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by BJTC Staff August 11, 2023

Shearling jackets have a long and rich history that dates back several centuries. The term "shearling" refers to the skin of a sheep or lamb that has been shorn once and then tanned with the wool intact. The combination of the leather on one side and the soft, insulating wool on the other makes shearling an ideal material for cold-weather garments. We can connect the origins of shearling jackets to various cultures throughout history. Of course, even the earliest humans used animal skins and furs for warmth and protection, which likely included shearling. But let's fast forward a bit and pick things up in the 20th century:


Shearling jackets gained popularity during World War I when pilots and military personnel began wearing them for their exceptional warmth and durability. The natural insulation of shearling made it ideal for aviators who had to endure extreme temperatures at high altitudes. As a result, by the 1920s, air forces around the world had adopted shearling jackets as part of their standard flight gear.


During the 1930s and 1940s, shearling jackets became more accessible to the general public due to advancements in manufacturing techniques, increased availability of materials, and changes in fashion trends. The rugged and practical nature of these jackets made them popular among outdoorsmen, ranchers, and adventurers. They were particularly favored in colder regions and among folks engaging in outdoor activities such as hunting, hiking, and camping.

One significant development during this period was the establishment of sheepskin tanneries and the improvement of tanning processes. As a result, tanning technology advanced, enabling the production of high-quality shearling with consistent finishes. This allowed greater quantities of shearling to be produced and made available to consumers.

Additionally, the growth of the ranching industry contributed to the increased availability of sheepskin. As more sheep were raised for their meat and wool, the supply of sheepskin grew, making it easier to source the material for shearling jackets.

The growing popularity of outdoor activities and the increasing number of people engaging in outdoor pursuits also played a role in making shearling jackets more accessible. The rugged nature of shearling made it great for wearing while hunting, hiking, and camping, providing excellent warmth and durability in harsh conditions.

Also, the influence of Hollywood films and pop culture helped popularize shearling jackets. During this era, many films portrayed rugged and adventurous characters wearing shearling jackets. For example, stars like Clark Gable and Gary Cooper donned shearling jackets on screen, leading to an increased demand for them off-screen as well.

The wartime period of the 1940s also impacted the accessibility of shearling jackets. Shearling became a staple of military flight gear during World War II. The warmth and insulation of shearling made it ideal for pilots facing extreme temperatures at high altitudes. Then, when military personnel returned home from the war, the popularity of shearling jackets grew as folks viewed them as both practical and fashionable. By the end of the 1940s, shearling jackets had solidly transitioned from primarily functional garments to more mainstream fashion items.


During the 1950s and 1960s, shearling jackets gained further prominence through Hollywood films and popular culture, solidifying their status as iconic fashion pieces. This period marked a significant shift in fashion and youth culture, and shearling jackets became synonymous with rebellion, rugged style, and a sense of adventure.

One of the key factors contributing to the popularity of shearling jackets during this era was their association with Hollywood icons and the characters they portrayed on the big screen. Films like "The Wild One" (1953), starring Marlon Brando and "Rebel Without a Cause" (1955), starring James Dean, featured these actors wearing shearling jackets, instantly capturing the imagination of audiences and setting new fashion trends.

Marlon Brando's portrayal of a rebellious biker in "The Wild One" showcased a tough and edgy image, and his iconic shearling jacket became a symbol of youthful rebellion and nonconformity. In addition, James Dean's character in "Rebel Without a Cause" donned a red shearling collar jacket, further cementing the association of shearling jackets with a rebellious, anti-establishment attitude.

The popularity of these films and the appeal of their leading actors propelled shearling jackets into the mainstream. The youth of the time idolized these Hollywood stars and sought to emulate their style, leading to a surge in demand for shearling jackets.

Beyond Hollywood's influence, the rise of popular culture and music also played a significant role in popularizing shearling jackets during the 1950s and 1960s. The emergence of rock 'n' roll, with its rebellious and charismatic figures like Elvis Presley and The Beatles, further fueled the trend. These musicians often sported shearling jackets on stage and in their personal lives, amplifying their appeal among their fan base.

The increasing availability of shearling jackets through improved manufacturing techniques and mass production methods also contributed to their prominence. As demand grew, fashion designers and manufacturers responded by creating a variety of shearling jacket styles, catering to different tastes and budgets. This made shearling jackets more accessible to a broader range of people.

By the end of the 1960s, shearling jackets had made their mark on fashion history as iconic pieces synonymous with style, individuality, and a sense of adventure.

Fast Forward: Today

Shearling jackets have continued to evolve in design and style over the years. As a result, they're available in various cuts, lengths, and finishes, catering to different fashion tastes and budgets. While shearling jackets are often associated with a classic and timeless appeal, modern interpretations and variations have made them versatile enough to be worn in casual and formal settings alike.

The history of shearling jackets showcases their enduring popularity, rooted in their functional qualities and their association with past style icons. From their origins as practical garments to becoming a fashion staple, shearling jackets have stood the test of time and continue to be cherished by folks seeking warm, stylish outerwear options. We consider it an honor to carry this heritage in our collection of shearling jackets for men and women.

BJTC Staff
BJTC Staff