Biker Jackets Rev Up
It goes with everything, from jeans to a cocktail dress, the fashion industry insists. You can wear it to a concert or a gala. It is the item every woman must have in her closet: the motorcycle jacket.
The jacket -- which fashion has christened the 'moto' -- has come a long way from its wrong-side-of-the-tracks, rebel origins, riding to the top of fashion's creme de la creme. With four-figure price tags, versions by Balenciaga and Saint Laurent by Hedi Slimane have slouched down the runway. Designers such as Oscar de la Renta and Jason Wu are delivering luxury spins on the biker jacket as well as its thrill-seeking-in-the-air cousin, the flight bomber.
By pairing the jackets with feminine dresses and other ladylike trappings, designers and retailers are hoping to increase the jacket's appeal beyond women who already own one and currently wear it in a much more casual way.
More nonblack and nonleather versions are also revving up interest among women who have a classic black one and women who want to wear biker jackets in warmer weather. Ralph Lauren, for example, showed a white version in cotton canvas, worn with a silk skirt, in his label's spring 2014 runway collection.
The industry's main goal: To make the motorcycle jacket a staple in every woman's closet every season. That is how Gap, with biker jackets in stores in a range of colors such as fuchsia and fabrics including wool, thinks of them. Gap has priced them from $118 to $128.
The biker jacket's journey from niche to mainstream acceptance follows a time-honored fashion-industry maneuver in which an item is reinterpreted in different fabrics, price points and for a wide variety of occasions, from sporty and casual to evening wear. In other words: Leave no shopper behind. Women, the industry hopes, will no longer have an excuse that they have nowhere to wear such an item or nothing to wear it with. The trench coat has taken a similar journey, as have shorts and sweatpants, and more recently grunge era-inspired plaid shirts.
'The moto jacket is a timeless and iconic piece of outerwear and therefore always a part of the Gap assortment, similar to the other iconic outerwear pieces -- the bomber, the peacoat, the denim jacket and the Mac,' said Rebekka Bay, Gap's creative director. For spring, Gap will feature moto jackets in chambray, denim and 'a very pretty version in a small floral pattern,' she said.
At the higher end of the trend, Saint Laurent has taken the luxurious moto jacket featured in its spring 2013 collection -- Hedi Slimane's first for the fashion house -- and made it a permanent item, available every season, according to the company. The $4,990 jacket is a homage to the classic biker jacket rather than a bold reimagining and it has proved very popular.
Irving Schott is credited with designing and producing the first leather motorcycle jacket in 1928, called the Perfecto. It retailed for $5.50 at a Long Island Harley Davidson distributor, according to Schott NYC's archives. The company, still in existence today and based in Union, N.J., was founded by Irving and his brother, Jack, in 1913.
'That jacket was designed and made for motorcyclists and meant to be functional,' not just a fashion statement, said Colleen Hill, an associate curator at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, which plans to hold an exhibition titled 'Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket' from March 4 to April 5. The exhibition, organized by Fashion and Textile Studies graduate students, explores the genesis of the biker jacket and 'its evolution into a high-fashion garment.'
'The cropped waist facilitated your movement when riding, the buckled belt kept the jacket tight to the body and protected you from the wind, the chrome snaps and exposed zippers were there to make the pockets secure and accessible,' said Ms. Hill. 'All the elements we associate today with the standard biker jacket come from that original design in the early 20th century,' she said.
The jacket's rise back then coincided with increased interest in motorcycling as a hobby and sport, primarily among men, according to Ms. Hill.
The jacket stayed in that niche market. The 1953 film 'The Wild One,' starring Marlon Brando as a biker gang leader, exposed the jacket to a wider audience and established it as a uniform for bad-boy, rebel types. Mr. Brando wears Schott's Perfecto in the movie.
The biker jacket's first big women's fashion moment arrived in 1960, when Yves Saint Laurent, then head designer at Christian Dior, included one made with crocodile skin and trimmed with mink in a couture collection. In the 1970s and 1980s the jacket was adopted by the punk movement, worn mostly with jeans and boots.
(The biker jacket regularly appears on menswear runways, but usually only in black. It is often eclipsed by the more prevalent bomber jacket.)
