Motorcycle Leather Jacket Construction from WWII to Today
Motorcycle leather jacket construction was originally based on the WWII aviator style. In fact, the first jackets used for motorcycle riding were the A-2 military flight jackets. Aero Leather was one of the first companies to construct the flight jackets. The company used specifications provided by the Army Air Corps, a branch of the military that eventually became the US Air Force. The jackets were also referred to as “bomber” style, a name that is still in common usage today.
The A-2 flight jacket had two top-closing pockets with no hand slots in the pockets. The military preferred that their pilots keep their hands at their sides. Leather gloves were provided for warmth and protection.
One of the specifications provided was to construct the back of a single piece of leather. Single large pieces of leather are more durable. There is less stress on the seams.The number of pieces used to construct a garment or other leather item is one factor used to judge quality. Generally speaking, the fewer the pieces used to make the item, the higher the quality.
Schott began manufacturing jackets specifically for motorcycle riding in the 1920s. Buegeleisen started manufacturing leather jackets, saddlebags and other accessories in the 1930s and 1940s.
Indian Motorcycles and Harley Davidson manufactured some of the more popular early styles. Indian introduced the Ranger for men and the Rangerette for women during the 1940s. The main difference between the men’s and women’s style was the positioning of the pockets.The original Indian Ranger and Rangerette designs had one zippered pocket. The men’s pocket was located on the right side of the jacket. The women’s pocket was located on the left.
New versions of the Rangers have two or three zippered pockets, another with a snap and a belted closure at the waist.They are manufactured by Aero. Indian declared bankruptcy in the early 1950s.
Harley Davidson began selling motorcycles and accessories in 1903. They introduced the Cycle Champ jacket for men and the Cycle Queen jacket for women during the 1940s. Their classic style was popular throughout the 1950s and 60s. It continues to be popular today.
Over the years, fashion designers have changed the styles considerably. Embossed quilted ribbing and various colors have been added. While probably inspired by the original A-2s, the new styles bear little resemblance to the classic look. The practice of decorating the back of the jacket with artwork and patches began in WWII as well. Unlike other clothing from that era, jackets made from leather have never lost their popularity among the biker fraternity.
Many companies are experts at motorcycle leather jacket construction. You will pay more for the highest quality, but the jackets can last for 50 years or even longer so they are well worth the price.