19 May 2017

The infamous Schott Perfecto 618

The leather jacket worn by the greats, from Marlon Brando and James Dean, to Blondie and the Ramones.

By In Style 5 min read

It doesn’t sound very manly, but I have to confess something: I have a clothing bucket-list. It’s quite sizeable, even. A list filled with objects so iconic that I need to own them someday. Some of them are pretty easy to acquire because they’re both cheap and still in production. Think of stuff like the navy blue Vans Authentics, as worn by the Z-boys and the Adidas Superstar sneakers made famous by Run DMC. Some are no longer in production, which means you’ll have to look for accurate reproductions, like the American army’s fishtail parkas. And other’s are just… expensive. One of the pieces on that list is definitely the Schott Perfecto. The first leather biker jacket ever made, designed in 1928, made to make sure bikers were kept warm while not getting in their way while on the road.

Anatomy of the Schott motorcycle jacket (source: VICE)
Anatomy of the Schott motorcycle jacket (source: VICE)

Before that, no one had ever considered making clothing specifically for riding a motorcycle. Every biker jacket made after that was inspired by that original Perfecto. You can’t find a more iconic design if you wanted to. But in the decades after the introduction of the Perfecto, it was adopted by everything from outlaw biker gangs to actors like Marlon Brando and James Dean in the ’50s. And then in the ’70s it became the uniform of the punk scene, worn by the Sex Pistols, Blondie, Joan Jett and of course: the Ramones.

Ramones album cover

I was a bit of a wannabe skater in my youth and the Ramones are one of those bands that are sacred to me. So knowing the Ramones wore Perfectos, this jacket is a bit of a holy grail for me. Schott still makes the Perfecto, but they’ve gotten a bit more expensive: a new, black leather Perfecto now runs you 825 dollars.

Schott Perfecto modern

That’s just a tad bit out of budget. Of course, I could try to find a used model on eBay or other auction sites, but a used Perfecto that’s not been worn to shreds will still run you an easy 300 dollars. A lot of money to spend on someone else’s jacket.

And that’s why I’m so happy with the Episode in Utrecht. Easily my favorite shop in town. It’s the perfect compromise between a thrift store and a vintage store – not covered by the chaos and utter trash you find in a thrift store, but also not running the absurd prices you find in a vintage store.

Episode vintage store in Utrecht

Burberry, Barbour, Gloverall, I’ve spotted all of these in there. And you can buy them for a few tenners a piece.

But I never saw a Schott. It’s an American brand and they did not sell that much on this side of the pond. There’s just not too many of them over here. But for a long two years I checked the store every week, browsing through the rack of leather jackets, seeing the same ones over and over again. Until last week. Because then I saw a new batch of jackets hanging, and between one set of lapels I saw…

Schott Perfecto 618 - neck tag detail

Yeah baby. Holy grail spotted: this was a real-life Perfecto!

Schott Perfecto 618 - zipped

And not just a Perfecto, it was a Perfecto in size 42 (US). You know what that is? THAT’S MY SIZE. MY SIZE! I don’t know what I did that week to make the gods smile down on me, but it was worth it. I bought it immediately and ran home without hesitation.

The model information in the Schott jackets is printed on a hidden label in one of the jacket pockets. It took me a while to check all the pockets, but I finally found it…

Schott Perfecto 618 - production label detail

My jacket is a 618, the second model Perfecto that Schott released, which has been in production ever since. With this information and some pictures of the jacket I headed to the Schott site, because they have employees on their forum who can help date your jacket.

The jacket is the Steer-hide version style 618 which is confirmed on the pocket ticket. Since the pocket ticket has no bar code the jacket was produced prior to 1992. Based on the Perfecto label w/Schott NYC, YKK & Ideal zippers in the jacket the jacket is probably from the mid-1980’s.

Gail from Schott

Vintage steer-hide from the ’80s, so a jacket with a good 30 years of patina on it. And that’s also quite visible on the jacket, though not in a ugly way. There’s just the wear and tear that’s needed to make a jacket like this look like it’s been properly used and lived in, not fresh-from-the-store new. Considering its age, you might even argue that it looks unexpectedly good now. But from the stories told about these jackets, many of them have easily survived being passed on from first owner to many owners down the line – as long as they didn’t actually have to protect their owner from the harsh asphalt.

Schott Perfecto 618 - sleeve detail

Looks good right. Have some more detail shots. Check out the finish on this thing!

Schott Perfecto 618 - sleeve zipper detail
Schott Perfecto 618 - button detail
Schott Perfecto 618 - pocket zipper detail
Schott Perfecto 618 - belt buckle detail
Schott Perfecto 618 - main zipper detail

And how much did I pay for a legendary jacket like this? 45 euro. Yes. Four tenners and a five. Suck it, eBay, and your 300 dollar prices.

Schott Perfecto 618 - unzipped

The only problem is that I need to figure out how I’m going to wear this – you kinda need some attitude to get away with it. And as most of my wardrobe is either indie hipster or preppy student, that might need some work. Still, I’m absolutely stoked I got this!

(Original post in Dutch)

1 Comment
  1. Mike Foley 21 March 2024

    Awesome! You STOLE that! What a prize


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