, skins obtained from hunting became stiff at low temperatures, while they rotted with heat.  It was probably then that attempts were made to render them more flexible and stronger by putting urine, smoking, exposing to the sun or salt or rubbing in animal fats, would soften it and make it last longer. Fast forward to the 19th century, and with the introduction of machines. These methods, gradually became more refined and efficient.

While designing garments with leather evolved with time, the history of leather jackets seems to have originated during the Middle Ages or early Renaissance as the jerkin, a more fitted version of the older short tunic worn by working-class men. However the first jacket design was likely to have first been made for German aviators during World War I. By the early 18 century, the jacket became the normal working dress for employees in agriculture as well as by servants in urban settings.

The creation of the Air Force led to the birth of the first leather flight jacket. Flying at high altitudes above ground, at extremely high speed, military men needed something to protect them from the wind and cold. A thick leather jacket prized for its warmth, unshaven, featuring an authentic shearling lining given the name the “bomber jacket” by the World War 2 bombardiers.

The early leather motorcycle jackets, worn in the 1920’s and 1930’s, were a very popular brown goatskin style with short styling, fitted waist. Many of these jackets imitated the style of the Bomber jackets.

Companies began making biker-specific outerwear for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Designing a jacket specifically for biker dudes.

Interestingly, it was Hollywood and the movies that gave the motorcycle jacket its enduring mystique.

The leather motorcycle jacket changed into the rocker jacket, worn by the rockers between the 50’s and the 60’s. The black leather motorcycle jacket was not only associated with the bikers but also groups like greasers, rockers, punk rockers and metal heads.

In the early 2000 leather jackets became more of a fashionable apparel, with the introduction of different styles and colors, however they still serve a much more important and practical purpose, as protective gear.

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