Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The Eternal Sex Appeal of the Leather Jacket

Schott's 100th Anniversary

Last weekend we attended a retrospective exhibit of Schott jackets in celebration if the company's centennial in a pop-up space in on Mulberry Street in Soho. Schott was the first to use zippers in jackets; they have always made workwear but are best known for their motorcycle jackets; and - in these days of outsourcing - they're proud to say they have always been located in downtown Manhattan. So we jumped at the invitation to see a retrospective honoring their centennial.

Motorcycle jackets, synonymous with rebellion, were worn by the bad boys of each generation. Marlon Brando probably did more than any other single person to put Schott on the map when he wore one of their jackets riding his Triumph motorcycle in The Wild One. Raise your hand if you've seen this photo. Did you know it was a Schott?

So you can see why generations of bad boys (and bad girls) might want a leather jacket. The folks at Schott put together a great show, combining great celebrity photos with actual vintage jackets and more recent collaborations with contemporary artists.

First, let us show you the vintage Schott jackets. Although they also make fabric and denim jackets, we focused on the leather motorcycle and flight jackets and wanted to share photos of a few of our favorites. This two-tone horsehide Perfecto jacket is from the mid-1950s.

The Flying Tigers steer hide Style 516 flight jacket is from the late 1960s or early 1970s.

This Cafe Racer jacket is from about 1980. Although to most members our generation that might sound sort of recent, we did the math, and it's over thirty years old!

A fringed cowhide 516 motorcycle jacket, decorated with a collection of colorful motorcycle club and souvenir embroidered patches, dates back to 1987-1988.

The exhibition also included artists' jackets. This Perfecto jacket from 1988 features the iconic and instantly recognizable illustrations of artist Keith Haring.

Another Perfecto from the era was decorated in 1991 by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

"Hot Schott", created by Barbara Segal in 1994, is a sculpture made from Belgian black marble and steel. It was so lifelike, viewers (like us, for example) had to look twice to see that it wasn't just a jacket made of polished patent leather.

Designer Jeremy Scott created this black on white Keith Haring-inspired jacket in 2009.

Hot Rod artist Von Franco painted this jacket in 2009 which was produced in limited quantities for sale in Japan.

This jacket is fashioned from vintage Ford Mustang interiors and car and hood ornaments.

We heard about the exhibition because our friend Juliana Lazzaro was one among those selected to create an art piece using a Schott Perfecto motorcycle jacket. Readers with less than total recall may not remember, but Juliana was our lucky star the day we spray-painted our thrift shop bamboo coolie hats lacquer red. She happened by just at the right moment and offered to take photos with our cameras. They were great pictures - far better than anything we had taken ourselves. And now we can see why. This is her amazing creation. We were told that one of her friends wore the matching skirt to the opening party. (We, unfortunately, had a conflicting engagement that evening.)

This red version is Curtis Kulig's 2013 piece to celebrate the company's 100th anniversary.

Shepard Fairey, best known for his iconic Obama election poster and the once-ubiquitous OBEY graphic (and yet another RISD guy), created this 2013 version of the company's classic moto jacket.

For balance and variety, there was the section of the exhibition devoted to photographs of rock stars wearing their own Schott jackets.

Here is Lou Reed in the mid-1970s.

Bruce Springsteen in 1975.

Keith Richards, the ultimate bad boy, onstage in his Perfecto jacket.

The Ramones in front of CBGB where Bleecker Street dead-ends at the Bowery. CBGB is now the site of a John Varvatos store. Much of the original club walls remain intact behind plexiglass, so the old ripped and tattered posters announcing bands appearing at the venue are preserved for posterity. (Little known factoids: Valerie had the distinct honor of attending high school with Marky Ramone. He has an identical twin, Jeff, and in high school they looked fabulous in skin-tight black jeans. Seems like they must have had 29 inch waists.)

The Sex Pistols' Sid Vicious. (Love his pin which so aptly reads: "I'm a mess".)

Slash from Guns and Rosess wears his with his signature top hat.

The Beastie Boys in 1986.

Jay Z gets bonus points for his 2009 version of the Perfecto jacket.

OK, we know we've already included a shot of the Ramones, but we had to include this one of Dee Dee, since he's Jean's cat's namesake. Jean has always had a soft spot in her heart for motorcycle jackets. She was wearing her own 1993 black jacket with vintage black jodhpurs and vintage toy hat when she first met Valerie in 2008 at a vintage clothing show. (Valerie only remembers the hat.)

Running overhead in the main room of the gallery was a documentary about the company, a segment of which featured one of our favorite East Village denizens, Tommy from Trash and Vaudeville on Saint Marks Place, waxing poetic about everything Schott and standing in front of his Schott inventory. Tommy appears in a sleeveless Schott vest with silver stars on the shoulders.

Chris and Jennifer from Schott were great at sharing insights and information about the company and the exhibit.

As a souvenir of the event, Schott invited visitors to make their own commemorative wallets. Valerie searches through the choices of leather (blue, green, polished or matte black) embossed lettering (silver, gold or black), and hardware (silver tone, gold tone or black lacquer). Jean selected silver lettering on matte black with silver toned grommets. Valerie went for silver lettering on polished black with silver toned grommets.

Valerie operates the machine that unifies the 'male' and 'female' grommet parts (oh, sorry - your kids aren't reading this, are they?) by pumping the foot pedal forward. (She is using her "good" foot -- the one without the orthopedic moon boot.)

Jean in search of the perfect grommet.

Jean shows off the finished product.

We met this wonderful gentleman who was kind enough to take our photograph for us. Turns out he's married to Roz Schott. He looked quite suave in his beautifully detailed leather shirt jacket.

Couldn't go?  Get the book.  (Christmas is just around the corner!)  It's by vintage fashion historian Rin Tanaka and Jason Schott of Schott NYC and commemorates the company's history as it hit the century mark.


  1. Ah, who doesn't love a great leather jacket! The Jeremy Scott and Juliana Lazzaro are my faves. I would have thought the Barbara Segal sculpture was an actual jacket had I not known it was a sculpture. I'm sure there is some motorcycle fiend out there who would kill to have that on their wall.

    Valerie, loving you in a shorter skirt with cool leggings!

  2. What a wonderful treat! I had no idea they were 100!

  3. Miss reading about what you two are wearing!!