Exhibits

WORN TO BE WILD: THE BLACK LEATHER JACKET

Originally on display June 16 – September 3, 2012

Got a beef with society? There’s a uniform for that. Customized punk rock motorcycle jackets created by various individuals in the Seattle area, 1980s-1990s
By the late ‘40s, the short, zippered black leather jacket had become synonymous with motorcycling. Examples include the “Californian” jacket with star epaulettes, c. 1950-1955 and a toddler’s jacket made by Langlitz Leathers, c. 1950

 

The black leather jacket. Rebellion. Sex appeal. Confidence. Rock ’n’ roll.

The motorcycle jacket acquired its symbolic identity over the last half of the 20th century. Its roots go even deeper, and its current meaning embodies some interesting contradictions. It evolved from earlier leather garments developed to protect their wearers from danger. Today it carries a suggestion that its wearer is a little dangerous. It was adopted by rugged—or ragged—individualists who rejected mainstream ideas of fashion. It has now become a crucial accessory of the fashion-conscious.

The story of the black leather jacket is pretty simple, but the layers of association and significance it has accumulated are quite complex. Each succeeding generation adds its own new set of meanings.

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