While the fashion industry continued to flirt with the jacket here and there, in the past three to five years, fashion's interest in the biker jacket 'has picked up steam,' said Tom Julian, a director of the Doneger Group, a New York-based merchandising and retail consultancy. 'It has permeated all price ranges and all segments of retail.' Mr. Julian attributed some of the biker jacket's appeal to its hint of edge and its ability to add a little masculine touch to a woman's wardrobe.
Designers have taken that juxtaposing of masculine and feminine to the max, pairing the jackets with ultrafeminine skirts and dresses.
'That's just how girls dress, that's how my wife dresses, mixing hard and soft, masculine and feminine, and she looks awesome,' says Marcus Wainwright, designer and managing partner of contemporary label Rag & Bone, whose spring 2014 runway show included a blush-colored biker jacket paired with a delicate white skirt made of nylon, viscose and rayon. The label reinterprets the biker jacket every season. 'It's a centerpiece of any women's wardrobe,' Mr. Wainwright says.
这种夹克──时尚界为其冠以“机车”的前缀──经过漫长的演变，从代表叛逆的贫民窟服装一路登上时尚巅峰。巴黎世家(Balenciaga)和赫迪·苏莱曼(Hedi Slimane)当家的 罗兰(Saint Laurent)的机车夹克价格高达四位数，它们的影响已经超越了T型台。奥斯卡·德拉伦塔(Oscar de la Renta)和吴季刚等设计师推出了奢华版机车夹克和它追求空中刺激的表亲──飞行夹克。
1928年，欧文·肖特(Irving Schott)设计并生产出了第一件皮质机车夹克，名为Perfecto。据Schott NYC的档案记载，它在长岛(Long Island)一家哈雷摩托(Harley Davidson)经销店的零售价为5.50美元。Schott NYC公司由欧文和他兄弟杰克(Jack)创建于1913年，至今依然存在，总部位于新泽西州尤宁(Union)。
纽约时装技术学院博物馆(Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology)副馆长科琳·希尔(Colleen Hill)说，“那件夹克是为摩托车手设计和制造的，侧重于实用性”，而不仅是一种时尚表达。该博物馆计划于3月4日至4月5日举行一场名为“叛逆背后：机车夹克沿革”的展览。该展览由时装与纺织研究专业的研究生举办，探究了机车夹克的起源和“其演变为高档时装的过程”。
起初机车夹克一直停留在小众市场。1953年的电影《飞车党》(The Wild One)中，马龙·白兰度(Marlon Brando)扮演一名摩托车黑帮老大，这部电影让机车夹克广为人知，确立了它作为坏小子、叛逆者制服的形象。白兰度在电影中穿着肖特设计的Perfecto。
1960年，机车夹克首次在女式时装界崭露头角，当时克里斯汀·迪奥(Christian Dior)的首席设计师伊夫· 洛朗(Yves Saint Laurent)在一个女式时装系列中推出了一件用鳄鱼皮制作、镶有貂皮滚边的机车夹克。20世纪70年代至80年代，机车夹克受到了朋克运动人士的青睐，主要搭配牛仔裤和靴子穿着。（机车夹克经常出现在男装秀上，但通常是黑色的。它的风头常被更流行的飞行夹克盖过。）
纽约商品推销和零售咨询公司Doneger Group的总监汤姆·朱利安(Tom Julian)说，尽管时尚业此前一直时不时地会掀起机车夹克风潮，但在过去三至五年，时尚业对机车夹克的兴趣“井喷般增长，它渗透进了所有价格区间和零售店的所有部门”。朱利安将机车夹克的部分吸引力归功于它的锋芒感和它为女性衣橱增加少许阳刚气概的能力。
当代品牌Rag & Bone的设计师兼执行合伙人马库斯·温赖特(Marcus Wainwright)说：“这就是女孩们的穿着，这就是我老婆的穿着，阳刚与阴柔并存，她看上去棒极了。”该品牌在2014年春季时装秀上展出了一件浅粉色机车夹克，搭配的是一条用尼龙、粘胶纤维和人造丝做成的精致白色短裙。该品牌每一季都会对机车夹克进行重新诠释。温赖特说：“它是所有女性衣橱里的主角。”