Think of coats, and bulky garments designed to keep us warm or dry probably come to mind. Think of a suit, and we can’t help but picture the “Mad Men” of Madison Avenue in the 1960s, or the pinstriped cowboys of Wall Street today.

But there is no single image for the word “jacket,” the most common and variable form of above-the-waist outerwear. Jackets encompass navy-blue double-breasted blazers, Members Only nylon windbreakers, tweed Norfolks made famous by Basil Rathbone in “Sherlock Holmes,” and black leather jackets donned by a million wannabe bad boys in the 1950s.

During the Victorian and Edwardian eras, jackets were worn indoors and out, though for entirely different reasons. Before they became a standard article of everyday wear, double-breasted blazers are thought to have descended from uniforms worn by the 19th-century crew that sailed aboard the HMS Blazer. Members of English rowing clubs wore single-breasted jackets, which links the two styles only by their proximity to water.

Short dinner jackets evolved into the top halves of tuxedos, which were so named for their popularity with the late-19th-century gentlemen who frequented the Tuxedo Club in Tuxedo Park outside New York City. After dinner, early-20th-century males would shed their wool or silk dinner jackets for velvet smoking jackets, which were cut long and allowed smokers to leave the odor of the cigar room behind them.

Norfolk-style jackets evolved from late-19th-century hunting attire into early-20th-century driving jackets. Marked by buttons as well as a built-in belt, these jackets had a sporty, casual look, thanks to their big pockets and principle material of rugged, patterned tweed.

Another legendary outdoors jacket was the Barbour waxed jacket, which kept generations of British royals dry as they tramped about the English countryside hunting small game, which were frequently stuffed into the wide pocket at the jacket’s back. Styles of Barbours that remain popular today include the lightweight Beaufort and the heavier-duty Moorland.

Leather bomber jackets were romanticized during World War II, spawning several generations of men who chose goatskin jackets to shelter themselves from the elements, as well as t...

Also hot during the late 1940s and early 1950s was the Levi’s denim jacket. This sturdy blue jacket was considered work wear during the war and in the postwar years, but in the 1950s it was held as a rebellious alternative to more constraining daywear. The denim jacket, made by both Levi’s and Wrangler, would remain staples of young men’s fashion for years to come.

Rock ’n’ roll culture was another important influence on men’s jackets, as young men everywhere dressed like Elvis Presley in two-tone rockabilly jackets. Another popular style in the ’50s was the prep look—blazers made a comeback and letterman jackets were spotted in droves on many college campuses.

In 1960s Britain, the so-called "mod" style reigned, especially the Cardin-like collarless button-up jackets designed by London tailor Dougie Millings and worn by The Beatles early in their career.

Leather and suede were in as well, with jacket-length suede single-breasts gaining widespread acceptance in the late 1960s. Another phenomenon was the leather fringe jacket. This waist-length jacket featured tassels hanging from the sleeves, chest stitching, and sometimes pocket flaps. It was even more sought-after after its appearance on Dennis Hopper in the 1969 film “Easy Rider.”

International clothing styles, starting with the rise of the Nehru jacket, were also a significant part of the ’60s. So were vintage military uniforms, which found customers in trendsetters such as Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones.

At the opposite end of the what-is-hip spectrum was the belted, goose-down ski jacket, which came to prominence thanks to improvements in ripstop nylon and waterproofing technologies. Sometimes these jackets had built-in or snap-on hoods, in which case they were usually referred to as parkas.

During the 1970s, wide-lapelled, multi-pocketed, belted safari jackets came into style. Black leather bomber jackets came back, this time worn by punk rockers like the Ramones and the Sex Pistols. In the following decade, leather jackets were produced in a variety of colors and often featured multiple zippers, pockets, and chains—think just about any Michael Jackson music video of that period.

Also in the 1980s, double-breasted jackets fell out of fashion, replaced by large single-breasted, often single-button, coverings. Casual jackets got shorter—the rainbow of Members Only jackets come to mind, as do the short, vinyl, snap-button jackets emblazoned with pro football, baseball, or hockey team logos.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

The Black Tie Guide

The Black Tie Guide

Peter Marshall became an authority on formalwear out of necessity — he needed a tux to wear on the maiden transat… [read review or visit site]

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

Fashion Columbia Study Collection

The Fashion Columbia Study Collection (FCSC) is the digital home of the Columbia College Chicago’s fashion archiv… [read review or visit site]



