Leather Jacket – Why Shoulder Straps and Zipper Sleeves?

Leather jackets are awesome. And expensive.

But apart from these two facts, there are many other things that you may not know about your leather jacket. Everything from how do leather jackets last so long to why are there so many zippers on your leather jacket.

I have been manufacturing leather jackets for more than a decade; which allowed me to obtain the answers to these questions from leather workers who are much smarter than me. So here I present to you 5 things you didn’t know about leather jackets.

Why do leather jackets have shoulder straps?

leather jacket

Shoulder straps are a prominent feature of most biker jackets and even a few suede jackets. But the reason for their existence is quite interesting.

In the year 1836, the US army introduced the shoulder strap as part of its uniforms.

The purpose behind introducing shoulder straps was keeping pouches, small weapons and resource packs from falling down. Soon enough, shoulder straps started becoming more common in jackets worn by civilians. They would use these straps to tie hats, scarfs, and other such assorted items when riding a horse.

Leather jackets, who trace their beginnings back to the US Air Force, also became known for having good quality shoulder straps that did not break as easily as the cotton and woolen ones.

They don’t have any particular purpose now, but still continue to be a major part of the ‘look’ of leather jackets.

Why do leather jackets have zippers on the sleeves?

You must have noticed that unlike other jackets, most leather jackets have zippers on the sleeves. Have you ever wondered about the reasoning behind this?

The zipper on the sleeves works very similar to the cuff in dress shirts. It is there to make the arms of the jacket slimmer. Most people prefer to wear a fitted leather jacket compared to a baggy one. And these zippers, once you zip them up, make sure that the jacket stays snugly fitted to your body.

Furthermore, while driving a bike, many people prefer pushing up the sleeves of the jacket. The zipper also helps them in doing so. Because the forearm is much bigger than the wrist, if you pull the sleeves upwards and then zip them up, the sleeves will not fall down again.

This helps both regular as well as beginner bikers.

Who invented the leather jacket?

The biker version of the leather jacket was invented in 1913 by a Russian immigrant named Irving Schott.

Irving Schott was a salesmen who used to go door-to-door to sell raincoats. He was always messing around with clothing in order to make it more functional.

leather jacket
My favorite leather jacket

He thought of making a jacket targeted specially towards bikers, and thus chose leather to make it because of the tough-as-nails reputation of leather. He sold his design to Harley-Davidson, and the jackets started to be available at various different biker stores.

Bonus fun fact – He named this jacket the ‘Schott’ jacket because Schott was his favorite brand of cigar. Later, when the jacket started getting popular, he adopted it as his last name.

Why do leather jackets have a belt?

When Irving Schott made the first biker jacket on the planet, he didn’t realize how popular the garment would get.

He created a jacket made from leather and marketed it specifically to bikers. Bikes were becoming to get really popular at that time and there was no other garment that protected the rider if he or she happened to fell down.

leather jacket
Another one of my beauties

Wait a sec, how’s any of this related to leather jackets having a belt?

Schott introduced the belt to the leather jacket in order to make the life of the bike rider better. Without a belt, it was possible for the jacket and the rider’s body to have distance between them, even if zipped up. A belt made sure that the fit was extremely snug, and that no wind could pass through the jacket and make the rider feel chilly.

Why do leather jackets have fringe?

One would assume that fringes began to appear on the leather jacket in the ‘western’ era, because fringes are just synonymous with the west. But this is not how it actually happened.

Fringe on clothing has been seen as early as Mesopotamia. An easier question to answer would be this – How did fringes start to appear on leather jackets?

It was a lot of work to get leather. After hunting and skinning, the animal’s hide was tanned. This process involved many steps. Given the expenditure in energy, it made complete sense to waste as little leather as possible.

So the extra leather that was left after constructing a leather jacket got cut up into thin little pieces, and was joined to the jacket to give a more aesthetic look. This came to be known as fringe. Besides this, the fringes on a leather jacket could be torn up and used in the wild when the need arose, because leather was known to be a tough fabric.

These were the main purposes of fringe in leather jacket.