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21 Essential Jackets and Their Histories

21 Essential Jackets and Their Histories

There is no piece of clothing in your wardrobe more transformative than a jacket! A jacket can make an outfit more casual or elevate it in an instant. The best clothing investment you can make is a well tailored jacket made with high quality fabrics. Here are the top 21 jacket styles you should know about along with just a little fashion history!
Yohji Yamamoto Unstructured Vintage Avant Garde jacket

1. The Unstructured Jacket

When it comes to unstructured jackets, Japanese designers have it down. Period.

Unstructured jackets aren't lacking tailoring or details, but rather, they are meant to be less fitted and are often oversized or have a lot of movement. Artfully designed to embrace movement and fluidity, unstructured jackets are a testament to the profound understanding of clothing construction and tailoring.

I always say, only a painter who can actually draw a still life or portrait can create good  modern art, and only a chef who can roast a chicken or fry the perfect egg can cook a gourmet meal. You have to know the rules in order to break them effectively, and I believe only a designer who understands the fundamentals of clothing construction and tailoring can create a well made unstructured jacket. 

Our unstructured jacket is from one of my favorite jacket designers; Yohji Yamamoto. Of all designers, Yamamoto loved playing with the balance of "ma," the Japanese word for the space between the body and the cloth. While designers like Alaia loved form-fitting pieces that hug every curve, many Japanese designers are more interested in exploring the potential of white space in their pieces.


Vintage Gianni Versace Gold Moto Jacket Runway Piece

2. The Motorcycle "Moto" Jacket

A popular wardrobe staple, the moto jacket was born almost a century ago by two brothers, Irving and Jack Schott. They made and sold coats door-to-door in New York City, and by the 1920's, after being the first to put a zipper on a jacket, they designed and produced the first leather motorcycle jacket. Designers have been re-inventing the style it ever since!

Our moto jacket is a metallic gold leather jacket designed by Gianni Versace for his Fall/Winter 1994/95 collection. As seen on the runway modeled by Claudia Schiffer, Versace captures the essence of rebellion with a high fashion glamour.


Vintage Thierry Mugler Red Fitted Jacket w Black Velvet

3. The Fitted Jacket

Jacket trends come and go, but fitted jackets always seem to be in style. They can be simple and classic or offer a surprising amount of flair, with the addition of an interesting shape or unexpected details.

Our Thierry Mugler red jacket is full of surprise, with unique split black velvet cuffs and the asymmetrical black velvet lapels. While Mugler didn't invent the fitted jacket, he certainly made it part of his signature style! This exaggerated hourglass silhouette on a jacket is instantly recognizable as one of Mugler's designs.


YSL Yves Saint Laurent Vintage White Cropped jacket

4.The Cropped Jacket

Cropped jackets date back to the late 1700s with the popularity of the Spencer Jacket, and different styles of cropped jacket have been made popular in almost every decade of the 20th century. The material and fit changes, but cropped seems to always be in style! The main reason is that if a piece of clothing has a fitted waist, a cropped jacket will most likely pair nicely and be the most flattering choice.

We have some incredible cropped jackets in our inventory, but we just love the cut of this white Yves Saint Laurent jacket from the 1980s. It has that classic 1980s boxy fit with convertible lapels to open up the neckline dramatically, or make it even boxier when buttoned.


Dolce & Gabbana Purple Pink Blazer

5. The Blazer

The question of what actually makes a jacket a blazer is one of perpetual debate. Some say it has to be double breasted, some say it has to be thigh length, some say it has to have pockets, and some call all jackets with lapels blazers. Most all agree that blazers are solid in color.

Historically, blazers were associated with sports teams or clubs and had a crest on the breast. Now, the interpretation is looser and we think of a blazer as a jacket that is not quite as formal as a suit jacket and easy to pair with other separates.

