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Barbara I Gongini

The Leather Jacket

No other wardrobe item is as bold and offbeat as the black leather jacket. An undying wardrobe staple for many, the leather jacket has made history as the favorite attire of the rebellious and the avant-garde. Classic cuts have turned it into an item that is at home in classic and conceptual wardrobes alike. Yet there's more to styling this garment than the “biker” look that established it as a cult item. Keep reading to uncover the cultural influence of the black leather jacket and discover new, original designs and styling ideas for men and women.


From Workwear to Cult Item: Why Are Leather Jackets So Cool?

So, when did the leather jacket become synonymous with the rebellious, anti-system attitude that it represents today? And how exactly did it become an emblem of the so-called ‘rocker’ look? Although men have been wearing them since as far back as 1928, black leather jackets are just as in style today as they were 20 or 50 years ago. Their popularity with youth culture first surged during the ‘50s rockabilly era, when the black leather motorcycle jacket became an unofficial uniform for the current’s adherents. In the years that followed, the garment became associated with many emerging subcultures, some of which are still represented today. From punk to goth, to techno, many (formerly) underground music scenes adopted it as an essential piece of clothing. Thus, the leather jacket became a staple of urban culture and an item that symbolized the wearer’s allegiance to a certain community - whether it was worn by the rebellious, the aloof or the progressive.


punk rock leather jacketsSiouxsie Sioux at the Edinburgh Tiffany's, 1980


Unearthing the History: Why Wear a Leather Jacket?

Over the past hundred years, the leather jacket has evolved into one of the most popular outerwear items. Thanks to its durability and versatile design, this fashion item can top off countless outfits in (almost) any season. Besides, it is likely to last you much longer than any other piece in your wardrobe. Fashion critics have characterized it as “rebellious”, “alternative” and sometimes even “masculine”. The raw, organic appearance of the leather creates the garment’s ‘rough and tough’ appeal, which brings out the audacious side of the wearer’s personality. Timeless tailoring cuts, such as the bomber leather jacket, have garnered a wide appeal across all generations. At the same time, niche deconstructed designs and more daring looks (think Matrix-esque black leather coats) remain reserved for creative, avant-garde dressers and those who want to make a strong statement. A designer leather jacket that’s made from high-quality materials can last you a lifetime if you look after it properly. When buying a leather jacket, you’re not only investing in a perennial wardrobe item. You’re also acquiring a piece of urban cultural history, that’s imbued with heritage and authenticity.


Beyond the Typical Cuts: What Black Leather Jacket Style Is Best for You?

We all know and love the classic leather jacket styles. The racer, bomber & biker leather jackets are probably the most popular cuts, from which many modern interpretations were born. You could even say that they have become so commonplace that you can’t really call them ‘alternative’ or ‘rebellious’ anymore. But that doesn’t have to be the end of it. There are plenty of alternative leather jacket designs that keep true to the garment’s original ‘rough and tough’ appeal.


How an Innovative Leather Jacket Design is Born

Have you ever wondered how one would go about designing an avant-garde leather jacket? Our designer, Barbara, gives us a glimpse of her creative process:


“If you really want to express your vision, this is when you start to build on the conceptual principles. For us, the Square has been a principle we have used since the beginning and which serves as a base for molding a new style. It’s true that we start from scratch when creating a specific style, but the whole history of our designs is of course still in our backbone. The design process is very much a continuing story for a company like ours. For our new line, Norðan we incorporated the classical approach a bit more, which makes the garments more ”trend-sensitive”, so to speak. We also work from traditional styles on occasion, re-interpreting the classics like the bomber or the biker leather jacket.”


