THE LEATHER JACKET
Journalist Polly Vernon may not be able to pinpoint the exact moment a leather jacket changed her style choices for good, but that doesn’t mean her relationship with the cool-girl icon is any less meaningful.
You’d think I’d remember my first ever leather jacket. Given how central that one piece has become to the greater concept of My Look. You’d really think I’d remember that. Imagine, perhaps, that on trying one on for the first time, on contemplating my freshly, formatively, leather jacket-adorned reflection in a dressing room mirror, I would have felt the earth shift on its axis, heard a faint but unmistakable chorus of angels’ voices raised in awe, or otherwise experienced the moment for what it was — an epiphany, a true fashion epiphany!
But I didn’t. I can’t.
All I can tell you is, one day, there were no leather jackets in my world/aesthetic frame of reference — the next, there were about 17, and I simply could not envisage getting dressed without them.
Leather jackets, though! Leather jackets! The exact point where toughness meets chic, where structure and rigor meets stylish abandon (with a top note of danger), where James Dean meets Francoise Hardy, and practicality — deathless cool! The sheen and the armor of them, the casual, unmistakable luxury, the potency, the everyday drama!
Name a single other piece as flexible, as reliable, as glamorous! As capable of transitioning day to night, spring to summer, of calming an otherwise too-flouncily-feminine sundress or toughening up a sexy slip. The only piece that makes as much sense with jeans (skinny, 501, barrel leg, flare) as it does high-waisted tailored trousers. Casually imbuing a tracksuit with formality, making short-shorts feel that extra bit less exposing, yet (somehow) no less daring… I speak as a woman who has successfully layered a biker jacket over a Prince of Wales check blazer, and (on an entirely other occasion, I hasten to add) a gold bikini.
I cannot tell you exactly when I began my long-standing affair with the leather jacket, but I can tell you about those jackets I have loved and… not lost, so much as: eBayed or charity shopped. There was a black, collarless jacket, circa 1999, which owed more than a little to the influence of David and Victoria Beckham, who’d only just worn matching ones on the front row of the Gucci show. There was the Kate Moss for Topshop jacket (mid 00s), fitted, pre-battered, with an asymmetric zip and leopard-print lining (obviously). Then the shrunken teal one, which I liked to shoulder shrug over a big, bulky navy jumper, black leggings and ballet flats (2008 – 2009). Oh! And how could I forget the all-over studded one, which weighed a ton but made up for it in pure impact. The faux snakeskin, the hand-painted naked tattoo-looking lady one, the white one with the black lapels, the quilted leather puffa, the one with a classic black leather torso and patchwork denim arms… the list goes on.
What of the ones I’ve kept? The cropped Acne with the detachable shearling collar, on which I steeled myself to spend much more than I could technically afford, well over a decade ago. But good on me! Because I still wear it now; oh, it was so worth the funds! The big, bulky oversized J Brand one, nearly 10 years old itself, which creates a silhouette of considerable drama, and generates envy every time it accompanies me out. The longline slim fitting Anine Bing with the flashy brass zips, which I consider the most Parisienne of my collection (it’s definitely a lady, that jacket, a haughty one with a sharp tongue and the capacity to damn you with a flick of a… sleeve). As for the more recent additions: there’s the black leather Iris & Ink in all its glory, quickly proving as sharp and useful a piece as any which came before it (added points for invoking Rachel Greene circa ’97). It’s an extensive collection, which is why I have dedicated an entire sub section of my wardrobe to it. My leather jackets dangle, there; insouciant and sexy, potent and pleased with themselves, as well they might be.
I am entirely confident that there will be more to come. I can’t wait.