A brief history of leather in fashion

A History of Leather

Posted: 3rd May 2016 in , ,

Nothing quite beats a classic leather jacket. But where did it originate from? This guide covers the history of leather clothing, its first uses and where it all started.

Read on for more the history of leather clothing and how leather jackets became the epitome of cool over the decades.

The History of Leather Industry

Egyptian and Roman Leather

The Egyptians and Romans were very proficient with leather tanning and crafting, and started the trend of creating clothing.

Wall paintings & artefacts in Egyptians tombs show that they created so many things from leather hides including tools such as buckets, bottles, shrouds for burying the dead and military equipment. The Egyptians also started the creation of leather gloves, sandals and gloves.

The Romans made even more extensive use of leather by creating sturdy footwear and tunics. They also recognised the strength of leather and developed the creation of military equipment using it. This included harnesses, shields, and saddles.

It was during this era that leather crafting was refined, and improved upon.

Medieval Leather

The Middle Ages represented another leap forward for the leathercraft industry. The Medieval ages saw the introduction of suede and nubuck leather, now a main staple within the industry.

It was the preferred choice in the furniture industry for its durability and comfort. This is when leather became a popular choice for dining chairs, for its low maintenance and ability to not absorb the odour of food.

Leather was also used to create protective clothing, such as leather jerkins. The knights of old would regularly wear it as a protective measure.

The History of Leather Jackets

Early 1900s
Brown leather jackets were first introduced in the early 1900s for military use. Members of the military would wear brown leather flight jackets with sheepskin linings for warmth and comfort at high altitudes.
The military’s use of brown leather flying jackets in the early 1900s is where Aviator and Bomber style jackets originate from.

The History of Leather in Fashion

1920s
In 1928, Irving Schott designed the first leather motorcycle jacket for Harley Davidson. He used leather because of the protection it offers. This is the first time the leather jacket was not considered a military garment. Even in Medieval and Ancient times, it was normally worn by those going into combat in order to offer protection.

Schott’s design introduced the zipper to the leather jacket, which had previously been fastened using buttons.

1950s
Marlon Brando was the first actor to wear a leather jacket on the big screen, in The Wild One. He wore the same piece designed by Irving Schott, catapulting the leather jacket into popular culture.

Many schools banned the “Brando look” as the leather jacket was seen as a sign of rebellion against authority. Around the same time, the lovable bad boy James Dean was also seen wearing a leather jacket, cementing it as a fashion choice of those wanting to rebel.

1960s
Steve McQueen (also known as Captain Virgil Hilts in The Great Escape) was the epitome of cool in the 1960s. He was rarely seen without his aviator style jacket and shades. As a result, the trend quickly caught on.

The Beatles were also known to regularly sport the leather jacket. By this point, the leather jacket was now considered synonymous with some of the biggest pop culture icons, especially within the Rock and Roll crowd.

1970s-80s
In answer to the originally predominantly male fashion choice, in an era of change for women’s rights, female rockers such as Blondie started rocking the leather jacket look too. The female populace began to follow suit, and the leather jacket became a unisex fashion statement.

The popularity of the jacket continued to grow. “The Fonz” from TV show Happy Days helps clean up the bad boy image a bit, whilst bands such as The Sex Pistols and The Ramones do everything in their power to keep it.

People started customising their jackets with safety pins, studs, and more. Customised leather jackets became a personal statement of personality and defiance.

1990s
By the 90s, the leather jacket had become a staple of the fashion industry. Designers started experimenting more with the design, creating more elegant versions, and adding more variety.

This, in turn, made it more accessible and put the rebellious image that came along with a leather jacket to rest.

Today
The leather jacket is here to stay and can be seen worn by people of all ages and cultures.

It doesn’t matter if you are a city dweller or prefer the countryside, or what genre of music you like, there is a leather jacket for you. Whether you are looking for the perfect biker jacket to match your motorcycle or a leather coat, you are bound to find the perfect leather jacket to fit you and your lifestyle.

Discover our wide range of men’s and women’s leather jackets today.