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    

Vtg Lewis Leathers Nevada Biker Jacket Sz M 42 Medium Mens Aviakit Motorcycle LVintage Denim Jacket Chore Test Brand Work Barn Jacket Indigo Sanforized NiceVintage Schott Brown Leather Motorcycle Cafe Racer Jacket Size 42lSuperb Vtg Wwii 40s German Horsehide Leather Cyclist Jacket Luftwaffe HartmannVtg 40s 50s Levis Denim Jean Jacket Trucker Big E Type Ii 9 Oz Selv M S 507xxVtg 50's Rayon Gabardine Ricky Rockabilly Jacket Tan & Brown W/design Size 40 1920’s 3 Pc Men’s Belt Back Striped Suit W Great Cut JacketHercules Sears Vtg 40s Horsehide Leather Flight Pilot Motorcycle Jacket MediumVintage Japan Souvenir Reversible Embroidered Bomber Tour Jacket Velvet M YkkSchott Perfecto 125 Vintage Cowhide Leather Motorcycle Biker Jacket Size 44Exceptional 1920’s Oatmeal Men’s Belt Back Jacket W PocketsAvirex Royal Air Force Irvin Raf B-3 Sheepskin Military Flight Leather Jacket MStunning 50s Vtg German Brown Padded Leather Motorcycle Jacket SmallSuperb Aero Scotland Brown Horsehide Leather Motorcycle Sports Jacket 46Rare Teens - 1920’s Wool Jacket With Belt And Full Shawl CollarStunning Vtg 1930s Horsehide Half Belt Aviator Motorcycle Sports Jacket MediumVintage Scotts Gray Pleated Beltback Flecked Mens Jacket 1930s 1970s 1920s 40Vintage Deadstock Schott Black Leather 214d Down Puffer Jacket Sz 42*Vintage 1940’s Belted Wool Mackinaw Jacket By Land-n-lakes! 1950s Western Rock-a-billy Vintage Rayon Gabardine Black & White Jacket M-lSuperb Vintage 40s Horsehide Half Belt Leather Motorcycle Sports Jacket LargeSuperb Schott Perfecto 118 Vintage Cowhide Leather Motorcycle Biker Jacket 46Vtg Ralph Lauren Zip-up Polo Sport Jacket L Sweater Patch 92 Stadium Pwing Hat1930's Wool And Leather Varsity Letterman Jacket Sz 40Rich Sher Vtg 50s Cafe Racer Leather Motorcycle Jacket SmallG.a.t Mfg Co Usaaf B-3 Sheepskin Military Flight Shearling Leather Jacket S/mVtg Mens Leather Biker Jacket Sz L 44 Large Brown Western Jean Bomber Shirt Slim Vintage Mens St Michael 1960s Tricel Smoking Jacket Dressing Gown Robe LargeVtg Original Jacket Flying Intermediate Type Ma-1 Dobbs Industries Med 1960's?Superb Avirex Usaaf B-3 Sheepskin Military Flight Shearling Leather Jacket 36 Vintage Mens 1960s Meritus Tricel Smoking Jacket Dressing Gown Robe X/lRare Extra Large 1972 Usaf Pilot Air Crew N2b Jacket Parka U.s. Army - Vintage Original Ww2 Korean War Od Tanker Jacket - Size 38Adidas Originals Star Wars X Wing Hoodie Military Jacket Han Solo Size XlVintage Levi Jacket Type Ii 2 Big E 2nd Edition Pleated Denim Jacket Rare One Vintage 1970 Us Army Ranger M-1965 Og-107 Field Jacket--small RegularVintage Schott Men’s Jet Black Leather Bomber Jacket Sz 50*Gents 1940's Style Brown Leather Aviator Flying Sheepskin Shearling Jacket Uk 38Superb Vtg 50s Horsehide Leather Motorcycle Sports Jacket With Sheepskin LiningVintage 80s Schott Mens Deadstock #684sm Leather Bomber Jacket Sz 36 *Us Ww2 Army Air Force B15 Flight Jacket Heritage Vintage Olive Pike Brothers LRare Victorian 19th C Striped Silk Satin Cutaway Jacket W Waist CoatVintage 40s Hart Schaffner Marx Silver Trumpeter 100% Cashmere Navy Jacket CoatStunning Top Gear Vtg 70s Cafe Racer Brown Leather Motorcycle Jacket Xsmall 34Vintage 80s Schott Deadstock Brown Cowhide Leather #184sm Bomber Jacket Sz 52*Teddy Boy Drape Jacket - Lilac , Lined 44-46"chest Vintage Black Leather Motorcycle Bomber Jacket Mens Columbia Langlitz Block BiltVtg 40's Ww2 U.s. Army Air Corps Officer's Wool Jeep Overcoat Coat Jacket 36rVtg Levi's Big E Jean Jacket Pants Dark Brushed Look Denim New Womens SmallVintage Leather Biker Jacket Extra Small 36 Xs Slim Blk Trucker Denim Jean MensUs Ww2 Navy N-1 Deck Jacket Heritage Hotrod Vintage Khaki Pike Brothers Iwo JimaVintage Deadstock Schott Brown Lambskin Leather 271p Men’s Bomber Jacket Sz 34*Vtg Polo Sport Ralph Lauren Xl Shark Jacket Stadium Pwing Bear Snowbeach 1992 Vtg Filson Upland Hunting Jacket Nos Waterfowl Tin Cloth Wool Coat 40 M 62xlVintage 1930s Pre-war Police Leather Motorcycle Jacket Men's 40 Talon Zipper1940’s Palm Beach Dble Breasted Men’s Suit Jacket W Rounded LapelsUs Ww2 Navy N-1 Deck Jacket Heritage Hotrod Vintage Black Pike Brothers Iwo JimaVtg 30s Wwii Horsehide German French Leather Cyclist Jacket Luftwaffe Small/med1940s Vintage Goatskin Cafe Racer Padded Leather Motorcycle Jacket MediumSchott Perfecto Vintage Motorcycle Jacket 44