Today, we take zippers for granted, but the zipper was actually critical in the invention of the motorcycle jacket.
According to vice.com, during the early years of the motorcycle, no outerwear could withstand the elements of riding. Wool jackets could not protect the rider from harm, and leather coats of the time were not designed for a motorcycle rider’s hunched posture and bent arms. In addition, wearing either type of jacket guaranteed that objects in pockets would fly out while riding. All these coats used buttons, and even though zippers were invented in 1913, they did not become cost effective until after WWI.
Irving Schott, a business owner who made and sold outerwear, saw the potential for using zippers, and in 1925, he became the first clothier to put a zipper on a jacket. This design eventually led to his creation of the first leather motorcycle jacket in 1928.
Since then, leather jackets have changed very little, but other textile jackets have come onto the market and evolved for all types of riders. Textile jackets come in a wide variety of fabrics, but they all focus primarily on comfort and safety. Some even place great significance on storage.
Comfort comes in two forms in a textile jacket: fitting and ventilation. When stocking jackets, make sure to purchase both men’s and women’s varieties, since each is tailored to the sex’s general body shape. The best jackets on the market will include adjustable straps around the arms and/or waist to keep the clothing snug against the skin, soft material (such as microfiber) around the wrists and/or collar, as well as pre-curved elbows and shoulders for easier movement.
Ventilation is also key. Most jackets will have vents along the front and back to allow for thorough cooling of the torso, but others also offer arm ventilation. Specifically, vents along the forearms help to bring the flow of air across the entire arm, from the wrist to the bicep.
Weatherproofing is another critical aspect of comfort. Check that the jackets include a removeable thermo-liner so riders can adjust between cold and warm days without using a different jacket. In addition to the jacket material being waterproof, also check that the zippers are too.
Protection is a must for jackets, and styles vary depending on the needs of the rider. Some jackets simply come with leather or abrasion-resistant material around the elbows and shoulders, while others include pads in the elbows, shoulders and back, or the ability to insert said pads. Be sure these jackets are CE-rated.
Finally, the convenience of pockets could be the deciding factor for a customer between two types of jackets, and some offer more than others. There are even jackets made specifically for touring, which — in addition to a multitude of standard pockets both on the inside and outside of the jacket — feature hidden stash pockets for cards and a document pocket behind the back pad.
Just think: none of these elements — removeable liners, ventilation, closed pockets — would be possible without the humble zipper. So next time you zip up, send a little thanks Mr. Schott’s way.