Rebellious, timeless and the epitome of style, leather oozes ‘cool’ whenever it appears on camera. It’s the obvious choice of fabric for cinema’s most charismatic characters. And it looks great off-screen too.
We take a look at ten leather-clad individuals who embrace their inner rebel on film.
Johnny Strabler (The Wild One)
Marlon Brando’s iconic moody performance as Johnny Strabler was inspired by time spent with real motorbike gangs. The method actor hung out with the people behind his character, and adopted their mannerisms and speech.
He gave Strabler a personal touch by wearing his own jeans and t-shirt but added an authentic, biker-inspired Schott NYC Perfecto 618 leather jacket, which he personalised by adding stars to the epaulet.
The leather bomber started life as aviation and military wear during WW1, but Brando’s performance as Strabler gave the jacket he wore in almost every scene a new cool and edgy reputation. Designer Irving Schott’s Perfecto jacket, named after his favourite cigar, became an item of desire for an entire generation, including stars like James Dean and Elvis Presley.
Indiana Jones (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade)
Leather jackets always look better when they’ve been well-worn and Indiana Jones’s jacket has certainly seen some action. When Indy sets off for Italy to pursue the Holy Grail and find his father, we can be sure that that his battered brown bomber will return home with extra creases.
Indy’s custom leather jacket is essentially a modified Type A-2 flight jacket, lined with brown lambskin and featuring a shirt style collar. There are two large and practical patch pockets on the hips; side pleats which allow for those mega action scenes and adjustable leather straps to tighten the waistband. Indy’s costume designers painted over the original aluminium zippers in brass to reduce their shine and prevent distraction.
Tyler Durden (Fight Club)
Fight Club leader Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, is narrator Edward Norton’s visualisation of what an ideal man should look like. His wardrobe is filled with outfits that are the antithesis of Norton’s sensible khakis and shirts. Among Tyler’s collection is a vintage red leather jacket which he wears in numerous scenes.
The single breasted, slim fit jacket features a large shirt style collar, a long vent, red buttons, patch pockets on each hip and plain cuffs. Dyed the colour of dried blood, it has white stitching running up each sleeve for contrast.
Because Tyler has no money and lives in a house that doesn’t belong to him his clothes couldn’t be fancy. So costume-designer extraordinaire Michael Kaplan went for a thrift-shop look. The jacket is worn unbuttoned with a selection of flamboyant patterned shirts that ooze seventies trash style.
Morpheus (The Matrix)
Neo might be the chosen one but it’s Morpheus’ stylish trench coat that makes the biggest sartorial statement in this 1999 sci-fi movie. Textured to resemble crocodile skin, the fabric allows Morpheus to move freely and swagger with confidence. Its sweeping design is also perfect for hiding harnesses during the film’s many (often slo-mo) fight scenes.
The Wachowskis mulled over their vision for The Matrix for five years, working through 14 drafts of the screenplay. Designer Kym Barrett’s success in bringing their dystopian image to life through costume helped the movie on its way to cult status.
Terry Leather (The Bank Job)
In this heist film based on true events, struggling salesman Terry Leather is a petty thief trying to make ends meet as a car salesman. And the bods at BAMF Style say the styling is so spot-on we don’t need the titles to tell us the film’s set in 1971:
“The sight of Jason Statham in a badass vintage brown leather jacket as he stands between a black ’62 Singer sedan and a sweet Austin-Healey roadster give us all the context we need.”
Hip-length, with large lapels and a leather belt (the ends of which he tucks into his pockets), Mr Leather’s leather features a rear vent. Each cuff has a rounded leather half tab that closes with a large brown button. Statham wears this customised vintage piece with a black cashmere sweater for a look that somehow combines car-salesman with cool.
Pete “Maverick” Mitchell (Top Gun)
High octane dog fights, aviator glasses and a very youthful Tom Cruise. We’re talking Top Gun, which celebrated its 30th anniversary earlier this year. Despite the movie’s cheesy plot and the fact that critics disliked its pro-war stance, Top Gun’s longevity is down to a winning combination of striking visuals, stunning seat- of -your -pants aerial action and a magnetic performance from Cruise, who wears his leather aviator jacket with confidence.
