Although leather jackets initially became popular among bikers back in 1928, their popularity grew significantly in the 1950s. Thanks to the silver screen, the black leather jacket became the symbol of cool when Marlon Brando wore the original Perfecto as a motorcycle gang leader in 1953’sThe Wild One. According to IMDb, Brando selected Johnny Strabler's iconic clothing from his own collection in order to get into character. Brando was renewing his real-life passion for motorcycles and establishing a persona that would live long past the ‘50s to become emblematic of the decade's counterculture, and he succeeded, as leather jacket sales skyrocketed after the movie was released, becoming an overnight symbol of biker culture.
James Dean solidified the leather jacket as the signature rebel outfit when he wore it in 1955’sRebel Without a Cause and, even offscreen, was rarely seen without it. The tragic death of Dean, the face of the rebellious counterculture, just a year later, further cemented the icon status of the leather jacket.
Later on, rock stars such as Steve McQueen, Elvis Presley, and The Beatles adopted the fashion, and leather jackets became associated with rock and roll as much as bikers. Leather jackets went on to infiltrate the punk rock scene in the 1970s and 1980s with The Ramones, The Sex Pistols, Blondie, and Joan Jett. And, don’t forget Michael Jackson’s red leather jacketThriller music video.
Celebrities of all kinds, including fashion icons and supermodels, continued embracing leather jackets throughout the ‘90s, and their popularity has persisted.