Biker Jackets – A Short History


A fashion classic that never goes away, thats the biker jacket. For some its a fashion item, for others its a practical piece of clothing, but what do you know about it.

I think its fair to say for a lot of people there is an iconic image that springs to mind (the one above) of Marlon Brando in The Wild One from 1953, this may be where the legend of the biker jacket as a symbol of counter culture and being outsider was born. However its origins were born 40 years before.

You may know the company Schott & Co, well in 1913 Irving Schott a Russian immigrant to the USA started producing motorcycle gear. Motorcycling by this point had become increasingly popular and people were keen to cash in on an emerging market. Schott produced jackets and then in 1928 he hit on the style we would all come to know and love, on that fateful day he couldn’t have known that his idea would grace the catwalks of London, Paris, Milan, and New York. Its worth noting at this point that his clothes were only sold at bike shops and mechanics, not clothing stores.

in 1928 the Perfecto Lancer Front jacket was produced, the first version to look like we would recognise, (later variants were produced under license for other companies by Schott)and for a couple of decades it sold well as a motorcycling jacket. Then Marlon Brando happened.

Almost over night the staple apparel of the US motorbike clubs was propelled from the dusty roads onto the back of everyone who wanted to be seen as different, the seminal message of The Wild One is about being different and ignoring all the rules, perfect for a youth market that wanted to have its own identity, and by buying the jacket they could show they were part of that.

Its the association with this that has remained, it was a biker jacket that first brought us to Pritch London in our labels to look out for feature, and is very eloquently summed up by Arina Pritch as “sexy, rebel, and strong”.

From the style choices of the 1950’s via The Ramones and Punk, to Jean Paul Gaultier this simple jacket with its great lines, simple use of zips, and amazing look has established itself as part of each youth movement and driven itself into the modern fashion lexicon. In fact we’re quite sad and have noticed that at least 6 BIG High Street stores are carrying versions at the moment and its not even the right weather/season in theory.

It has such a place in our collective awareness that when I posted the George Michael, Freedom video as part of a play list I got 3 or 4 people say they love it, but did he have to set fire to the BSA version of the biker in it.

Next time you see one spare a thought for Irving Schott the small jacket maker who ended up dressing the world, and wish they still cost $5.50.




About FashionWorked

Fashion & Life Online Magazine, Lover of Indy Labels & Retailers, You Spend A lot Of Time In Clothes, Love Them, . . . . Also I'm A Boy


  1. Excellent post. I always thought that black biker jackets went back to post-World Wars pilot gear, I stand corrected. 🙂

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