Nothing projects quite so much careerist vacuity as the leather jacket. Badly concealed within that thick animal piping and cosy lining lie blatant aspiration and a dearth of inspiration/imagination in the wearer. Good designs do exist and it’s not often the generic jacket itself, but those signals. Not, as might be desired, a classic, effortless cool au James Dean or for the more risqué Sid Viscous, but “look! I am a twat of a clotheshorse but more importantly I just spent A LOT of money”.
The leather jacket still irritates the hell out of me, even though the tribalised importance of identity via clothing has been disclaimed in pick ‘n mix modern popular culture. In music, the black number deliberately donned for the photoshoot is usually a harbinger of nothing so much as creative decline. New bezzies Arctic Turner and Rascal Kane of the Last of the International Playboys or whatever they’re called, who we’re assured are only about 20, were featured in a Guardian Guide feature all spruced up in expensive cowhide – the sort that are embarrassing even on 40-somethings let alone people half their age, with the obligatory smug face for accompaniment. We made it because we put strings on our album, see?
There is also a picture of the newly reformed (but they said they’d never would!) Verve, where all four members’ torsos were clad in leathers. What were they projecting? This went beyond the casual functionalism that placed them in the northwest lad-rock tradition. Maybe a desire for realist difference from the excitable young music out there; those guys are having fun but we know music is a biz, and all those pockets are great for stashing the drukqs. Uday Hussain would know - he didn't see past rebel stereotype in wearing the leather, as portrayed in the coked-up, shoot 'em up nutter in the House of Saddam.
In the office too, even though extra indication is not often needed those who come in on dress down Friday with the old leather usually reserved for, I dunno, a weekend’s boating along the Solent, will also be the experts in Wankword Bingo. Middle managers all, past slumming it in normal coats, and blah-blah-blah this one will last years so the outlay is justified etc etc dreary ecognomic justification.
Time was Ryder, Brown, Goldie and co used tacky old-school leather styles (and a big leather chain) to signal their street suss and roots, while various other cuts – full-length au Shaft, ie – were recycled through alternative circles. Bling culture brings everything down with it, alienating both statements of class belonging or opposition. And where in previous eras one could stratify the level of cuntishness by the particular style – the flying jacket marked you out as a Sloane try-hard, the ones with zips as a bit of a rocker – the bit of everything for everyone puts everyone in that bracket now. Now there is nothing left but the price tag and the looking over one’s shoulder through your shades as you wear it.