Schott NYC Perfecto

Born to be Wild – NYC Perfecto biker jacket

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Schott NYC Perfecto Button Down
Schott NYC Perfecto

Schott NYC Perfecto

Schott NYC Perfecto

It was 1913 when second-generation Russian immigrants Irving and Jack Schott founded Schott NYC. They made raincoats back then. Working out of their basement factory in the Lower East Side, Manhattan they sold the finished products door to door. Fifteen years later in 1928, Irving designed an entirely new type of coat intended for warmth, protection, and comfort for motorcycle riding. The leather Schott Perfecto Biker Jacket INamed after Irving’s preferred brand of cigars was born. So undeniably iconic it shares rare status with the blue jean and the Tee.

The Zipper

A Harley Davidson distributor sold the Perfecto biker jacket in Long Island, New York. The Perfecto had a belted waist for a secure fit, iconic asymmetrical double front closure, and, as Schott claims, was the first jacket to use zippers rather than buttons for closure. The design has been lightly tweaked in the century since, but only lightly.

Aviators in A-1 flight jackets

Aviators dressed in A-1 flight jackets with buttons in hangar late 1920ies

Flight leather jackets had been around prior to this, but never in the modern biker style. Flight predecessors initially came out of DIYIIDIY – Do It Yourself custom creation. Later during World War I the French and Belgians issued official flight jackets for military deployment. The U.S. Army established “the Aviation Clothing Board” in September 1917. After years of specification the army introduced Type A-1 for military in 1927. Rather than a zipper in the center, though, the jacket used buttons, as was the standard at the time.

Zip’ed Transition for the Masses

B-17 Crew in A-2 Flight Jackets

B-17 Flying Fortress Crew from 457th Brigade wearing their leather A-2 zippered flight jackets

With Schott’s introduction of the Perfecto biker jacket in 1928 opening the door to zipper-front jackets. The A-1 evolved into the now-iconic A-2 jacket, with a zip front and point collar, in 1931.

Schott contributed their own designs to the US Military in World War II, when the Air Force commissioned the creation of an exceptionally warm jacket for bombing crews flying in B-17 and B-24s. In response Schott created the B-3 jacket, “heavily inspired” by the British R.A.F. bomber raid jacket “The Irvin”. Both feature shearling sheep fur lining, a buckled collar and a full leather construction. Schott also designed a melton wool pea coat, adapted from those worn by the British Royal Navy. The company continued to produce garments for the military for the next 60 years.

Pilot in his Irvin "Bomber" jacket

Royal Air Force pilot in his Irvin “Bomber” jacket

A Lucky Strike – Perfecto biker jacket & Fame

Meanwhile, Schott still produced their biker jackets, to a relatively limited audience. That changed dramatically in 1953 with the premiere of The Wild One, featuring a brutish, effortlessly cool Marlon Brando in his Schott NYC Perfecto biker jacket as Johnny Strabler. Strabler was leader of a California motorcycle gang named the Black Rebels Motorcycle Club.

The Wild One - Marlon Brando 1953

The Wild One – Marlon Brando 1953

The youngsters of America idolised the intimidating, edgy style of Brando and his gang. They flocked to the jackets, causing a massive spike in popularity for the Perfecto. Ironically, though, Schott’s sales quickly dipped during this time as school systems throughout the country banned students from wearing leather jackets. They were simply fearful of the gang culture and rebel teen stereotype of which they were emblematic.

Dean, Death & Immortality

James Dean - Fur Collar Perfecto

James Dean – Fur Collar Perfecto

Just a year later in September of 1955, James Dean fatally crashed his Porsche 550 Spyder. While Dean never wore a leather jacket in any of his few film roles, he did wear one with a fur collar in his free time, furthering the association with thrill-seeking, rebellious youth culture. His untimely death immortalized the young actor’s rebel style, leather jacket and all.

Haute Couture

Heidi Slimane by Saint Laurent Model L01

Hedi Slimane by Saint Laurent Model L01

The jacket’s popularity continued throughout the ’50s, and in 1960 the high fashion world joined the fray. A 24 year-old Yves Saint Laurent, then the head of design for Dior, presented his own take on the style as part of a runway collection. IIIA single-breasted, fur-lined alligator leather women’s jacket with cropped sleeves Critics of the time panned the collection widely. Ironic, considering that the modern-day Saint Laurent makes what is perhaps the fashion world’s most covetable example of the black leather biker jacket today. IVHedi Slimane design by Saint Laurent model L01 and L17

Thuging & Punking – Perfecto biker jacket & More Fame

The jacket continues it’s popular fashion throughout the proceeding decades. It takes a firm hold in the burgeos punk subculture of the mid-1970s and is closely associated with rock music of the time. Motorcycle jackets were practically a mandatory uniform for notable bands and the clientele of the clubs they played in. Blondie, Joan Jett, Sex Pistols, Clash and The Ramones are just a few iconic examples. The style continued to carry a sense of countercultural, heavy rebellion from more conservative fashion norms.

Perfecto in Punk

Perfecto in Punk

The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo originally titled Men Who Hate Women is the first of the original Swedish Millenium trilogy. The original features the Perfecto on Lisbeth Salander as portrayed brilliantly by Noomi Rapace.

The Girl with the Dragon Tatoo originally titled Men Who Hate Women is the first of the original Swedish Millenium trilogy. The original features the Perfecto on Lisbeth Salander as portrayed brilliantly by Noomi Rapace.

Noomi Rapace in Men Who Hate Women

Modern Makes & Perfecto Biker Jacket of the Day

Countless other modern brands make their own takes on the biker silhouette, from ultra-sleek classic styles to off-the-wall interpretations with bright colors or wild detailing. Burberry Prorsum’s Spring/Summer 2011 collection spawned several biker jackets that are coveted well into the present day, and labels like Acne Studios and The Arrivals have kept the silhouettes modern with a focus on simplicity and decent pricing.

Biker Jacket Walking

Biker Jacket Walking

Whether you choose something more contemporary, or simply stick with a classic Schott Perfecto biker jacket the syle will never cease to to be an iconic cornerstone of cool factor. Perfecto is still made in the USA to almost the exact same specifications of the original design. It’s not hyperbole: a great motorcycle jacket is something that no-one should be without.

Notes:

Notes:
INamed after Irving’s preferred brand of cigars
IIDIY – Do It Yourself
IIIA single-breasted, fur-lined alligator leather women’s jacket with cropped sleeves
IVHedi Slimane design by Saint Laurent model L01 and L17