Now that you’ve heard from the creator herself, have a look through some of the best black leather jackets for women and men from the avant-garde collections of Barbara I Gongini:


Avant-Garde Men’s Leather Jacket Styles


1. Back to Basics: the Fitted Leather Jacket

A fitted leather jacket with a clean or even minimalist design can quickly turn into a personal pièce de résistance. This mandarin-collared, distressed leather look is easy to match with a variety of casual outfits. With this style, it’s all about the details. If you prefer a minimalist leather jacket, opt for a classic tailoring style, but look for key elements such as zipped pockets, which bring the garment in the limelight. Atypical elements such as elbow-revealing zippers and detachable thumbhole cuffs create an offbeat vibe and help you compose a magnetic look. Both jackets are made from sheep leather, which is lightweight and great for keeping you warm.


2. Tracing the Roots: the Asymmetric Leather Jacket

This asymmetric model is made from goat leather, which is tougher, but at the same time, softer to the touch compared to sheep’s leather. The “unfinished” waistline combined with visible stitching of the paneled inserts give this garment a raw, primordial feel. The look directly references our common cultural heritage and roots, taking you back to an ancient time when leather was an essential material for human survival.


Leather Article 7The Barbara I Gongini Asymmetric Leather Jacket, Spring Summer 2017


3. A Tactile Experience: the Textured Leather Jacket

This textured sheep leather jacket is less about your typical “bad boy” fashion look, which is normally associated with the black leather jacket, and more about the fine details which make it noteworthy. Referencing the organic shapes created by receding waves in the sand, the leather has been treated to create a sense of return to the roots through nature-inspired textures. Subtle detailing is what makes this buffalo leather bomber-inspired jacket all the more versatile and urban. Raglan sleeves point to the athleisure garments that have become so pervasive in our closets, while the double zippers which reference the fencing jacket, as well as the asymmetric cut, create a distinctively avant-garde look.


Article Leather 8

The Barbara I Gongini Textured Leather Jackets, Autumn Winter 2017


Women’s Leather Jacket Types


1. The Distressed Leather Jacket

The distressed minimalist look works just as well for women’s black leather jackets as it does for men. With this design, you can wear the extra long sleeves open over the knuckles or you can zip them up and scrunch them for extra texture around the wrists. A short black leather jacket is essential if you want to create a rugged look - just remember to avoid high-shine finishes, for a more coherent outfit.

The women’s version of the thumbhole jacket features a slightly different tailoring style, which flatters the female shape. This cropped leather jacket is longer at the front and curved over the hips, creating a look that’s hard to replicate.


2. The Matte Asymmetric Leather Jacket

Just like the men’s style, this asymmetric leather jacket for women is made from matte goat’s skin and has stylized outer stitching which gives it a rough, unspoiled look. The low shine of the leather contributes to the natural character of the garment.

 avantgarde leather jacketsThe Barbara I Gongini Matte Asymmetric Leather Jacket, Spring Summer 2017


3. The Avant-Gardist: Multiways Leather Jackets

Avant-garde style is all about challenging the rules and creating your own way of doing things. Going beyond the typical styles, a designer leather jacket can break the monotony of a classic or minimalist wardrobe by infusing it with a sense of avant-gardism. A multiways leather jacket can bring your wardrobe to life and inspire you to use your clothes in new ways. Detachable parts and unconventional closures give your creativity free reign so that you can create your ideal look through layering and playing with volumes.


avantgarde leather jacket designs

The Barbara I Gongini Multiways Leather Jacket, Autumn Winter 2017


How to Wear the Black Leather Jacket in Original Combinations

There’s much more to wearing leather than the typical “rocker” look - dark jeans, white T-shirt & jacket.

A dark jacket can be a brilliant style shortcut and leather makes for a great material to top off your outfits, as it only gets better with age.

Here are six remarkable outfits to elevate your style and inspire you to figure out how to wear a leather jacket without (just) looking like a biker.


Outfits Ideas with Black Leather Jackets, styled by Barbara I Gongini

Our favorite way to style leather involves creating a dramatic look by layering items and juxtaposing different textures. Explore our collections and get inspired to create your own black leather jacket outfits. Highlight a black deconstructed dress by layering it with a multiways leather jacket. You can tone down the ample cut of the dress with a pair of open-toe ankle boots or even add another semi-opaque layer (such as a multiway cardigan).

