BLUF- For all the PETA activists and vegans out there, you best go hide under a hemp blanket.
I've had a lot of nights in my life, many of which I can't fully remember and I've been a lot of places, most which I will never see again. Through it all, there's only one thing that's been a constant and that's the jacket. Maybe its because I grew up in the northern Pennsylvania, stumbling through blizzards every other day but the jacket becomes a permanent staple. Like it or not, we are a superficial society. People start remembering you by that appearance and it becomes a part of who you are. This isn't a bad thing, but you should take the time to consider it. My jacket has saved me from typical (rain, hail, sleet, snow, dust, dirt, etc.) More importantly, its saved me from not so typical things ( rocks, beer, piss, puke, blood, fire, cornfields, the police, boring people, etc.) Wingman my ass, the jacket has saved me quite a bit. And I've had mine for nearly a decade, that's a lot of saves,....... especially the fire. I think those are good enough reasons to have one, but if you need some more than here you go.
Some people might say, "stop wearing a leather jacket to look cool", and I couldn't agree with them more. Doing something just to get attention or look a certain way is (stupid) to put it nicely. That's not what I'm getting at here. Even though popular culture decided that the leather jacket is the proverbial (in) item, there are much better reasons to wear one, which I already touched on. They are just damn useful, and hey it's not my fault people decided they look cool. I say wear em regardless if they're in or out, preferably out. Lets look at the practical, psychological, and societal elements that make leather jackets what they are today.
As I mentioned, I have had my leather jacket for nearly a decade now. Within that time, I have done unspeakable things in that jacket. Its been pulled, stabbed, burnt, left in snow overnight, smoke, submerged, ran though thorns, brush, branches. That's not even mentioning all the whiskey that's been spilled on it. At this point, I should get drunk just by putting it on. Pretty much if you can think of it, its been done. I still wear it today, and besides a slight lightening in tone and some fraying on the wrists it is perfect. This is me pulling my best "Captain Morgan" in Ireland (with the jacket at 5yrs).
After doing some fact checks and information diving here are the reasons why my jacket still looks good. With that being said, performance can vary wildly depending on the exact type of leather ( cowhide, lambskin, sheepskin, shearling [a lighter weight sheepskin], sealskin, or buffalo). Another major factor is if it is actually 100% leather; many leather products today have additives or synthetic mixes. The actual tanning process plays a factor as well. Like a fine scotch, a good quality leather garment should improve with age. The natural elasticity of each hide means it is flexible and will stretch and return to its original shape. The properties of leather include a natural tendency to repel liquids and resist staining. It's also fire resistant, and emits no toxic fumes, even when exposed to intense heat (barn fires/ cigarettes/ fireworks). In comparison to nearly all man-made textiles, leather is very strong and has a higher resistance level to tears and punctures. And then there's the comfort factor. Most leather goods provide exceptional comfort due in part to leather's ability to combine breathing and insulating properties. This makes it cool in summer and warm in winter because it is an organic material that adjusts constantly to its environment. Good stuff people; now I know why Indiana Jones wore one.
The History Buff
The leather jacket has a deep and storied past which can quite literally be traced back to the cavemen. Scientists in Spain discovered the earliest record of the use of leather dating from the Palaeolithic period, paintings discovered in caves near Lerida depicted the use of leather clothing and tools. Roman history also has a detailed record which shows that leather was frequently used in numerous daily applications to include the vast majority of military items. Prior to the 20th century, leather was deeply engrained into the everyday lives "green horned" American citizens. The West was still being explored, and cattle and horses were king. One of the most iconic items of the period was the cowboy hat and leather riding gear. Part of this riding gear included what was known as the "duster" jacket. This was a long trench coat like item which would protect riders from dust kicked up when riding horses. This jacket has been popularized today with widespread use of the trench coat as seen in 1999s, The Matrix with Keanu Reeves and Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus.
During both WWI and WWII leather jackets were worn. Nazi Officers, U.S. Army Commanders, and Russian Soldiers all wore them. In fact nearly every military force utilized leather in one form or another, especially aviators due to the unmatched protection the jacket offered against the elements. One of the most famous American military icons to perpetuate this was General Patton. The jacket was immortalized in popular culture through numerous films and solidified in the American psyche as troops returned home from war as American heroes.
After the population growth following WWII, the "baby boomer generation" found themselves in a deeply conformed and regimented society. Ironically, the leather jacket was taken up by teens, becoming a symbol of the cultural (heroic/anti-heroic) embodiment of social rebellion and discontent (greasers eras). Following the leather jacket becoming a new installment in youth culture, it was galvanized by the advent of "Rock and Roll" with sensations such as Elvis and The Beatles.
