Leather and the Art of Cool

updated 12/08/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/08/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

In the 18th century, Alexander Pope wrote, "Worth makes the man, and want of it, the fellow; the rest is all but leather or prunella."

Okay, let's give him prunella and other woven fabrics, but hold on about leather. At last check there was still a solid body of opinion that bomber jackets do in fact make the man. Leaving aside leather's primitive past as the chosen garb of warriors and huntsmen, its modern history began with the pilots of World War I, who gave leather jackets heroic significance. Some of the status associated with them since then probably has had to do with price, but in the 1950s when rebels of the young pop culture (Brando, Dean, Presley) started to wear them, teenagers followed suit and delinquency had found a uniform, which came with as many zippers as possible, By the '60s and '70 leather jackets had become Americana; Henry Winkler's (the Fonz's, actually) went in to the Smithsoian. In the 1980s, Like many other former signs of heroism and rebellion, leather jackets have become a style point. In his book. The Black Leather Jackets, author Mick Farren theorizes that there is in people's minds a kinship between medieval armor and leather jackets. If so, we should feel welt protected.

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