How a Schott Motorcycle Jacket Is Made
The Schott motorcycle jacket expertly straddles the line between classic and defiant. For 90 years, the Schott Perfecto has served as a layer of leather armor for bikers and as a statement of bravado for trendsetting artists such as Marlon Brando and The Ramones. Schott's signature designs are still created domestically in the family-owned company's workshop in Union, New Jersey.
Schott's iconic motorcycle jackets are the Perfecto 618 and 118. A small army of craftsmen (and women) devote themselves to individual steps of the process, and the end result is a garment that nails the details and is built like a tank. Let's dig in and explore how Schott transforms a piece of hide into a functional piece of fashion artistry.
The choice and quality of the leather is the foundation of any good motorcycle jacket. Schott employs a number of leathers and fabrics into its many designs. Horsehide is the choice for many biker jackets, and lambskin is perfect for jackets needing a softer texture. For the Perfecto 618, Schott goes with a classic full-grain, 3.0-3.5 ounce steerhide, the highest grade of leather available. Cowhide is the choice for the 118. Each leather offers excellent protection from the elements and in case of accident. Schott sources only the finest hides produced in the United States, and each is tanned to its specifications.
Each Perfecto requires a remarkable 11 hides. Schott takes a unique level of care in matching hides for color, grain, and texture. This one additional step manifests itself in a cleaner, more put-together finished product; it distinguishes a Schott Perfecto from every other jacket on the market.
On to the cutting table
All Perfecto production takes place in the New Jersey factory; no labor is outsourced. The process starting point is the cutting of the hides into the core components of the jacket. Eight skilled leather cutters rely on nothing more than patterns, a razor blade, and years of expertise for the precision work. Cutting is more an art than a science, and advancing to become a senior leather cutter takes a great deal of time and proven skill. New cutters prove their chops over time and by cutting a great many smaller pieces.
The polymer plastic patterns are laser-cut to precise specifications to ensure quality and consistency in the finished jackets. Anything less would yield a sloppy final result.
Different parts of a hide have different strengths and are used for different parts of the jacket. The cutter must know these variations and cut accordingly. He must maximize the quality of each finished piece of the jacket puzzle while eliminating imperfections and minimizing waste.
Smaller details such as epaulets, pockets, and flaps are cut using what could be best be described as industrial, precision cookie cutters, and a few very small cuts such as belt loops are cut by machine. Just as with the primary cuts, the goal is to create uniform pieces that meld together beautifully when assembled.
Once all leather pieces are cut and ready to move on, they're bundled together, checked for uniformity, and then handed over to employees specializing in sewing and assembly.
Putting everything together
The 118 and 618 both offer the same 0.5 ounce nylon poly quilt insulated lining for additional warmth - it can get cold on a bike. The pieces of the lining are assembled together and are ready to be sewn into the inside of the jacket.
Schott jackets are constructed from the inside-out to hide stitching. The leather outer shell is initially divided between the front portion and the back; the two are constructed independently. The two sections are sewn together, and the lining is sewn into the jacket. The jacket is still inside-out, and it's flipped right-side-in using a metal spike inserted into a hole in the sleeve or waist. The hole is then sewn up.
It's time for finishing touches to be added. The first step is top stitching, or sewing the jacket around all sides to ensure a clean edge and a long-lasting finished product. Zippers and pulls - a key component of the Perfecto look - are added. It's notable that Irving Schott, the company's founder, was the first manufacturer to add a zipper to this style of jacket. More metal hardware are added, including buttons, snaps, and grommets. Finally, metal stars are added to the epaulets. The stars are a Schott signature dating back approximately 70 years.
We now have a completed jacket. It's thoroughly inspected, tagged, and individually numbered. The Perfecto is ready to head to a Schott flagship store, to retailers around the globe, or to a buyer's front door.
A look at the finished product
So after the cutting and assembly, what do we have? We're looking at a heavyweight jacket designed, first and foremost, for the needs and comfort of a biker. The weight and strength of the leather protects the rider in case of accident (heaven forbid). Though it certainly looks cool, the asymmetrical main zipper pattern serves to make the jacket warmer and more protective. The water resistant leather keeps the rider dry in wet conditions. The attached belt with buckle and the snap-down lapels and collar keep the jacket firmly against the body in windy conditions. The shorter 25-26" length is perfect for riding. The Perfecto provides three outside zippered pockets, a small coin flap pocket, and an interior map pocket.
For added ease and range of movement, Schott adds zippered cuffs and bi-swing back panels with grommet-vented underarm "footballs". The footballs are football-shaped pieces of leather sewn under the arms that allow for greater movement.
Stepping back and looking at the jacket holistically and aesthetically, the Perfecto is a rock symphony of jet black leather, stainless steel highlights, and aggressive lines. Form does follow function - the jacket is perfectly designed for the highway - but the shape and appearance are inarguably a timeless work of art.
Let's get one thing out of the way: the Perfecto is not for the meek of spirit. It's a bold but classic look that radiates attitude. Schott has been fine-tuning the performance and the look of the Perfecto for 90 years, and it's as good today as it ever was. Generations of great artists have proven that you don't have to be a biker to don the jacket, but you do have to be a risk-taker. Engage in a little self-reflection, consider whether you and the Perfecto may be a match made in heaven, and if you are, make your move.