NEW YORK — The Museum at FIT, the only New York museum focused entirely on fashion, chronicles the biker jacket's development from the highway to the runway in an exhibition organized by FIT graduate students.
The exhibit begins with a display of the Perfecto jacket, an American-designed adaptation of the black leather coats worn by German fliers during World War I. Created at the request of a Harley-Davidson distributor in 1928, the Perfecto was constructed to shield motorcyclists from road conditions and enable freedom of movement, the museum explained in a statement.
The utilitarian jacket took on an aura of deviance in later decades, the exhibit shows, in part due to its adoption by "outlaw" motorcycle groups such as those depicted in "The Wild One," the 1953 film featuring Marlon Brando sporting a Perfecto.
Following a series of images of the leather-clad counterculture — bikers, rock stars, punks — the exhibit goes on to introduce samples of biker-inspired high fashion, including a 1987 Jean Paul Gaultier jacket and a Comme des Garcons "Biker + Ballerina" ensemble in black and pink.
A 1960 Yves Saint Laurent jacket inspired by the biker aesthetic broke ground in bridging highway and high fashion: Prior to this, said curatorial team member Danielle Morrin, "haute couture didn't really take inspiration from the street."
"Beyond Rebellion: Fashioning the Biker Jacket" is on view at the Museum at FIT through April 5, 2014. Admission is free.