Under the leather

Stephanie Osmanski

he leather jacket is a fashion classic. Iconic and always innovative, it is one of those pieces that will seemingly never go out of style. Having survived years of fashion shifts without ever falling under the radar, the leather jacket is an absolute must-have for fashion connoisseurs of all kinds. Here is a look at how the incomparable garb has evolved over the years:


The origin of the leather jacket is tricky to establish. Traces of the first jackets surface as early as the 1930s. Aviation legend Amelia Earhart was one of the women of her time who flaunted a leather jacket in their popular style: bomber jackets. Leather jackets were mainly staples for aviators in the ’30s. They were usually brown and served more of a functional purpose.

Soon dubbed “the motorcycle jacket,” leather jackets from the 1940s sported new and interesting features. Most jackets had decorative “pistol pockets” to make the look more eye catching. A pocket on the front of the jacket, usually lined with a zipper, was often the perfect size and hiding place for a gun, which is how they garnered the nickname “pistol pocket.”


Throughout the 1940s and ’50s, the leather jacket acquired most of its iconic reputation from promoter and “Rebel Without a Cause” actor James Dean. Images of Dean in his leather jacket are legendary.

Of course, we owe most of the 1960s fashion trends to the boys responsible for the British Invasion. The Beatles, who all looked dapper in leather, catapulted the bomber jacket to super stardom yet again, as their music rocked the nation.


In July 1973, one of the most popular on-screen musicals released was “Grease.” As John Travolta and his T-Birds, all adorned in iconic 1950s leather jackets, danced and sang around their car “Grease Lightning,” it was inevitable that leather would have another popularity boost in the fashion industry.

With the beat of the music industry in the 1980s to the ’90s picking up speed and an electronic flair, the leather jacket seemed to make its way back into the hearts of consumers through musicians’ music videos. The red leather jacket Michael Jackson wore in his 1983 music video, “Thriller,” has been rendered famous and iconic by lovers of his music alike.


Today, the modernized leather jacket is not just exclusively for aviators or motorcyle gangs. It is a necessary fashion staple in any man or woman’s closet. The most recent fad seems to be pairing the edgy “toughness” of a typical leather jacket unexpectedly with the sweetness of something flowy and floral. Here, take note of singer and actress Demi Lovato’s up-to-par ensemble. Whether you are a jeans and T-shirt kind of person, or a frilly dress lover, leather jackets fabulously complement any look.