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Old 04-23-2019, 09:02 PM
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Leather jacket question (for 50+ dopers)


So I have a question as a younger person:

In a lot of mob tv series or movies set in the 60s or 70s, the mafiso's go-to attire is a leather jacket, usually cut in a punk or mod style. Even the older or middle aged guys.

My question is, did regular ethnic Americans (Italian or Irish in particular) wear them? I ask because I've never seen either of my grandfather's (one born in 20, the other born in 29) wearing one.

Did any of your pops ever wear one, in the 50s, 60s or 70s? Or were they associated with hoods, greasers, rockers, and youngsters by your mainstream middle aged people?
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Old 04-23-2019, 09:13 PM
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My dad (born 1932) didn't. My spouse's dad (born a few years after that) wore one in the '50s. He's of German descent, and according to my spouse he was quite the greaser back in the day (racing for pink slips and rolling cigarette packs up in his T-shirt sleeve).

Last edited by Infovore; 04-23-2019 at 09:14 PM.
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Old 04-23-2019, 09:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kennedy1960 View Post
So I have a question as a younger person:

In a lot of mob tv series or movies set in the 60s or 70s, the mafiso's go-to attire is a leather jacket, usually cut in a punk or mod style. Even the older or middle aged guys.

My question is, did regular ethnic Americans (Italian or Irish in particular) wear them? I ask because I've never seen either of my grandfather's (one born in 20, the other born in 29) wearing one.

Did any of your pops ever wear one, in the 50s, 60s or 70s? Or were they associated with hoods, greasers, rockers, and youngsters by your mainstream middle aged people?
None of my family did...but that's not saying anything, since we are talking northern Mexico or southern Arizona when I was a kid, so not exactly leather jacket wearing environment, for most of the year. The only folks I recall wearing leather jackets were biker types. Even gang members, when I was a kid at least, didn't wear leather jackets like in the movies. It might also be that leather jackets were beyond the price range of folks I knew (besides being really, really hot for such things).
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Old 04-24-2019, 12:31 AM
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I wore one in the 50s and early 60s. Lived in the country on a dairy farm. When you go out a 0 dark hundred to bring in the cows before going to school you want a jacket that will keep you warm and dry even when it rains. A lot of the kids I went to school with in California had them.

Then when my family started ridding motor cycles we wanted real leather jackets.
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Old 04-24-2019, 02:56 AM
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My dad (New York Jewish, born 1948) has a short, puffy, brown leather bomber jacket he bought circa 1975. He wore it for many years, and I borrowed it fairly often as a teenager.

He also used to wear a fringed suede jacket in the 1970's, but I think that's more of a counterculture thing.

Last edited by Alessan; 04-24-2019 at 02:59 AM.
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Old 04-24-2019, 03:13 AM
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WW2 dad's maybe had them from the military.
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Old 04-24-2019, 06:35 AM
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Nobody in my family every wore anything close to that.

But in the 70s and 80s, I wore a stereotypical gay urban leather outfit... leather motorcycle jacket or vest, boots, sometimes chaps (over Levi's). I still have the jacket; haven't worn it in decades.
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Old 04-24-2019, 07:14 AM
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I'm in my late 40s with much older parents (currently they are in their early 90s), so I think it's fair to say they belong to a generation that pre-dated youth fashion.

They had very strong opinions on clothing as I grew up, and felt that things like leather and denim jackets marked you out as at least working class, bordering on the wrong side of the tracks. I remember having a huge row with my Mum in the early 80s because I'd bought a denim jacket (she marched me back to the shop).

This was in the UK.

Last edited by SanVito; 04-24-2019 at 07:15 AM.
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Old 04-24-2019, 09:13 AM
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I'm not exactly sure what a "punk/mod" style leather jacket is that you see "Mafioso" wearing.

Growing up in Chicago in the 60s-70s, certain people wore short bomber/motorcycle leather jackets. These were generally the "greaser" types. Folk in gangs or otherwise involved in car culture.

Older gents wore short leather 'car coats." Most of those guys were ethnic - mostly Italian in my neighborhood. But common w/ a lot of working class folk, cops, etc.

When I was young, I VERY MUCH wanted my first leather jacket, which I bought while in HS. It was a short, brown jacket, not exactly a bomber. I was never entirely pleased with it, as I was unable to afford one like I really wanted.
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Old 04-24-2019, 10:06 AM
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My dad (Italian) graduated in 1955. He had a black leather bomber-type jacket. But he was in no way a gang member or in the Mafia! It was something a lot of the kids wore back then. James Dean was someone they all tried to emulate. He did tell me the story of trying to be cool and greasing his thick dark hair back with Vaseline one cold winter's day. He then went to hang out at the ice rink's warming shack trying to impress the girls with his new hairdo. He was standing close to the wood heating stove when he felt something trickling down his neck. The Vaseline that had frozen to his head was now melting! I'm sure he was wearing his leather jacket at the time too. Very cool

