I like leather jackets. That may be the biggest understatement of the year. I can honestly admit now that I bought my first bike just so I could walk around confidently and not look like a poser. There is however one jacket that I could say started this addiction and given me a daily uniform; A modern production One Star Perfecto jacket made by Schott for Japan.
We all think we own a cool leather jacket. When we slip it on at the department store it drapes comfortably around you. The soft lamb leather feel’s like velvet in your hands. You look thinner. You could swear the saleswoman is biting her lip as you strut up and down the mirror. You practice zipping it up and down, rehearsing how you would make your entrance later at the bar at night. “Half way? Three-Quarters? No, All the way, then down as you walk through the door. Yep. That’s it.” So you spend $200 or so on the one. And then one day you realize you blend in with every other Joe that went to H&M or Zara and wanted something different and stand out but bought exactly the opposite.
That was me. I did that. Hell, I still do that from time to time. But it wasn’t until I got schooled by a few friends, (PP, AP, MS), that I realized I was doing it all wrong. While looking to get a designer jacket from Raf Simmons, my friend asked why I didn’t get the original? “Original?” I asked. He pointed me to head to Schott NYC store in Harajuku Japan. It was there for better or for worse I opened Pandora’s box. The Perfecto I tried on I could have sworn could have stood standing up if I leaned it against the wall. The leather was hard and without gloss as it was cut from steerhide. Bright Stars clung on to the shoulder straps. The jacket was composed of hard angles without consideration for any curves of the human body. A huge buckle loomed on the front with no place to go but hanging down.
It felt wrong. And not the good type of wrong. Everything I had known about leather jackets went out the window. It felt uncomfortable. I could barely give a hug to anyone if I wanted to. I was in a straight jacket and I wanted out. I felt subconscious as I took a look at myself in the mirror.. My first thought was what would other people think I looked like? A wannabe greaser, Asian Dandy Zuko? I started doubting if I could pull this off.
My friend noticed my hesitation and quickly went over The Rules for purchasing a new Schott Perfecto.
1st rule. “Size down” If it feels comfortable you’re doing it wrong. New leather jackets will stretch after you break it in. Typically a 1/2 inch on each shoulder. If it fits great now, it won’t in a few months (if you’re wearing it 4 times a week). So a 38 should go down to a 36. It shouldn’t feel like you’re about the burst the seams but rather you should have a hard time zipping it up initially. (618US is the code for the Japanese Cut Schott Perfecto’s. They are typically more tapered than their American counterpart. If you want one, you have to purchase one in Japan as Schott NYC does not sell them in the US)
2nd rule. “One Star” If you wanted to blend in you should go with what’s safe. Remember, leather jackets in the 40’s-60’s were the uniform of the rebellious. Jackets featuring Stars on the snaps of the collar were even banned from sale in many districts in the US and England as it was connected to “The Wild One” and symbolized Rebellion and motorcycle gangs.
3rd rule. “It’s you.” If I felt shy about wearing the jacket, it’ll show. If I felt confident, it’ll show. If I never thought twice about it it’ll show. Wearing a Schott Perfecto is much like arriving for the first time in New York City. If you are looking up at the skyscrapers and fumbling around, you’re going to get called out as a tourist. Better to put your head down, walk with purpose throw in a couple of swear words for good measure. Over time, you’re a local.
4th rule. “Pay Up”. A proper steer-hide and quality hand-sewn jacket in the US should reflect in the price. The going rate will be north of $700 for a Japanese Cut Schott jacket, but you can find used ones from as little as $200 at vintage shops around Japan. These pre-loved jackets may be the best way to get into a Schott as most of the break in has already been done. Proper care and maintanence will insure this will be a jacket you can hand down to your kids or be buried in as you jump through flaming hoops on your hard tail.
While “The Wild One” might have made Marlon Brando the movie icon of his generation, it was arguably Brando that made the Perfecto jacket the leather jacket that major designers today still base their fashion jackets from.
Schott Bros was the first company to add a zipper to a leather jacket. Their inception launched the motorcycle specific clothing industry and their Perfecto jacket, was said to be the birth of the Motorcycle Jacket in 1913.
This jacket had minor alterations until the 40’s when it was dubbed the 613 and nicknamed the “one star” as it had one star on each shoulder.
The 613 and 618 Perfecto’s had minute differences, however these small differences allow the user to date approximately when the jacket was produced. (Schott Wiki for differences)
I myself have acquired a 613US(japan cut), 603US(japan cut) and most recently a vintage 618 from the 80’s.
There are a few other benefits upon joining the Schott community. For one, they have a very dedicated following and forum group for users to ask questions and learn every detail about their jacket. They even have a dedicated person online that will help date your jacket to the month and year it was produced. But most surprisingly is that Schott NYC also allows, no scratch that, encourages trading and selling of your vintage jackets in their for sale section (Schott For Sale Forum). What other manufacturer can you think of that would allow such a venue to cut into their corporate profits?
Is this jacket for you?