Instead of simply wearing a black leather jacket with jeans, drape it down against a pair of tailored linen trousers and team it with a pair of unconventional leather shoes with invisible heels. For a sportier look, you can combine a fitted leather jacket with seamless leggings and shorts. The removable thumbhole cuffs on the jacket add interest and help you create an alternative look.


A bold way to sport a leather jacket is by combining it with leather pants. To create a coherent outfit, choose items with matching details such as zippers, or opt for a jacket and pants with similar textures. Wear it with combat boots and a voluminous scarf and add an optional wool vest over the jacket to complete a winter look.

On warm days, wear an extra long, textured shirt with a black leather jacket to create an intriguing look. Alternate black and gray garments to create contrast and add volume with a pair of avant-garde jogging pants. Even in an all-black outfit, low-shine alternatives such as the goat leather jacket downplay the dark fashion look and instead channel a raw character that hints at the ancient uses of leather. Wear this jacket with light fabrics like cotton and match it with distressed leather boots for an austere, composed look.


How Are Leather Jackets Supposed to Fit?

A high-end leather jacket is an investment purchase, therefore it’s important to know how it should fit so that it flatters your frame. In general, a short leather jacket should sit at the waist and fit your body closely, but offer enough room for an extra sweater for when you need to add more layers during the cold season.

High-cut armholes on a leather jacket provide better freedom of movement and won’t create any unsightly creases around the armpits. Sleeves can end at the wrist or cover your knuckles, depending on the model you choose.


Does a Leather Jacket Stretch?

Real leather is an organic material which stretches with wear. Depending on the type of leather and how much you wear the garment, it’s likely that it will stretch slightly and mould according to your body shape.

That being said, it’s important to consider this when choosing the right size for you. Because of the stretch factor, some people choose to order a size down in order to ‘break in the jacket’. However, you should decide this for yourself according to your preferred fit and also consider how you’ll be wearing it (layered over light clothes like T-shirts or over thick sweaters).


Can Leather Jackets Be Altered?

Leather jackets can indeed be tailored, but the process can be very costly, as leather is more difficult to work than other materials. You can probably shorten a leather jacket’s sleeves without too much trouble, but we do recommend avoiding it altogether by shopping for your size.

Remember that, unlike a woven textile like cotton, leather will remain punctured, which makes it impossible to undo a mistake. Therefore, we advise you to seek a professional specialty tailor to alter your leather garments if you want the best results.


Does a Leather Jacket Only Keep You Warm in ‘Leather Weather’?

Beyond its cultural significance, the leather jacket is also a practical and versatile item for your wardrobe. There is no such thing as ‘the best season for leather’. In some parts of the world, you may be able to wear this item all year round, while in other parts you can only wear it during fall and spring.

Note that the most comfortable temperatures for leather jackets (a.k.a “leather weather”) are somewhere between 7-17 degrees Celsius / 45-63 Fahrenheit. Of course, what you wear underneath it is also important. You can figure out when to wear your own leather jacket by looking at its interior. Most of them will feature some kind of lining such as polyester, cotton, or even silk. This can make it suitable for outdoor wear even at low temperatures. You can wear shearling-lined leather jackets even during cold winter days, while unlined jackets are best left for warmer periods. Although they can protect you during a downpour, keep in mind that leather jackets are not waterproof. Leather can get wet easily and it is quickly damaged by water, which makes it dry out and can cause blotches. You can wear leather in the rain only after you’ve treated it properly, such as with a leather lotion with lanolin oils.


Closing Thoughts

The organic textures of leather make it a primordial material, which is both ancient and contemporary, primitive and futuristic. If you’ve ever seen a leather jacket that is more than ten years old, you will have noticed its special character and unique tactile qualities.

Therefore, when choosing a high-end leather jacket, invest in a versatile piece that you truly love. This way, you’ll be able to wear it today, as well as five, ten years, or even a lifetime from now.


Discover more black leather jackets for women and for men.


ImageMikkel Völcker