My sister and I wore that jacket a few times as adults.
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Old 04-24-2019, 10:13 AM
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My dad was a leather jacket guy. He was a biker and a hippy in the Bay Area in the early 70s though he will only admit to the biker part and gets pissed about me calling him a hippy. Most of the photos of him are in his old army jacket but his closet is full of bomber jackets.
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Old 04-24-2019, 10:43 AM
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My dad was a greaser in the 50s. He never wore a leather jacket nor did his friends, based on what I've seen in old photos. According to my mom, they wore khaki windbreakers. Dad didn't own a leather jacket until he was middle aged and then he went with one cut more like a sport coat.
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Old 04-24-2019, 01:42 PM
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... James Dean was someone they all tried to emulate. ...
In Rebel JD didn't wear leather. It was a short red jacket.

I'm thinking about Marlon wearing leather in the Wild Ones.

But leather jackets were pricey. Most of the folks in my neighborhood couldn't afford them. More common were windbreakers like Scumpup says, or short jeans jackets.
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Old 04-24-2019, 03:19 PM
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If you rode a bike then leather jackets were pretty important protection, you didn't wear them for style all that much. Heavy duty leather also takes a lot of wearing in and tends to look out of shape when not on the bike - because they are cut to a certain position. most of my contemporaries would not wear them off the bike - because they are largely not very comfortable, and anyway who would want to wear protective clothing on a night out when you can wear much more practical stuff.

Somehow the trendies caught on to them, but then decided to style them up - much to the derision of bikers, that's because the fashion leather is simply not functional for the purpose that they pretended to undertake, being far too thin and lacking robustness, and in turn rather cheap throwaway rubbish.
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Old 04-24-2019, 04:21 PM
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I may be off-base with this, but I think the image of the 50s greaser in a leather jacket comes more from the Fonzie character from "Happy Days" than from anything in the real world. As has been mentioned, real leather motorcycle jackets were (and are) expensive, aren't very comfortable, and don't look very trim off the bike. Fonzie's jacket was, I think, an A2-style bomber jacket. I imagine they chose it because it looked nicer than a purpose-made motorcycle jacket. In any case, I doubt you would have found many real 50s greasers wearing a motorcycle jacket if they didn't also have a motorcycle. Surplus aviator jackets, they might have worn as winter garb.
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Old 04-24-2019, 09:22 PM
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I may be off-base with this, but I think the image of the 50s greaser in a leather jacket comes more from the Fonzie character from "Happy Days" than from anything in the real world.
It pretty much started with Brando in "The Wild One," as mentioned above. The character of Fonzie picked up on that and refreshed it for a later generation.
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Old 04-24-2019, 09:46 PM
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Back in ye olde disco era it wasn't unusual to see men in a black leather sport coat.

I was never a greaser, a biker, or a hippie, but I'm 67 years old and I've had a brown leather motorcycle jacket for at least 15 years. It's my go to jacket for pretty chilly to getting-damn-cold weather, and if it ever wears out, I'll almost certainly get another one.
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Old 04-25-2019, 12:19 AM
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When I began Jr High we were students from several grade schools which meant several different areas. Leather jackets were worn by "greasers" from one of the grade schools/areas. Motorcycle jackets didn't enter into it in Jr High, we were too young to drive. In high school there was one biker who wore black leather and rode a Harley but all other motorcyclists were on Honda 350s or bikes of that ilk. Windbreakers or denim jackets (Easy Rider was a current movie then) were worn.
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Old 04-25-2019, 01:30 AM
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Slight Hijack: Butterfly guts seem to have a Supernatural adherence to leather. What is it with that?

Ah, Spring!
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Old 04-25-2019, 05:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Oredigger77 View Post
My dad was a leather jacket guy. He was a biker and a hippy in the Bay Area in the early 70s though he will only admit to the biker part and gets pissed about me calling him a hippy. Most of the photos of him are in his old army jacket but his closet is full of bomber jackets.
I lived among lots of hippies, back in the 60s. Not one of them would ever refer to himself as a hippie. It was strictly a term used about them by others, and not in a good way.
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Old 04-25-2019, 05:41 AM
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I wore a leather bomber jacket in my 20s.
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Old 04-25-2019, 06:57 AM
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Leather coats were not a thing when I was growing up in Salt Lake City in the 60s and 70s. I never saw anyone of my father's generation wear one. Certainly my father would not have spent that kind of money on a coat.

I started buying leather coats in college, and continued while I was in Japan. Now I'm in Taiwan, I never wear them anymore.
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Old 04-25-2019, 07:24 AM
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As an indicator of leather's popularity back in the 70s, just about every mall in the Chicago area had a Berman's Leathers - right next to the County Seat where you would buy your jeans.

For the past 20+ years my go-to jacket when temps are below 50 has been a VERY heavy down-filled leather bomber from Eddie Bauer. Just about getting worn in now!
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Old 04-25-2019, 09:44 AM
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
In Rebel JD didn't wear leather. It was a short red jacket.