While the blazer is a staple that can be worn with everything, we love when designers include unexpected details that play with tradition. Our Dolce & Gabbana blazer is a simple cut, but a vibrant shade of pinky purple, with rounded notch lapels that feature a prominent pick stitch.

Pair yours with a tee shirt to wear it with jeans or dress it up with blouse with fabulous cuffs! 


Vintage Claude Montana leather bomber flight jacket

6.The Bomber or Flight Jacket

The first bomber jackets were made during WWI for the "Aces" or fighter pilots. These jackets were made to withstand the rough atmosphere found in open air cockpits of airplanes. Sturdy leather and thick fur helped make the jackets better insulated and resistant to wear. The knit waistbands and cuffs found on the original jackets helped keep the air out and provided extra warmth.

Both bomber jackets and flight jackets are something most designers have put their own spin on, so they have been reinterpreted with various textures, fabrics, and treatments. In the mid 20th century, famous actors like Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando and James Dean made the bomber jacket a coveted piece of clothing. 

Our bomber jacket is a rare vintage Claude Montana oversized leather jacket with an emblem embroidered on the back.  We recently sold a WWII fighter jacket with the original pins and patches from the original pilot, and the difference between that sturdy leather, and the soft, supple leather used by designers was remarkable!

Vintage Red Avant Garde Oversized Jacket

7. The Oversized Jacket

Like the cropped jacket, oversized jackets can be found in a myriad of silhouettes and styles. Whether you want to wear a loose, unstructured oversized jacket, or one that resembles more structured menswear, such as a sportcoat or blazer, you need to find the one that works best on you - regardless of trend!

We often look to the 1980s as the source of oversized jackets, such as our red ribbed silk jacket above, but we can look back to the 1920s for the origination of oversized clothing. Rebelling against the restrictive corsets of the previous decade, clothing started flowing further from the body. Coco Chanel's first jackets came out in the 1920s, with masculine cuts and fabrics made specifically for women. She is known to have said that she often borrowed the clothing of her lover, finding it more comfortable and easy to move while wearing.

While the 1980s took oversized to iconic new widths, oversized jackets have always been evolving. Oversized bombers, boyfriend jackets, blazers and coats are always finding their way into the current fashion moment.


1980s Vintage Chanel Military Style Jacket

8.The Military Style Jacket

Military jackets are a statement pieces that give the wearer an air of distinction. The history of the military jacket can be traced to 18th century "hussars," the cavalry of the Hungarian government. They donned braided high collared coats that were embellished with luxurious fur trim that was mostly for show instead of functionalality. This became the model for future military uniforms, and as early as the 19th century, women can be seen wearing jackets that incorporated many of the details from military uniforms - including high collars, braided details, and shiny brass.

Musicians played a major role in the popularity of military style jackets. Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles (think Sargeant Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band), and Michael Jackson all created their own military inspired iconic looks. 

Our military style jacket was designed by Karl Lagerfeld for Chanel in the early 1980's.


1980s Patrick Kelly Rare Red Wool Jacket

9.The Double Breasted Jacket

Historians generally agree that the double breasted jacket dates back to the 19th century "reefer jacket." This men's jacket was similar to a pea coat in style, but was mainly worn casually and was originally banned as business attire. While it was associated with Mobsters in the 1920's and 1930's, the double breasted jacket gained popularity as business attire from the 1930's through the 1940's. Marlene Dietrich, who championed suits for women, famously wore double breasted jackets in the 1930s and 40s.

Double breasted jackets have become a mainstay since the mid-century, found on many different styles of jackets. Our double breasted red wool jacket from the 1980s is a rare vintage piece one of our favorite designers; Patrick Kelly.


Escada Vintage Bolero Jacket

10. The Bolero Jacket

A bolero jacket is an evening essential for any fashion lover! Typically open in the front, this long sleeve, collarless jacket is cropped to anywhere above the waist. The bolero originated in Spain, and is similar to what was known as a "zouave jacket." Though similar in style, the zouave jacket was influenced more by the military and the bolero originated in dance costumes.

