Leather Jackets and Identity: How Characters Are Defined in Movies

In filmmaking, one of the main factors that impacts the narrative and engages the audience, is character development. Constructing the identity of a character enhances the overall storyline of the movie. There are several elements that contribute to shaping the identity of a character, including dialogues, body language and wardrobe.

The wardrobe collection of a character is one of the crucial elements that defines the character and brings him to life. When it comes to clothing, no other outwear can be as expressive, bold and dominant, as a leather jacket.

Leather jackets have had a special place in our film industry, with the significance of shaping character’s identity and offering individuals a dominant and prominent place on the silver screen. You can find a vast collection of leather jackets on, be it the classic Marlon Brando’s leather jacket, or Neo’s leather coat from The Matrix. 

In this article, we will be exploring the significance of leather jackets, and how they contribute to shaping a character’s identity in movies.

A fashion staple

Leather jackets have been a fashion staple for more than decades now. These jackets were originally introduced for military pilots back in the early 1930s, with the sole purpose of providing protection and warmth in cold temperatures. Gradually, these jackets gained popularity amongst common people, and soon became a popular piece of outerwear in pop culture, as a prominent symbol of rebellion, nonconformity and ruggedness.

These leather jackets are a versatile fashion staple, and can elevate any outfit effortlessly. Leather jackets go perfectly with casual ensembles, such as jeans, tees, pants and shirts, and even with formal classy outfits, such as maxi dresses and suits.

Leather jackets and movie characters

In movies, clothing plays an integral part when it comes to storytelling and character building. The outfit of a character reflects one’s interest and personality. These outfits carry out the kind of attitude and history that a character has been through. Also, the way a character is dressed on-screen, influences the viewer. The medium of clothing choice conveys the personality traits, liking and attitude of a fictional being on the silver screen.

Let’s dig in, and explore how leather jackets enrich characters in movies that have been adored by the audience.

Marlon Brando as Johnny Strabler in The Wild One

The first ever visual appearance of a leather jacket on the silver screen was spotted on Marlon Brando in The Wild One, as he played the role of Johnny Strabler. He was the leader of a motorcycle gang, dressed in a black leather jacket and a whole load of attitude. There, instantly, this black leather jacket became a core symbol of rebellion, nonconformity and lawlessness. The film and leather jacket reflected Johnny Strabler’s defiance of societal norms.

Marlon Brando’s character left a permanent mark on cinematic history, by associating this particular black leather jacket with rebellious and rugged attitude.

James Dean as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause

James Dean’s performance as Jim Stark in Rebel Without a Cause, is one of the most influential performances in cinematic history. He conveyed his raw emotions and inner conflicts through his body language and outfits in the movie. The red windbreaker leather jacket worn by James in the film, radiates ruggedness and defiance, that embraces him with strength in moments of vulnerability, and adds masculinity to his charisma.

Brad Pitt as Tyler Durden in Fight Club

Leather jackets have been spotted on both heroes and anti-heroes on the silver screen, and to our astonishment, it perfectly complements both. One of the main examples of leather jackets defining the negative personality of an anti-hero, is how aesthetically it displayed the rebellious and ruggedness of Tyler Durden in Fight Club. The role of Tyler is played by Brad Pitt, and the stylish edginess and structure of his leather jacket, conveyed a sense of authenticity, roughness and defiance.

Leather jackets and gender identity

Leather jackets were initially associated with male gender only, but modern cinema broke this stereotype, by incorporating leather jackets into female characters’ wardrobes. Film industry has portrayed female characters, radiating their sexuality, independence and strength through their leather jackets. The transformation from a simple and naïve girl, to an independent and dominant woman, is clearly seen through the change of attire and addition of a leather jacket to an apparel.


Leather jackets have been trending in our fashion line for more than decades now, and they don’t seem to fade anytime soon. In the world of filmmaking, leather jackets are considered as an important tool that is used to shape a character’s identity and persona. Be it the typical action hero, or a cunning anti-hero, leather jacket is associated with rebellion, ruggedness, independence and attitude. Leather jackets also display evolution, and personal development of characters. This versatile piece of outerwear connects the characters and audience virtually, and sets an unforgettable experience in the cinematic world.

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