Maverick’s jacket is actually based on a design commissioned by the US navy for its elite fighter pilots, way back in the 1930s. The G-1 bomber jacket is recognized for its warm shearling collar and the patches which pilots sewed onto them to commemorate missions.
Thirty years after the film’s release, aviator jackets are still considered cool. Google searches for them have more than doubled this season.
Max Rockatansky (Mad Max 2-The Road Warrior)
You might not be surprised to learn that some of designer Norma Moriceau’s costumes for Mad Max 2 were inspired by an S and M shop she passed on the way to work. Whatever the inspiration, Max’s modified biker jacket with its fetishistic edginess was incredibly innovative when the film hit cinemas in 1981. The movie’s menacing look has influenced many subsequent post-apocalyptic movies and directors including Guillermo Del Toro, David Fincher and Robert Rodriguez have cited it as their favourite movie.
In the original Mad Max movie, Max’s officer jacket is shiny and new, but by the time we see him in the Road Warrior, he’s been on his own for five years in a desolate landscape with just his V8 and dog for company. As a result, his attire is worn and filthy and this is where that iconic one sleeved look makes its appearance.
Wolverine (X-Men Origins: Wolverine)
This movie charts Wolverine’s history, beginning with his origins as James Howlett, a child born into wealthy Canadian aristocracy in the late 1800’s. James runs away with brother Victor to join the army. They discover they cannot be killed and go on to fight in every major conflict. We catch up with him in Vietnam as he and Victor re-unite to join the special force known as Team X.
In the other movies from the franchise, Wolverine is seen either in a black leather bodysuit, or bare chested. In this film he wears a brown leather jacket embellished with three yellow stripes on each arm and a yellow strip around the waist. Robert McLaughlin of Den of Geek is not a fan:
“You can understand why the original costumes in the X-Men movies were dumped for leather, as Wolverine’s costume really is something that should never be seen on screen. Inappropriate.”
In the producers’ defence the stripes and the costume may well be a nod to the original costume of the Marvel comics: a yellow and blue getup with stripes. McLaughlin remains unconvinced.
Star Lord (Guardians of the galaxy)
Actor Chris Pratt cites Marty McFly and Han Solo as influences on his performance as space hero Star-Lord aka Peter Quill. But what inspired his look? The film’s costume designer Alexandra Byrne, speaking on wheretowatch says:
“Quill’’s coat is a mixture and contradiction of many things—part cowboy, biker, rock star, retro, space-suit tech, battered and new!”
Byrne faced the challenge of combining style with practicality, as Star Lord’s outfit requires space for storing his collection of guns and rocket blasters. The resulting costume was so cool and appealing that Chris Pratt “stole” it from the set so that he could show up in character whenever he visited sick children in hospital.
Finn (Star Wars: The Force Awakens)
The guys at ShortList reckon this movie’s plot hinges on a leather jacket, which is given to Finn when he meets Poe Dameron, a captured X wing pilot:
“In addition to looking cooler than a winter on Hoth, the battered leather bomber of Poe Dameron was pivotal in bringing together Finn and Rey. Without that jacket, BB-8 wouldn’t have given a beep, Rey wouldn’t have gone after Finn, and the story would have stuttered to a halt. “
Finn’s custom-made nubuck jacket features maroon quilting on one shoulder, a distinctive slash of red across the chest and quilting down the sleeves. The distressed leather torso has leather straps for holding weapons, two large hip pockets and a slit pocket on the left chest. Fight Club costume designer Michael Kaplan explains how he added character to Finn’s jacket:
“We painted on red patches of acrylic paint [on the leather jacket] and then wiped them back so they got ingrained in the leather to give it more depth and character. Then we put it through various washes, adding oils and wiping them off.
Finally, Kaplan added a solution which made the jacket look permanently dusty, adding to its lived in appearance.
The leather look is clearly a Hollywood favourite, no matter what the era. We’ve just scratched the surface here, and not even mentioned John Travolta’s Danny Zuko costume from Grease, or Daniel Craig’s leather bomber jacket from Casino Royale.
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