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    

Vintage 1940's Ww2 Levi 506xx Donut Button Buckleback Big E Denim Jacket MdVintage Denim Us Navy Jacket Us Coast Guard Indigo Shawl Collar Wwii ExcellentMens Barbour International Suit Wax Jacket Navy Size 40Vtg Schott Is-674-ms Leather Flight Motorcycle Jacket 40 Fleece LiningVtg 1940s Wwii Horsehide Leather Cyclist Jacket German Luftwaffe Hartmann Med/lgVtg Wwii Johnsville Us Army 1941 M41 Wool Lined Zipper Field Jacket Coat Size 38Vtg 50s Buco Pj-27 Black Steerhide Leather Police Motorcycle Jacket LargeVtg 70s Schott Perfecto Steerhide Pj-27 Leather Police Motorcycle Jacket LargeWwii German Vtg 40s Horsehide Leather Motorcycle Jacket Luftwaffe Kriegsmarine1930s Orig Roughwear Antique Vtg Horsehide Leather Motorcycle Bomber Jacket CoatSteerhide Russet Brown Leather Half Belt Motorcycle Sports Jacket Aero 38Vtg Vanson Leathers Motorcycle Jacket Super Thick Heavy Duty Cafe Racer Men 42 SLevi's Antique Brown Leather Trucker Jacket,size 44/lVtg 1940s German Cyclist Horsehide Leather Jacket Luftwaffe MediumVintage Lee 91-j Denim Jacket Nos Sz 38Suede Vintage 1940s Leather Motorcycle Sports Jacket MediumVtg Harley Davidson D-pocket Brown Leather Motorcycle Police Jacket LargeRare Vtg 1940's Wwii U.s. Navy Usn Shawl Collar Denim JacketVtg 1930s Topline D-pocket Bootlegger Leather Motorcycle Sports Jacket Half BeltVtg 1970s Harley Davidson Amf Steerhide Leather Police Motorcycle Jacket 42Barbour Classic Beaufort Wax Jacket Brown Size 40Vintage 1970s Black Tailored Morning Dinner Tailcoat Jacket Black Xlarge 44Vtg B-3 Sheepskin Military Air Force Flight Leather Shearling Winter Jacket LrgVtg Ralph Lauren Polo Hi Tech Mens Polartec Fleece Lined Jacket Tech P Wing XlVintage Us Airforce B3 Mens Aviator Real Sheepskin Flying Jacket Coat 38 SmallVtg 70s Schott Perfecto Steerhide Leather Police Jacket Motorcycle S/xsVtg 1950s Simpsons Sears Steerhide Leather Motorcycle Sports Jacket L/xlVtg 1940s Hercules Black Horsehide Leather Sports Motorcycle Jacket MediumVtg 40s Sierra Sportswear Horsehide Leather Jacket Motorcycle Flight LargeHercules Vtg 1950s Brown Steerhide Belted Leather Motorcycle Jacket MediumVtg Cooper A-2 Usaf Flight Pilot Goatskin Leather Jacket 40rVtg 60s Kehoe Black Steerhide Leather Cafe Racer Jacket Motorcycle Small/mediumVtg 40s Wwii Double Breasted German Horsehide Leather Cyclist Jacket LuftwaffeAbc Bates Vintage Motorcycle Racing Leather Jacket Original 60's Iconic Honda Superb Barbour Green Waxed Winter Country Jacket Beaufort Size 42De Long Horsehide Vintage 1950s Leather Motorcycle Sheepskin Jacket Size 44Kingsway Horsehide Vintage 1940s Leather 3/4 Motorcycle Sports Jacket LargeBarbour Beaufort Wax Jacket Black Size 38Vintage 1960s 70s Leather Biker Worn Jacket Coat Punk Cafe Racer Small 38Avirex A-2 Ltd Edition 'mother' Usaaf Leather Flight Pilot Jacket XlargeVtg 60s Brooks Gold Label Steerhide Leather Motorcycle Jacket Cafe Racer MediumVtg 1950s Black Horsehide Leather Motorcycle Sports Jacket Large 42Very Nice Vintage 1930's - 1940's Horse Hide Thick Leather JacketVtg 60s British Sportswear Steerhide D-pocket Motorcycle Jacket MediumVintage 1970s Leather Biker Worn Jacket Coat Punk Cafe Racer Medium 40Vtg 1970s G-1 Us Navy Flight Pilot Goatskin Leather Jacket MediumSuperb Barbour Green Waxed Winter Country Jacket Beaufort Size Xsmall1940s Half Belt Jacket, Horse Hide Jacket, Conmar, Windward Jacket. Sz 40-42, Vtg 50s Golden Bear Brown Bomber Motorcycle Sports Flight Jacket LargeSawyer Of Napa Shearling Sheepskin Usaaf B 3 Bomber Flight Jacket XlVtg 50s Usaf Us Air Force B-15d Intermediate Flight Jacket Sage Green 44 (m24)Nos Vintage 50s French Work Jacket Workwear Chore Post Sanforized Denim O'alls MMens Vintage Leather Biker Jacket Medium 42 M Skinny Blk Slim Cafe Racer BomberVintage 50's Key Imperial Railroad Stripe Denim Chore Engineer Barn Work JacketVintage 1970s Leather Biker Worn Jacket Coat Punk Cafe Racer Medium 40Vtg 80s Schott Perfecto 618 Steerhide Leather Jacket Motorcycle MediumHorsehide Vintage 1940s Leather Motorcycle Sports Jacket Half Belt MediumVintage Lee Jelt Denim Jean 91-j Sanforized Usa Union Made Coat Work Jacket 46rVintage Rare 1940s Leather Biker Horsehide Jacket Coat Aero Cafe Racer Large 42Vtg Deadstock 60s Vietnam Us Army 1st Model M-65 Field Coat Jacket Og-107 (m15)