If you've spent a large amount of your life looking for the perfect shrunken-ish black leather motorcycle jacket as I have, look no more. In a sea of slightly-just-not-right options, one jacket rises up to rule them all:
I'm wearing a Schott women's Perfecto, the original moto jacket worn by Sid Vicious, Bruce Springsteen, all of the Ramones and Joan Jett, to name but a few. Schott has been in business since 1913, and created the Perfecto in 1928. It's the holy grail of moto jackets, and is priced accordingly.
Why is this dumb leather jacket so darn expensive? For starters, it's made in the USA by union workers. (Specifically the SEIU, or Service Employees International Union.) That means the person who made your jacket not only earned a living wage for it -- he or she also likely earned money toward a pension or healthcare plan to make life better for themselves and their extended families. It also comes with a great lifetime warranty -- so broken zippers, torn linings, and other minor damages can be easily fixed.
The Schott Perfecto is probably most famous for being the jacket Marlon Brando wore in 1953's "The Wild One." His version had stars on the epaulets and "Johnny" embroidered at the chest, but it's the same exact jacket I purchased -- just cut for women. After being worn by both Brando and James Dean, the Perfecto became so synonymous with rebellion that black leather motorcycle jackets were actually banned from high schools across the country during the late 1950s.
True story: I was once rummaging around in the bowels of the Warner Brothers Costume Department on the lot at Warner Brothers Studios when I happened upon a simple white T-shirt with a black ringer collar that had a tag attached to it which read: "This is one of 10 T-shirts worn by Marlon Brando in 'The Wild One'."
I immediately dismissed the possibility of it being real, but realized years later that "The Wild One" was released by Columbia Pictures, which became The Burbank Studios for a period of time, and both companies shared the Warner Studio lot in Burbank, so it's actually not too far-fetched to think that this piece of iconic movie memorabilia would have still been floating around 47 years later.
You might think that sounds crazy, but studios are notorious for not taking great care of the costumes used in films. Not even 10 years ago, an entire rack of Sissy Spacek's costumes from "Coal Miner's Daughter" was just floating around the aisles at the Universal Costume Department on the lot at Universal Studios, free for all to touch, try on, and maybe even steal if one was so inclined. I've actually bought some incredible stuff at studio garage sales, like this silver leopard sequined dress Kelly LeBrock wore in "Weird Science":
Want even more proof of how poorly Hollywood preserves its fashion history? Have a peek at this rack of clothes currently being jostled from corner to corner at a major studio lot:
Yes, all of Oscar winner Jared Leto's costumes from "Dallas Buyers Club" appear to have been shoved into plastic bags and left to languish in a random office building until they grow legs and walk away. That's how it goes in this town.
ANYWAY, the Schott women's Perfecto is aces -- cut perfectly under the arms and through the body. It hugs in all the right places without constricting your movement in the way most "fashion" shrunken-style moto jackets do. If you're stuck in a freezing wind, you could pop a hoodie underneath, zip it all the way up, and be warm as burnt toast. I bought my Perfecto in a medium, though I could easily have worn the small. (I just wanted a slightly more relaxed fit.) I'm 5 ft. 7" tall, weigh about 135 lbs, and wear a size 6 in pants and dresses, if that helps you figure out sizing for yourself. I have pretty decent sized shoulders -- not broad, but not totally slender.
I wasn't even remotely considering buying this crazy expensive moto jacket until I stopped and calculated how much money I've spent on various black leather moto jackets over the years that were just okay. Sadly, that number is well in excess of what the Schott cost, so I decided to splurge once and never have to buy another moto jacket ever again. The leather is incredible and heavyweight, yet not so stiff that it lays badly and looks awkward. It's a dream jacket -- and I've seen literally hundreds of black leather jackets in my time.
Paying full retail price isn't the only way to score yourself a Schott -- as vintage versions are for sale practically everywhere -- from the 'Trading Post' on Schott's own website to the hallowed halls of eBay. And if you're looking for a pretty darn good approximation of the Schott Perfecto at a way lower price point, I have to suggest the leather biker jacket Zara has for sale this year. I bought the same exact one last fall and it's really incredibly close to perfect. The proportions are genius and the leather is shockingly good quality. The only reason I was in the market for a leather jacket again this year is because I stupidly bought the Zara jacket in size small and now I want one I can fit a hoodie under. (Also, pssst! Last year, this jacket went on major sale immediately after Christmas, so keep your eyes peeled.)
No matter what leather jacket you purchase (or already own), you are in a pickle when it comes to cleaning it. The sad fact of the matter is that you just shouldn't have it cleaned at all unless absolutely necessary, and even then, you need to be finicky about who you let clean it. Your best defense is a good offense -- and for me, that means cutting out armpit stink. I head smells off at the pass by always using a set of stick-in, disposable armpit guards. You can get a good 30 wearings out of each set, and they keep the lining of the jacket from ever touching your armpit skin, therefore stopping stink in its tracks before it has a chance to take up residence.
So, in closing:
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