The 101: The Double-Riders Jacket
Embodying the essence of ‘cool’ since its initial design, the notoriously styled double-riders jacket is quite clear in its suggestion as a status symbol and has always possessed a certain synonymy with counterculture. From its origins up until today, the silhouette has undergone change but remains easily recognizable and consistent in aesthetic; the style has been replicated over many years and has stayed amongst the foremost staple items in menswear. Casually referred to as a motorcycle jacket, Irving Schott championed the style in 1928, when the iconic form first took shape. The jacket’s namesake was a cigar called the Perfecto, and it was given this moniker by Irving who peddled handmade leather products from door-to-door with his brother Jack. Fittingly, the Perfecto was introduced to its first retailer when a Harley Davidson distributor in New York chose to offer the double-riders jacket to accompany its selection of motorcycles. From this point on, an early association with motorcycle culture allowed the style to become quickly popularized. Fringes along the underside of the arm were added, intended to appeal to a female clientele and the jacket evolving into the indisputable biker uniform of the ‘70s and ‘80s. Over eight decades, the timeless jacket has undergone a change from a vintage to modern style while fastidiously conserving many of its original characteristics.
The jacket itself is generally defined by several traits; generally, a double-riders jacket features an off-center zippered enclosure in the front intended to improve windproofing, as well as shoulder epaulettes, slash pockets, zippered sleeve cuffs, and a cropped body with cinches at the waist. A thick horsehide was often used for the body, and bold silver zippers were added to punctuate the iconic look. Naturally, the style of the jacket was adapted over time, and during the 1940s several well-known appropriations were born, taking the form of the 618 and the 613. The Schott 618 was recognized by an updated fit while the 613 maintained this fit with the addition of two star accents on each epaulette. Designed and manufactured entirely in the USA, the Perfecto had already asserted itself in a chapter of history by the time the Schott brothers were called upon to provide wool pea coats for overseas troops during WWII. A contribution to the war effort acted to further cement the work of the Schott brothers as reliable and pervasive. Culturally, several figures were instrumental in popularizing the style. In film, the jacket was seen on American actors Marlon Brando, most notably in The Wild One (1953), as well as James Dean throughout his career. During the 1950s, the jacket endured as a symbol of rebellion, commonly complementing the style of rock ‘n’ roll stars and race car drivers alike. In music, reputable punk band The Ramones were widely considered synonymous with the style as the group was known to frequently wear double-riders style jackets during performances. Taking the stage in the 1970s during the CBGB-era of New York City punk music, the striking image of four black leather silhouettes was seen as something completely new.
At present, contemporary brands have also left a mark on the image of the double-riders style. Providing an accurate re-imagination of the jacket was Japan’s BEDWIN & THE HEARTBREAKERS; the Dulfer Double-Riders Jacket keeps many original features in check with the addition of zipper accents and a revised fit. Other labels such as A BATHING APE and Balmain have also acted to alter the aesthetic of this item by envisioning updated iterations of the style. To further this development, overcoats and even dresses have been styled after the double-riders jacket. Sure enough, a single-riders style was also innovated by clothing brand Coming Soon. The new style incorporates a distinct motorcycle jacket look while taking certain cues from the original style created by the Schott brothers, who themselves have collaborated with numerous brands, most notably Swagger, for a Schott 618, and Lady Gaga on a traditional-style double-rider.
Seldom in fashion has a single garment had the influence to develop such a widespread reputation. In addition, the double-riders jacket established itself as culturally central to the influence of Americana; one would undoubtedly be hard-pressed to find an item that more suitably exemplifies American youth culture through a better part of the 20th century. The double-riders jacket even today consistently aligns itself with changing counter cultures as a ubiquitous style amongst shifting trends in music, culture and fashion.