Designers never shy from a bolero - it is a wonderful evening jacket over a strapless dress, and it can frame the front ruffle of a blouse perfectly. Our vintage bolero jacket is by Escada Couture, with a black and white satin striped front and black velvet sleeves.

Pierre Cardin Vintage Red Jacket Avant Garde Cropped

11.The Avant Garde Jacket

The term "Avant garde" refers to artistic expressions that are out of the ordinary, with a unique, unusual point of view. When applied to clothing, it can be thought of as wearable art. Many of the popular Japanese designers, Yohji Yamamoto, Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garcons, and Issey Miyake, certainly express themselves with the true spirit of avant garde designs, starting in the 1970s.

Pierre Cardin was also known for his avant-garde style, desiging from the 1950s to the 1990s, always looking to the future with his iconic space age designs and use of bold, daring geometric shapes.

Our Pierre Cardin avant garde red jacket is certainly out of the ordinary, with the unique points at the hem that create a sharp silhouette!


Vintage YSL Yves Saint Laurent Brown Boxy Wool Jacket

12.The Boxy Jacket

We mentioned him before with in our cropped jacket section, but it is nearly impossible to talk about jackets without talking about Yves Saint Laurent! YSL famously created jackets for women that focused on strength and power. Across his many decades of designing, some of his most famouse include the "le smoking" jacket, the safari jacket, trench & pea coats for women, and many jackets inspired by different cultures, including the Russian Ballet Russes.

Laurent used boxy jackets in tandem with his more androgynous styles, as well as layered with textural fits. Our YSL 1970's Russian inspired brown wool boxy jacket is a beautiful tribute to the designer's attention to detail and fit.


Donna Karan Vintage Denim New York Paris Theme Jacket

13.The Denim Jacket

A decade after he created jeans, Levi Strauss made the first US denim jacket. Also referred to as a jean jacket or trucker jacket, the denim jacket was mainly worn by western workers because of its fit and durability. The All American cowboy, John Wayne image that personified the jean jacket led to a surge in its popularity with the general public.

By the mid 20th century, jean jackets were associated with rebellion when stars like James Dean and Steve McQueen wore them on screen. Every decade since, there have been different groups associated with this piece of fashion history. From punk rock, country, hip hop and rock & Roll stars to couture runway models, this fashion staple has proven to be timeless and versatile.

Our 1989 DKNY black denim jacket has a little bit of punk mixed with high fashion, featuring a New York & Paris theme in studs.


Vintage Armani Tuxedo Jacket

14.The Tuxedo Jacket

The tuxedo jacket is an elegant piece that I find irreplacable. The flattering silhouette, fine tailoring and quality fabrics make it a piece of luxury fashion that can be worn effortlessly in the evening.

We have Yves Saint Laurent to thank for the women's tuxedo jacket! In 1966, he introduced the revolutionary "Le Smoking" jacket, a modern take on a men's tuxedo jacket, to the world. The jacket was originally panned by critics who claimed that women would never want to wear it. Well, they certainly were wrong! This jacket became one of Saint Laurent's most famous, popular designs and inspired countless designers to follow his lead.

Ours is a vintage 1990's Armani tuxedo jacket with dramatic satin lapels.

Sonia Rykiel 1990s Oversized Blazer Jacket

15.The Longline Jacket

How many times have you just wanted a jacket that has perfect coverage? Enter; the longline jacket. This invaluable jacket can even make leggings look date-night-worthy, and it is the easiest piece to throw on in a moment's notice with just about anything!

While oversized jackets were a mainstay of the 1980s, longline jackets had their moment in the 1990s. The jackets stayed long, but were more tailored, creating a sleek, flowing silhouette that didn't overwhelm the wearer.

