We Have Schott to Thank for the Timeless Style of the Leather Motorcycle Jacket

Started in 1913 by the sons of immigrants, this American-made classic is still family-owned and American-made

Schott leather jacket
The Schott leather jacket
Olivia Sheehy

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This is part of InsideHook’s list of The 100 Best American-Made Products, a celebration of the gear, clothes and goods that make up our lives, and that are the life’s work of our fellow Americans.

There are few things more Americana than motorcycle culture. Sure, other countries around the world are just as obsessed as we are. But there’s something about the sprawling landscape of the United States that calls to mind the open road, Route 66, the Pacific Coast Highway. Harley Davidson is always top of mind in the American motorcycle conversation, and yes, those bikes are still assembled in the United States. But there’s another iconic American-made brand that was founded a mere 10 years after HD and is still one of the highest-quality leather jackets you can buy: Schott NYC.

In 1913, brothers Irving and Jack Schott started making raincoats in a basement in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood, and street peddlers sold them door-to-door. They were the first brand to put a zipper on a jacket, and in 1928, Irving designed and manufactured the first leather motorcycle jacket. It was named the Perfecto after his favorite cigar, and it retailed for $5.50 at a Long Island Harley Davidson distributor. Today, it remains the brand’s classic signature style, made at the company’s factory in Union, New Jersey. Schott is still a family-run business, helmed by fourth generation COO Jason Schott.

“My great-grandfather Irving Schott came to work every day, fully dressed in a suit and tie,” Jason says. “He worked well into his 90s on the factory floor, overseeing production. He wore a tie clip with the acronym Y.C.D.B.S.O.Y.A. It stands for ‘You Can’t Do Business Sitting On Your Ass,’ which has always been one of the foundational principles of our family business.”

Leather jackets are truly functional for motorcycle riders — they help prevent road rash in the unfortunate case of a tumble. But like many utilitarian garments, the leather jacket has become a fashion staple. Classic ‘70s punk artists like Blondie, the Sex Pistols and the Ramones all wore Schott Perfectos, essentially cementing its popularity. Through the decades, Schott has adapted to the ever-changing needs of its customers, whether they ride, stage dive or simply want the look.

“We try to offer authentic functional riding garments as well as more fashionable lightweight versions,” Jason says. “We are growing our sportswear business by adding more shirts, pants, sweaters, boots and accessories that are made to be highly versatile. Our customers appreciate buying fewer pieces that they can wear forever because they are timeless, classic styles made with the most durable materials.”

Whether it’s the ageless Perfecto or a new, of-the-moment garment, one thing is for sure when it comes to Schott — American-made never goes out of style. “Over the years, it has become increasingly more difficult to source American-made materials and find experienced craftspeople to work in our New Jersey factory as more and more manufacturing is outsourced overseas,” Jason says. “We will do whatever it takes to make sure we never compromise on quality and the highest manufacturing standards for our American-made goods.”

Work smarter, not harder is quite the mantra these days, and we don’t always disagree with the sentiment. But when you put on a Schott jacket, its superiority is apparent, not something that can be achieved by cutting corners. “My family has been making our jackets on the same machines with the same patterns since 1913,” Jason says. “A Schott family member is on the factory floor overseeing production every single day. We know no other way of doing things. And while it’s undoubtedly the hard way, it’s the only way for us.”

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