A classic motorcycle jacket is an item of clothing made from a variety of fabrics, usually leather, designed to protect the rider. In addition to functional reasons, many riders choose a jacket for style that will allow them to make a statement. Jackets are manufactured for both men, women, and a variety of riding styles. Motorcycle jackets were invented in the 1920s and were made popular by famous American movie stars.
Almost all classic motorcycle jackets have similar features such as a removable lining for wear in warm or cold weather. Classic motorcycle jackets are made from a thick or heavy form of leather. The jackets usually have many zippered pockets, both inside and out, built into the design for storage. The sleeves of a riding jacket are articulated and mimic the natural curve of the arm, preventing uncomfortable bunching.
Those who frequently ride motorcycles are subject to other drivers and the elements. Therefore, the protective features are essential to the design of any motorcycle jacket. Classic motorcycle jackets have built-in protective armor placed in the areas of the elbow and shoulders. Some jackets build the armor into the back area to protect the spine and the chest. Since a rider may be caught in wet weather, certain manufacturers have water-proofed the material of the jackets.
Fit is particularly crucial in choosing a riding jacket. The fabric should be semi-stiff and should not shift around with the rider's movements. While it is necessary to have a snug fit, the jacket should be roomy enough for an additional layer of clothing underneath. The sleeves should cover the rider’s wrist when the arm is extended.
Marlon Brando was one of the first movie stars to appear in a classic motorcycle jacket. In the movie “The Wild Ones,” he wore a double-breasted leather jacket with one star on the epaulet. Upon high public demand, manufacturers began to reproduce this jacket design with stars on both epaulets. The jacket had a fitted waist with a large buckle in the front and a zippered closure.
Other stars to popularize classic motorcycle jackets include James Dean, who wore a similar style to Brando’s, and Steve McQueen. James Dean became an icon in the 1950s in his motorcycle jacket, and young men around the globe imitated him. Steve McQueen wore a single-breasted, button-front leather jacket in the movie “Easy Rider,” and this style became equally popular. Other celebrities and rock music bands, such as The Ramones, would further the popularity of classic motorcycle jackets.