In the mid 1960's and early 1970s the jacket became a deeply charged symbol of social and moral conflict in America, especially with anti-war activists, the hippie movement, and civil rights movements. During this time the jacket was also adopted by numerous biker gangs such as the Hells Angels and organized crime syndicates such as the La Cosa Nostra (Italian Mafia). This period attached a strong sense of uncompromising individualism and violence to the leather jacket.
It isn't everyday that a article of clothing has stood as such a social symbol. From ancient history, to the most pivotal moments in the 20th century, and into the 21st century the leather jacket continues to re-define itself. With this in mind, it really is a blank canvas for which the owner paints the picture. Whether it is conscious or not, American society looks to the leather jacket for social and cultural ques about itself. The people wearing them are painting that picture through their actions and words. I have said it before in previous blogs; I want to be a part of that history, after your gone the jacket could still be laying around. We really don't live that long after all; 80-100yrs is a drop in the bucket of time and space.
A study, which was conducted by the International Journal of Motorcycle Science (IJMS) assessed how the attitude towards the leather jacket has changed from the 20th century moving into the 21st. Believe me, I was just as surprised as you are (International Journal of Motorcycle Science) really? Anyway, the study used Holbrook's Typology of Consumer Value to determine a number of variables from the participate pool. The study was done specifically on "black" leather jackets. I am taking license by applying this study to leather jackets in general. It can be assumed that these attitudes generally resonate within the overall idea I am getting at.
There were a total of 389 participates with (61% males) and (39% females). Other demographic data showed that 86% of respondents reported greater than a high school level of education. Forty-two percent reported a household income of $50,000-$99,999 and thirty two reported having a annual income exceeding $100,000. Collection methods included riders who own and wear at least one leather jacket. Through a snowball method, they contacted others who fit the necessary criteria as well as utilizing e-mail surveys .
Holbrook’s framework relies on the consumer’s relationship with the object in question and seeks to address multi-modal reasoning in the values attached to the black leather jacket. Two perspectives are self and other; within each there are two additional perspectives of active and reactive. These four perspectives combine with extrinsic and intrinsic orientations to equal eight categories. Collectively these eight categories provide a summary framework for a comprehensive study of consumer. The chart provided in the study makes this a bit easier to understand . The values are ( Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic)(Active vs. Reactive)(Self vs. Other).
The first of these is (Extrinsic vs. Intrinsic) value. Extrinsic means-end relationship, where the value lies in a product’s functional, utilitarian service as a means to accomplish some further purpose, such as using a screwdriver to drive in a screw, buying a meal to satisfy hunger, or purchasing an automobile to fulfill transportation needs.Conversely the other value, Intrinsic value, is a consumption experience appreciated as an end in and of itself, such as a day at the beach or listening to a symphony. Intrinsic value is an experience that achieves no other end but enjoyment . This is basically wearing the jacket because one enjoys wearing it, without any reason besides it makes them happy or it is an enjoyable activity.
Next is (Self vs. Other). Self, relates to how the individual owner reacts to the product or the specific value they receive from the item. Examples included clothing providing warmth and comfort to the wearer or music providing listening pleasure to the listener. Other relates to placing value on the item for the impression it gives to others or external subject. Examples of this would be owning a Mercedes because it impresses others or portrays wealth or buying a hybrid car because it helps save the environment .
Last, is (Active vs. Reactive). Active relates to a physical manipulation of, something done to, or with the product such as driving a car or solving a puzzle. It is directly related to the enjoyment one gets from the functional action of the product. Reactive relates to the enjoyment one receives from appreciating, admiring, or otherwise responding to the object. Examples of this include appreciating a painting or assessing the quality of a camera. Others would include cleaning/waxing your car or organizing a prized collection of items, cards, books, coins. The enjoyment of the consumer stems from the experience the product can provide by owning it .
Ultimately, the study showed that previous generations had worn the jacket as a total embodiment of they're persona and a representation of they're lifestyle. It was a item showing that the wearer was part of a sub-culture in society. The majority of contemporary wearers do not report this association with the jacket. They find value in the overall practicalities and functionality of the jacket. However, respondents still cited the leather jacket as an "escape" or a "freedom" from the conventional lives which they live. While the leather jacket is now worn by almost everyone, not just bikers, it still resonates as a symbol of freedom, individuality, and adventure in the American psyche . I find it fascinating to wear something that has such a rich historical background. Plus, what better to adventure the world with than the jacket that has embodied it for well over a century.
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