Follow us on social

Essential Journal

  /  Fashion   /  Article of Note: The Schott NYC Perfecto®

Article of Note: The Schott NYC Perfecto®

A deeper dive into the world’s most famous leather jacket

Words by Will Halbert

You can say what you want about the enduring charm and timeless appeal of the classic leather jacket, but seventy years ago the collective opinion was very different: Leather jackets scared the hell out of people.

Over the course of the late forties and early fifties, the leather jacket was a rallying call for thrill-seeking war vets and rebel-against-anything biker gangs alike. On the silver screen, anti-heroes like Marlon Brando and James Dean – poster boys of rebellion and cowhide cool – added fuel to a fire that still burns today.

All the while, New York-based leather jacket makers, Schott NYC have looked on without so much as batting an eye. And why would they? For well over a century now, Schott’s only concern has been creating premium, homegrown, American leather jackets that outlast trends and go the distance.

Schott’s Perfecto® range is the ultimate expression of that endeavour. Fashion-forward but always built with the ride in mind, the Perfecto® jacket is a hand-crafted celebration of Schott’s heritage: ‘My great grandfather started making fur-lined raincoats in the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1913 and sold them door to door,’ says fourth-generation Schott family member and Chief Operating Officer, Jason Schott. ‘In 1928 he invented the modern-day motorcycle jacket. Today, the third and fourth generations of our family still create the classic original designs in our New Jersey factory using original machines.’

These classic designs in question make for an iconic (and oft-replicated) biker jacket that – in a testament to its versatility – can be enjoyed both on and off the bike. From the asymmetric zip designs and sturdy collars, to the gusseted rear panels and rich, uncompromising leathers, the Perfecto® is a utilitarian but undeniably cool jacket that will only get better with age. Over time, every crease, scuff, and blemish will tell a story that’s all your own. In an industry plagued by fast fashion and throwaway style, the Perfecto® stands out as a bastion of the well-made and the hard-wearing.

It’s a long-standing mantra of the Schott family that you can’t do business by sitting on your ass. ‘We try to lead by example and don’t expect anyone to do a job for us that we wouldn’t do ourselves,’ says Jason. ‘It’s extremely important to my family to be involved in every step of the manufacturing process. We are all on the factory floor every day and managing every level of production.’ Aside from their superior quality jackets, it’s this hands-on approach to business and production that has secured Schott’s place in the hearts, minds, and wardrobes of riders and fashion enthusiasts alike for over 100 years.

Shop the Perfecto® collection here.

Behind the Brand: A Conversation with Jason Schott

We sit down with COO (and fourth-generation family member) Jason Schott to talk heritage, integrity, and never doing business sitting on your ass

First off, Schott has been a family-owned business for over a century. How would you define the Schott family philosophy?
My family’s philosophy is to make the most durable products that stand the test of time and get better with age.

From rock stars to rebel bikers, there’s a long-standing fascination with the Perfecto® jacket. What is it about the Perfecto® that makes it such an enduring staple piece for so many people?
We hear it all the time, but when you put one on for the first time, it changes you. The weight and stiffness of the leather and the bold hardware provide an invincible quality that makes you feel instantly tougher. The classic design and durability give it a longevity that you can wear every day and everywhere for the rest of your life. The Perfecto® jacket has a soul – you grow very attached to it, like an old friend who has been there with you through it all. 

Schott NYC has been around for quite some time now. How do you define ‘heritage’ personally? What does it mean to you?
My great-grandfather founded the company in 1913. It’s very rare these days to still have a family business that manufactures in the USA using the same machines. We know how rare and special what we do is, and therefore there is a tremendous sense of responsibility to keep it going and pass it on to the next generation.

Heritage to me is creating something new that has become an essential part of American culture. It’s our task to honor my great-grandfather’s invention of the motorcycle jacket and continue his legacy.

Can you tell us a little bit about the creative process as a whole? How do you move from initial design to material selection to actual fabrication?
When it comes to leather jackets we typically start with sourcing unique materials and let the hide dictate the style. Certain materials lend themselves better to different styles in the way they drape on the body. We create samples and production in our factory in New Jersey and try to use American-made materials whenever possible. The beauty of being in the factory every day is that we are constantly inspired by new ideas. Many times those ideas come from applying new materials to archive designs. We often say “our past is our future”.

How important is it for you to be hands-on with the process?
Being hands-on in the factory is absolutely essential and one of the most important principles in my family. There is a Schott family member on the factory floor every single day and we are all involved in every aspect of development from design, material selection, and manufacturing. My great-grandfather Irving, who founded the company, wore a tie clip every day with the acronym YCDBSOYA which stands for ‘You Can’t Do Business Sitting On Your Ass’. It’s an important reminder to all of us to live by that motto. 

Schott NYC must have quite the back catalogue. Can you tell us a little about the Perfecto® archives?
We’ve been collecting jackets for a while now and continue to add interesting pieces when we find them. The oldest is from around the 1920s when we were still using button front closures. It’s gratifying seeing the jackets after they have lived their lives on someone else’s back and seeing the stories each scratch tells of where they have been. 

What are your favourite leathers to work with? Any particularly interesting ones you’ve used over the years?
My favorite leathers are the ones with unique character and grain. We have been working with the Horween family who has been tanning leather in Chicago for over 100 years and makes some of the most beautiful vegetable-tanned skins. We’ve been experimenting a lot with nubuck leather lately, which has been very popular and has a matte velvety finish – a contrast to our signature shinier cowhides. 

You guys still make your jackets out of the USA – how important are the notions of authenticity and provenance to Schott NYC?
Authenticity is paramount in our designs. We never add details for design sake; they must be utilitarian and functional. Many of our classic styles are based on military-specified garments and we try to make improvements on historical styles to fit modern-day lifestyles. 

Do you have any collaborations or customizations that you’re particularly proud of?
Collaborations are a great opportunity for our designers and craftspeople to take on challenges and grow our factory capabilities. We love working with designers to see their creative vision expressed through our materials and manufacturing. It was particularly special for me to get the chance to work with Ralph Lauren on an RRL collaboration a few years ago. We currently are working with Coach on a collaboration using imagery and archival pieces from our 1970s collection which has been exciting to work on. 

Do you have a favourite Perfecto® yourself?
I’ve been wearing the 619 brown oiled cowhide Perfecto® jacket for many years. The leather reveals beautiful colors in the highs and lows of the creases as it breaks in. Unfortunately, I lost it for a while which was painful, but it’s back in rotation now. I guess you could say I have too many favorites.

And finally, how do you recommend that people look after their Perfecto®?
Wear it often! Don’t let the leather dry out and never store it in plastic, it has to be able to breathe. If cared for properly, a Perfecto® jacket should last your whole life.