The iconic biker jacket gets revved up — and dressed up
(Tribune photo illustration / September 30, 2010)
The mercurial actor, who died in 2004, became an eternal fashion icon in 1953's "The Wild One" wearing his Schott Perfecto leather jacket. The look epitomized unbridled maleness, despite the rather fey "Johnny" emblazoned on the breast panel. A biker jacket spelled rebellion, a look embraced by men ranging from James Dean to Bruce Springstein Springsteen to Sid Vicious to, of all people, Andy Warhol.
Long a wardrobe staple of rock stars and tough guys, the biker jacket is making a hard U-turn in terms of attitude lately. The new styles are gentle enough to make Joan Jett coo, with soft buttery leathers that drape the figure loosely. Many feature glittery studs. The colors range far from black. One designer, Junya Watanabe, even deconstructed the jacket into a tough little black dress for fall. (You just know all those New York fashion editors were scrambling for that one.)(they were all men, but if there was a woman in the group, this looks like it would be perfect for her, tough, lady. ds)
There's a racy excitement in Watanabe's leather dresses and jackets. They sport elegant curves, dramatic necklines, swingy sleeves and the slash and clash of a shiny zipper racing across all the black. The visual cues of the clothes sweep across time and place, from a flapper's drop-waisted rebellion to a cinched-in New Look Christian Dior never would have dreamed of to the studied '60s archness of Agnes Moorehead playing Endora on "Bewitched."
Others are charting a new road with leather jackets too. At Burberry Prorsum, designer Christopher Bailey unveiled cropped jackets so trim they almost looked shrunken except for sci-fi quilting or studs that rolled up tight sleeves to the shoulders. Soft-core punk is the unstructured look Christophe Decarnin goes after with his biker jackets for Balmain, along with plenty of studs and even safety pins to boot.