The history of the motorcycle jacket is long yet simple. It begins in 1913 when two brothers by the names of Irving and Jack Schott founded the company Schott NYC to chase their American dreams. They started by making raincoats in a basement factory on the Lower East Side of Manhattan and many years later, Irving created a new type of coat intended for warmth, protection, and comfort for motorcycle riding. He named it after his favorite type of cigar - the Schott Perfecto. This was the introduction of the first genuine leather motorcycle jacket and also the first jacket to use zippers rather than buttons for closure. It had a belted waist for a secure fit, an asymmetrical front closure that moved the front seam away from the center chest (more comfortable when a rider is hunched forward on their motorcycle), and created a double layer of material in front for extra insulation. The Perfecto was durable, rugged, and immediately embraced. To this new generation of "bikers," this jacket was a symbol of the excitement, adventure and danger that fueled their fascination with motorcycles. Every biker undoubtedly knows that the iconic leather motorcycle jacket is an integral part of their outfit—without one their wardrobe would be considered incomplete.
There are several different factors to consider when looking for a motorcycle jacket besides safety, such as material, fit, and price. Check out a few below, and see why each should be considered:
Motorcycle jackets are made of a variety of materials including leather, textile fabric such as nylon, and kevlar hybrid or mesh, a mixture of textile and leather. Leather is a great choice because of the toughness, feel, and longevity of the material. It is important to choose real, genuine leather so that the motorcycle jacket can take scratches, wear and tear, and uniquely mold to the wearer over time. In case of an accident, leather motorcycle jackets do a much better job protecting your skin than most other materials because leather is made from durable hide. Wearing these types of jackets with metal plates, hard sliders, and pre-curve at the arms will allow for abrasion and impact protection. Materials like textile adventure/touring motorcycle jackets offer different types of protection against falls, scrapes, and abrasions. Furthermore, mesh or kevlar hybrid materials within ADV jackets can offer the rider impact and skin protection through layers of padded material and armor.
It is extremely important for a motorcycle jacket to fit well when riding and not just when you try it on in the store. When you ride you don’t want it to be too short, where your wrists, arms, or back could be left exposed. Also, you want to make sure that the jacket is comfortable and will not feel too bulky or restrictive when worn. The fit of your jacket also depends on the type of motorcycle you’re riding as well as the position you are riding. From people who ride Harley-Davidson’s to people who ride Ducati’s. No matter the different type of motorcycle or position you choose, make sure it's the right outfit and style for you.
When looking at purchasing a motorcycle jacket you should be looking for the best quality jacket within your price range. Materials such as leather in sporting, cafe, and cruiser/v-twin jackets vary in price based on whether or not the leather is of high or low quality, and how safe the material is. Higher quality leather and the safest jackets are generally going to be higher in price. Leather jackets can also be pricier because of the quality and timelessness of the material. Materials such as textile or mesh fabrics in adventure/touring and ADV jackets may be of less quality and therefore are a more affordable option.
Depending on the location and climate of where you live, choosing the right jacket is a critical part in your plan to ride. If you live in a warm climate choosing a textile or mesh jacket may be the best option since they are lighter weight than leather motorcycle jackets and they can provide much greater airflow. Whereas if you live in a colder climate, then choosing a leather jacket is a great option because it is not only an amazing insulator, but also very durable against harsh weather conditions. Choosing a jacket could also depend on where you plan to ride. For example, if you live in the city, but plan to take your bike on rides through the mountain, you may want to consider purchasing a warm leather riding jacket. But if you live in the mountains and want to ride to the beach, think about getting a lightweight jacket that provides more ventilation.
When considering what to wear with a leather motorcycle jacket, everyone has their own style. If you tend to lean on the rustic side, pair your riding jacket with leather gloves, a rugged belt, and a tough pair of boots. Not sure what to wear underneath your jacket? Go for a pair of blue heavily ripped slim cut jeans and a light grey neck fitted knit sweater. For modern or sporty riders there are plenty of other styles out there to consider. For example, wear gloves to be protective and aesthetic. Or you can sport some cool sunglasses to safeguard your eyes and look fly while doing it. Also, think about putting on a fashionable wrist gadget such as a luxury watch.
It is extremely important to properly clean and care for any leather apparel products and your leather motorcycle jacket is no exception. Leather requires care just like the skin on our bodies. Without it, leather tends to become discolored, stiff, and brittle. To avoid this, always make sure to wipe off all the dirt that has accumulated on the motorcycle jacket during the ride. Also, if you were riding in the rain, then you may need to dry or treat the fabric with a conditioner. Here is a great guide on how to care for leather.
Looking back, we have discussed the history and purpose of the motorcycle jacket, why it’s important to invest in a quality leather piece to use while riding your bike, and what to look for in a quality riding jacket. For more information about leather jacket styles check out our blog post: Types of Leather Jackets: Which Style Are You?. Also, if you are considering riding soon, here is a great resource on motorcycle safety tips to ensure that we are all safe drivers on the road.