I'm thinking about Marlon wearing leather in the Wild Ones.

But leather jackets were pricey. Most of the folks in my neighborhood couldn't afford them. More common were windbreakers like Scumpup says, or short jeans jackets.
Maybe not in Rebel, but I've seen quite a few pics of JD wearing a leather jacket.
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Old 04-25-2019, 09:29 PM
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What I mean by mafia coat is the kind of leather coat you see mobsters wear in period scenes set in the 60s or 70s:
https://m.media-amazon.com/images/M/...3NjI@._V1_.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/b1/87...b770bfb06a.jpg

https://pics.filmaffinity.com/Carlit...3845-large.jpg

https://i.pinimg.com/originals/bc/f8...160f2ed5fc.png
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Old 04-25-2019, 11:19 PM
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What I mean by mafia coat is the kind of leather coat you see mobsters wear in period scenes set in the 60s or 70s
Those are leather car coats, referred to in post #9 above. Definitely different from the typical bomber/biker jackets
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Old 04-25-2019, 11:58 PM
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What the OP is probably referring to is the black leather jacket which is omnipresent in movies and TV shows about the 50's. I remember the TV show "Happy Days" had a character name "Fonzi" (Arthur Fonzerelli) who was instantly recognizable as a no-count good-for-nothing biker-gang type because of his white t-shirt and black leather jacket. He always wore them with dungarees (you see kids, "Blue jeans" used to be called . . .).

It was a part of the show's premise that Fonzi was actually a good guy, and even though he was good at fighting, he only did it for the right reasons. So everybody feared him, but his heart was in the right place.

In short, the black leather jacket was the replacement for the black cowboy hat in entertainment media. It was short-hand for bad guy. In practice, leather coat and jackets of various sorts were worn by all sorts of people, but black leather was mostly worn by motorcycle aficionados, who valued the protective qualities of leather.
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Old 04-26-2019, 01:05 AM
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Dad didn't wear leather jackets that I know of, but as a teen (late 50s/early 60s) he wore jeans/white T-shirt/loafers which seems sort of greaser to me. I have a heavy leather jacket I bought 30 years ago which goes in and out of rotation--it's a Nehru collar biker jacket. I'm not a biker but I was into punk, and a lot of my punk friends had short leather "biker" jackets, though usually the wing-collared style.
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Old 04-26-2019, 09:44 AM
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I am not old enough to answer from experience, but I remember hearing that as late as the mid-70s, Fonzie caused something of a scandal among Happy Days producers by wearing leather, and they started him off wearing a brown leather jacket to soften the blow because black was too scary, I guess. Early on, he actually had a windbreaker, and was only allowed to be shown wearing a leather jacket when he was near his motorcycle. Leather was still associated with criminals and thugs. Which might make sense for the Mafia, but the mob often liked to dress like legitimate businessmen rather than crooks. And a conservative, middle aged man probably wouldn't have worn one at the time, no matter his job.
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Old 04-26-2019, 10:55 AM
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In the 90s I had a black leather biker jacket with all the hardware. It was a sweet albeit costly jacket. I took it to the store where I'd purchased it to get a small tear in a pocket lining repaired. I had my 6 year old son with me, and he was admiring all the coats while I waited in line.

A saleswoman approached my son and began chatting to him about jackets. He told her he was going to get one when he grew up. "Why wait?" she asked and walked him to a corner of the store where they had little biker jackets for kids. Meanwhile I was stuck talking about my pocket tear.

I ended up buying him one. Our "in joke" was that he would take other kids' lunch money to pay me back. He wore that coat every day for about 6 months, then a growth spurt made it useless.
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Old 04-26-2019, 11:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kennedy1960 View Post
In a lot of mob tv series or movies set in the 60s or 70s, the mafiso's go-to attire is a leather jacket, usually cut in a punk or mod style. Even the older or middle aged guys.

My question is, did regular ethnic Americans (Italian or Irish in particular) wear them? I ask because I've never seen either of my grandfather's (one born in 20, the other born in 29) wearing one.

Did any of your pops ever wear one, in the 50s, 60s or 70s? Or were they associated with hoods, greasers, rockers, and youngsters by your mainstream middle aged people?
My grandfather, born 1903 and of mostly German ancestry, frequently wore one. This was in a mostly Irish-Italian neighborhood neighborhood in the Bronx. (My grandmother was Irish-American. In photos from the 1930s and 1940s some of his friends also had leather jackets.

I can't recall my father wearing one but he wasn't much for style. But it wouldn't have been out of place for guys in his generation (born 1920s).
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Old 04-26-2019, 08:44 PM
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I don't remember seeing any pictures of my father (b. 1939) with a leather jacket, but he was more of a jock in high school, had cool cars and then joined the Navy.

My uncle (b. 1942) was a greaser in high school, road a motorcycle and wore a leather jacket.
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Old 04-27-2019, 10:13 PM
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Just reading the topic, I thought that'd be an awfully large jacket.
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