The leather jacket has become a ubiquitous staple in the closets of many of today’s most fashionable, however it’s popularity can be traced back to one brand that pioneered the look. Schott NYC was founded in 1913 by the Brothers Schott, Irving and Jack. The sons of Russian immigrants, the two decided that they would make their mark on America by bring innovation to the then-dormant outerwear industry. Starting with handmade raincoats that were sold door-to-door, the brothers were beginning a new forefront in apparel—they were even the first to put a zipper on a jacket. By the 1920’s, they had firmly established their business and decided to kit out the most rugged folks of the time; motorcycle riders. The Perfecto originally retailed for just $5.50 and was the first example of a jacket made specifically for the thrill-seeking riders of the time. The fitting name came from Irving’s favorite cigar, and they had unknowingly established what would become a timeless icon.

The brothers’ business grew steadily; as WWII began, they were commissioned by the United States Air Force to manufacture the first iteration of the now-classic 'bomber jacket.' Built for pilots flying over Europe and the Pacific, these jacket were designed to be warm and durable, made from leather and wool. The bombers were so successful that Schott continued to supply them to the military for the next 60 years.

While many of jackets Schott still produces can be traced to this strong military influence, the Perfecto has since taken on a new period association, post-WWII. As pop culture and roll ’n’ roll became more prominent, these leather jackets began to be embraced by the rebellious cool guys of the time. The first Perfecto seen on screen was in the classic film, “The Wild One,” featuring a young Marlon Brando as the outlaw, Johnny Strabler, sitting astride his classic Triumph Thunderbird. Interestingly, while this iconic portrayal raised the Schott profile to new levels, their sales actually decreased, as schools banned the jacket for symbolizing this new culture of lawlessness and ‘hoodlums.’ As we all know, however, once you take something away from a group of people, they’re only going to want it more. The tragic passing of a young James Dean, perhaps the most iconic Perfecto rebel of the 20th century, only served to push Schott closer to this new cultural epoch.

This close kinship with the rebels and rockers continued for Schott into the 70s and 80s, as the Perfecto continued to be synonymous with defiance and subversiveness. Schott jackets were worn by everyone from the Sex Pistols to the Ramones; Joan Jett to Blondie, starting a tradition of leather-clad rock icons that continues to this day. Every cool, rock ’n’ roll or rebellious brand that currently outfits today’s celebrities; Balmain, Saint Laurent, and Rick Owens to name just a few, most certainly owes a bit of their influence to the humble Schott brothers.

At present, Schott NYC continues to produce everything from leathers to bombers and still seeks to provide its customers with well-constructed, American-made garments for a great value. In line with current times, they continue to collaborate with newer brands like Supreme and Neighborhood, and provide updated takes on their classic models, including a slim version of their timeless peacoat. Their popularity has only grown as the brand expands overseas where Americana is especially treasured by various fashion subcultures and consumers.

Tags: surfaced, leather-jacket, perfecto, schott