Most watched eBay auctions    

Brown's Beach Jacket 1930'sOriginal -civil War- Victorian Union Army Cavalry Uniform Shell Coat/jacketUs Army Aaf Ww2 Pilot A-2 Horsehide Leather Flight Jacket Stunning Vtg 40s Hercules Horsehide Leather Half Belt Motorcycle Sports JacketVtg Leather Biker Jacket Sz M 40 Medium Red Motorcycle Rocker Cafe Racer Monza SVtg 40s 50s Wwii D-1 Mechanics Usaaf Sheepskin Flight Leather Jacket B-3 LargeVintage 30s Horsehide Leather Motorcycle Jacket Kit Karson Depression Wwii RareVintage 1940s Wwii Japanese Tourist Souvenir Satin Embroidered Jacket SmallVintage Rare! Original 1960s Belstaff Trialmaster Waxed Motorcycle Jacket. 38Vtg Mens Leather Biker Jacket Sz L 44 Large Brown Western Trucker Slim Shirt XlSuperb Vtg 40s 50s Hercules 'two Star' Horsehide Leather Motorcycle Jacket LargeLevi's Denim Jean Jacket Vintage Big E 507 Made In Usa Size 36 Valencia RedlineSuperb Vtg Schott Cowhide Leather Motorcycle Cafe Racer Jacket 42 LongVintage Perfecto By Schott Leather Motorcycle Made In The Usa Jacket Sz 38Vintage Tour Jacket Japan Reversible Souvenir Velvet Satin Eagle TigerSuperb Vtg 1969 Star Sports Us Navy G-1 Goatskin Leather Flight Jacket Size 38Vintage Levi's Red Tab Brown Leather Trucker/western Jacket,size L,44Superb Us Army Air Force B-3 Sheepskin Flight Leather Winter Jacket Medium30's Stunning Rare Sport Jacket Brown Horsehide Leather Fantastic Condition1960's Vintage Cafe Racer Style Rivetts Leather Motorcycle Jacket Size 42Vintage 90s Schott Leather Black Motorcycle Mens Jacket Sz 48Vtg Red Brown Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens Medium 40 Rockabilly BobberVintage Deadstock 90’s Perfecto By Schott Leather Motorcycle Jacket Sz (l) 44Fjallraven Sweden Retro Anorak Smock Jacket Trekking Rare S Vtg 80sVintage Levi Levis Jacket Big E Blanket Lined 34 Single Stitch Vtg Mens 60s St Michael Blue&gold Tricel Smoking Jacket Dressing Gown Robe M/lAntique Vtg 1940s Jungle Cock Patch Fly Fishing Hunting Jacket Game Coat EvrdriStunning Avirex G-1 Us Navy '1944 Will Rodgers Field' Flight Leather Jacket MedVtg Black Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens 48 Xxl Rockabilly Bobber PunkVintage Leather Cowhide Jacket Motorcycle Coat Zipper TalonVtg Black Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Men 42 Medium Large Bobber Punk RockerAnderson & Sheppard 30 Savile Row Rare Twead Sports Coat/jacket Ch 40 SuperbHein Gericke Speedware Black Leather Biker Jacket Size S 38 -39Vtg Black Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens Xl Extra Large Rockabilly BobberVtg 60s Sammy Miller Belstaff Wax Waxed Cotton Motorcycle Trialmaster JacketVintage Chalk Line Chicago Bulls Michael Jordan Print Nylon Jacket Sz LargeVtg 70's Beige Brown Leather Suede Sheep Skin Shearling Aviator Bomber Jacket LOriginal 1940s 1950s Mens Gab Jacket. Gaberdine. Grey Lilac Sportime Robert HallVtg Avirex G-1 Us Navy 'apache Indian' Ltd Edition Jacket Blood Chit Patched LrgVtg 30s Albert Richard Horsehide Leather Jacket 36 Bomber Cafe Racer DistressedVtg Black Grey Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens Xl Rockabilly Bobber PunkVtg Blue Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens 46 Large Xl Rockabilly Bobber PunkRockabilly 50's Corduroy Red Jacket Hollywood Elvis Presley Eddie Cochran 44Vintage Beck Black Cafe Racer Motorcycle Leather Jacket (1965-1976)Vintage 60's Leather Jacket Riders Motorcycle Black BikerVtg Black Red Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens 38 36 Small Rockabilly BobberVintage Horsehide Brown Leather Flight Jacket MotorcycleVtg 50s 60s Lee Westerner 100-j Sanforized Union Made Trucker Jacket Vest Sz 38 Vintage Mens 1960s St Michael Tricel Smoking Jacket Dressing Gown Robe M/lMens Vintage Leather Biker Jacket Small 38 S Skinny Black Slim Classic Bomber XsVtg Blue Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens 44 42 Large Rockabilly Bobber PunkVtg Blue Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens Medium 40 38 Rockabilly BobberVintage Austin Reed Sackville Navy Double Breasted Blazer/jacket Uk 36 Eu 46Schott Leather JacketVtg Black Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens 34 36 Small Xs Rockabilly BobberVtg Black Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens 40 38 Medium Rockabilly BobberVtg Red Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Mens 38 36 Small Rockabilly Bobber PunkVtg Black Leather Biker Cafe Racer Jacket Men 38 36 Small Rockabilly Bobber Punk1950's Gabardine Rockabilly Jacket Sz Small Rare Ricky Men's Vintage Harley Davidson Leather Bomber Jacket ( 70's Size Men's M)