Worn to be Wild: The Black Leather Jacket

Harley-Davidson Museum tells the story of the leather jacket’s evolution over the past century

This summer, the Harley-Davidson Museum, in partnership with the EMP Museum (formerly known as the Experience Music Project Museum), will celebrate and pay tribute to the fascinating history of one of the most enduring and iconic articles of clothing in our popular culture – the black leather jacket.

Worn to be Wild: The Black Leather Jacket runs June 16 through Sept. 3. The exhibit will walk visitors through the evolution of the leather jacket, beginning with its role as a solely functional piece of clothing meant to protect pilots and motorcyclists from the elements, through its adoption by Hollywood celebrities, rock stars and counter-culture youth as a symbol of rebellion and cool, to its modern-day designs from fashion houses such as Jean Paul Gaultier and Gianni Versace.

Worn to be Wild is the first exhibit to chronicle the jacket’s many uses, and also the first exhibit created by the Harley-Davidson Museum curatorial staff that will travel to other venues following its run at the Museum. The exhibit will be showcased at the EMP Museum in Seattle October 2012 through February 2013 as well as other additional venues through the end of 2014.

Bill Davidson (Vice President of the Harley-Davidson Museum) says: "The leather jacket symbolizes different things for each person who wears it, whether they are a motorcyclist, celebrity or a top designer.

"This summer, the Harley-Davidson Museum is excited to introduce all these unique stories in one place through the Worn to Be Wild: The Black Leather Jacket exhibit, and for the first time, showcase how this one garment has become an icon in pop culture and fashion."

Throughout the run of this new summer exhibit, more than 100 artifacts will be featured at the Harley-Davidson Museum, including dozens of jackets, many boasting intriguing back stories. The items included in the exhibit come from Harley-Davidson’s archives, collectors, and include jackets worn by celebrities and pop culture icons such as Elvis Presley, Harry Shearer (Derek Smalls) from Spinal Tap and Taylor Lautner (Jacob) of the Twilight series.

In addition to the eclectic collection of jackets, the exhibit will also use motorcycles, photographs, film footage, printed literature, advertisements and music to explore how a single article of clothing became so ingrained in our popular culture.