Few items are cool enough to warrant an entire song by none other than British metal gods Motorhead, nor be essential to the wardrobes of some of the original mad men, including Steve McQueen, Sex Pistol Sid Vicious, NY punk rockers The Ramones, Brando in "The Wild One", Peter Fonda's "Easy Rider" and of course, the king of androgynous cool, David Bowie.
The black leather jacket really is a fashion rarety in that it still looks as cool and up-to-date the day it was minted as versions created today, almost a century later. So its fitting that this standard-issue piece of sartorial badassedness is getting its own exhibition, *Worn to be Wild: The Black Leather Jacket* (from October 20, 2012 - January 20, 2013).
A partnership between the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee & the EMP Museum, it covers the complete history of the jacket within the larger context of explaining how this item became such a mainstay in pop culture. "This exhibition traces the black leather jacket from its utilitarian roots in the 1920s, protecting bikers and pilots from the elements," explains Jacob McMurray, Senior Curator, EMP Museum, "to its adoption by celebrities, rock stars and counterculture youth as a symbol of rebellion and cool; to its modern day designs seen on runways and in stores around the world."
Some of the pieces featured range from the first leather jacket made by Harley-Davidson in 1929, artfully adorned punk jackets, and jackets worn on the screen and stage by stars like Elvis, Fergie, Arnold Schwarzenegger (Terminator 2), Gene Vincent and Harry Shearer (Spinal Tap). And high fashion stakes its claim in the exhibit with five outfits and leather jackets on loan from French designer Jean Paul Gaultier, Gianni Versace, Jeremy Scott, and several other designers. "Worn to be Wild uses an amazing array of garments with unique stories to depict the role the black leather jacket has played in popular culture," adds Jim Fricke, Curatorial Director at the Harley-Davidson Museum. "With materials on loan from around the world – including key pieces from EMP, The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, and Jean Paul Gaultier – the exhibit is the first comprehensive look at the impact of this iconic jacket. The combination of motorcycling, pop culture and fashion will appeal to a wide audience.”
*Worn to be Wild* will be on view at the EMP Museum from October 20, 2012 - January 20, 2013.
- Lesley Scott