March 4, 2011

Called a Perfecto for a reason

For Spring 2011, Barneys New York has a special edition Schott leather jacket. They originated the classic asymmetrical-zippered design of the Perfecto.

It was made famous by Marlon Brando in the The Wild Ones. Schott will tell you it also appeared on the cover of Born to Run (love it, and the way the jacket looks there).

Like jeans, a great jacket should be tight as a second skin but also comfortable as one.

I wrote about the Perfecto a few years back - the pointers are still relevant.


The ultimate cool coat
Choosing the best leather jacket for that just-a-bit-dangerous feeling
Leather should be totally cool -- and it can be, if men know how to wear it correctly. Too bad many don't.

These past few weeks, I've identified a number of atrocious leather faux pas and found a few fixes:

1. Dressing like a cast member of The Matrix. To the dude on the C-Train who wears sunglasses and a long leather trench: Hello, you're not Keanu Reeves and the public transit system is not a computer-simulated environment designed to suck out your life force, even though it may feel that way.

For an appropriate cinematic role model, consider Jason Schott's recommendation. He says the ultimate icon "has to be the Marlon Brando jacket. Everybody knows what I'm talking about."That said, it's OK to be inspired by the leading men in movies. However, you must avoid dressing exactly like a fictional character. That's for Halloween.

Schott should know. As a fourth-generation member of the family running Schott NYC, he represents the clan that created the classic Perfecto Motorcycle Jacket that Brando wore throughout the 1954 film, The Wild One.

An asymmetrical, double-breasted masterpiece with angled zippers and just the right amount of hardware and pockets, the Perfecto imparts to its wearer a mixture of menace and anti-hero morality. Schott has been reported saying, "Yesterday, my daughter saw a man wearing a Perfecto and she said, 'Daddy, that's a bad man.' "

You can buy the good, kind-of-bad Perfecto online at schottnyc.com for $500 US.

2. Poorly fitted jackets. Most men dress in something that's two sizes too big, coming across as deflated leather balloons. It's totally emasculating. A proper jacket should make you look and feel like a coil of masculine energy -- and just a little bit dangerous.

Keith and Darryl Christensen certainly agree the fit is "it." The brothers construct both custom and off-the-rack wonders at their luxury leatherwear boutique, Ocean Drive Leather in Vancouver's Yaletown.

"I see a lot of ill-fitting jackets and you can tell they're inferior quality," Keith said.
Darryl warns against slouchy leather with a one-size-fits-all mentality. A good coat should be a second skin.

"A jacket should start out in a nicer state and then become a well-worn jacket that gets more beautiful with age . . . and moulds to your body," Darryl said.
To make his point, he pulls out the military-inspired B-20. With a band collar, epaulettes and waistband ammo pockets, this short jacket is an essay in macho detailing.

Trying it on, the sleek modernity of an Ocean Drive jacket becomes clear. The B-20 at $2,200 feels nothing like army surplus gear. It clings and, without being cartoony, the B-20 makes the wearer feel like a superhero.
"Sexy and modern," Keith said.

3. Not all cuts are equal. Leather blazers are the opposite of sexy. A man in a leather blazer often looks like a person in need of matching leather pants and a leather tie. A calfskin sports coat may be just the trick for business casual or a night on the town, but it can also come across as fussy and prim.

This season, seek out simple motocross-sport versions with standing collars and very few, or no, piping details for a minimalist edge. Ocean Drive has a killer called the B-18 for $1,600.

Also consider a slim-fitting field coat. The Gap will have their interpretation, the Private, for $368, in stores this month.

If you just have to have a bomber-flight jacket with the woven hems and cuffs and a pair of belly-high slash or patch pockets on the front, beware.

Bombers are what gave leather a bad name in the first place. Remember those fake unit badges, bulging midsections, truly gross "distressing" and overly heavy hides?

Instead, stick with updated styles like the kind you will be able to find at Roots, where they've embraced the idea of the "new" leather.

Michael Budman, co-founder and creative engine of Roots, says contemporary leather has changed.

It is "lighter because of climate change . . . tighter . . . and you have to be fit. You can't have a gut."

Right now at Roots, you'll find their new MB jacket, at $498. It's their softer, lighter and fighting-trim take on the bomber.

LEATHER POINTERS
Before you drop some heavy coin for a jacket, here are a few good shopping pointers:
  • Shoulder-to-sleeve seams must hit exactly at the shoulder joint. If you go too far past it, the leather, which stretches over time, will sag. If the jacket has no shoulder seam (a raglan sleeve, for example) avoid it. The armholes will most likely be too big.
  • Cuffs should end just past the wrist bone. They should not cover any part of your hand.
  • Waistbands should fall no lower than the bottom of the belt on your pants. I like the waistband above the belt line, but that's a matter of taste.
  • Avoid complicated details; they will date the coat.
  • Hardware details are fun, but make sure the extras are proportioned properly. You don't want oversized pockets to add pounds to your frame.
  • Speaking of pounds, skip dessert and forgo a few pints; leather favours the thin.

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