We are convinced designers haven't made enough of these very wearable, useful jackets and we are always looking for them. Our featured ivory longline jacket is a vintage one designed by Sonia Rykiel and we think it's the perfect length! 


Vintage Gianni Versace Denim Fruit Print Vest

16.The Vest

The vest is one of my personal favorite pieces! While not technically a jacket (or maybe a "sleeveless jacket"), the vest shares its origins with many jackets - in menswear. History dates the vest to the late 1600's when King Charles II wore a vest or "waistcoat" as part of a 3 piece suit. The original waistcoats were approximately knee length to coordinate with the length of the coat.

Throughout the decades, waistcoats became shorter and more fitted. In the 19th century, waistcoats were worn to emphasize a woman's cinched waist and they sometimes even had sewn in whale bones and laces for tightening. Waistcoats have evolved into what we know as vests today, worn with or without shirts or blouses underneath.

Ours is an oversized vintage Versace Jeans Couture fruit print denim vest from the early 1990's.


17.The Peplum Jacket

Peplum jackets are fitted through the waist and then flared. Ultra flattering, these jackets can be subtle or extreme, depending on how severe the flare. While a peplum jacket can be found throughout fashion history, we have Christian Dior and the New Look to thank for bringing the peplum back into vogue in 1947. Suddenly, every woman around the world wanted the silhouette of the bar jacket with its sophisticated, subtle peplum. Designers like Alexander Mcqueen, Christian Lacroix, Thierry Mugler, Claude Montana and Azzedine Alaia all used the peplum in their designs. 

Ours is an Edwardian velvet jacket in a rich chocolate brown with braided trim.

Vintage Geoffrey Beene Green Check Wool Zip Front Cropped Jacket

18.The Zip Front Jacket

This one is pretty self explanatory, and is more a feature then a specific style - a jacket with a zipper in the front! Zippers weren't used in clothing until 1925, and even then, they were mainly used in leather jackets. Sometimes, the simple elements in clothing we take for granted today were revolutionary at the time!

So many different styles of jackets are zip front, including contemporary leather jackets. For a zip front visual, we went for a non-leather example. Ours is a green and black check wool cropped jacket by Geoffrey Beene.

Jacques Fath Vintage Black Striped Suit Jacket

19.The Suit Jacket

Many people avoid even looking at suits because they "don't wear them." But, here is an insider tip: look for suits if you want a great jacket - if you don't want the skirt or pants, there is no rule saying it has to be worn together! We sell the pieces together because we like presenting our designer pieces as they were originally designed, but we also know that a lot of people just want suits for the jacket. It might be worth holding onto the bottoms for the future collectability of the ensemble.

Our regular clients know that buying the suit is the best way to find the best made jackets. Ours is a vintage 1993 Jacques Fath pinstripe runway suit jacket with built in blouse cuffs. It comes with the matching pencil skirt.


Emanuel Ungaro Vintage Colorful Jacket in Quilted Velvet

20.The Quilted Jacket

Eddie Bauer created the first quilted jacket in 1939 after almost dying of hypothermia during a wintertime fishing trip. Nowadays, it doesn't necessarily have to be quilted, but we think that everyone should own a textured jacket that is different from all of the others they wear.

Texture creates so much interest and it is such an important part of design. Well crafted quilted jackets definitely evoke luxury and we think they are so elegant! Ours is a vintage Emanuel Ungaro longline double breasted jacket in a multi colored velvet fabric.


Halston 1970s Green Ultrasuede Shacket Shirt Jacket

21. The Shacket

The "shacket," a relatively new term, is a cross between a shirt and a jacket. The fabric is usually a little heavier then a button down, so it could add a layer of warmth, but can fit under a coat. It is often fashioned with front pockets.

Our vintage Halston 1970's shacket is in a rich green ultrasuede.


The most important thing you need to know about jackets is which type, style and color work best on your body and with your lifestyle! Once you know those things, you will be able to find countless jackets you love and will wear for many years to come. 



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