Have you ever put on an article of clothing, and instantaneously felt like the most powerful person to grace the earth? Perhaps a well tailored blazer, or a perfectly crafted pair of jeans that makes your derrière look like it belongs on Kim Kardashian, or maybe a supernatural bra that manipulates your girls so much they look like they're defying gravity.
I get that feeling every time I throw on a leather jacket. If you are anything like me, you know what that glossy fabric does to a person’s soul. Showered with newfound confidence- all of a sudden I am Angelina Jolie in Mr. & Mrs. Smith using my oven as a weapon vault and nonchalantly doing karate moves across the living room floor.
As you might have guessed, leather popularized with women as an act of rebellion against effeminacy in the 1970s and 1980s. And it stayed firmly within a distinct demographic group: self-proclaimed badasses.
Cue Sandra Lee from Grease, post-makeover, shimmying her way through a carnival singing “You’re The One That I Want” to John Travolta.
It wasn’t until the 1990s when the leather jacket made its debut in mainstream fashion with the rise of supermodels and the culture of “off-duty” style. Perpetuating a new wave of casual-chic fashion, designers started creating versions of the leather jacket that were tailored for and marketed specifically to women. It no longer needed to look like it was borrowed from a boyfriend or a biker, and it no longer represented a rejection of femininity.
Fast-forward to 2020: leather is everywhere. Top-to-toe, side-to-side, cap-a-pie, all-encompassing, across-the-board… I’m talking full ensembles of leather. It has commandeered the streets of fashion capitals around the world, making it one of the most widely touted trends I’ve seen in awhile. Finally, a wearable and affordable (thank you pleather!) fashion statement that gives just the right amount of cool girl vibes. And fortunately for me, it looks like leather is here to stay.
This past November, while I was poking through Zara’s endless racks after the Black Friday massacre had hit, my eyes immediately fell on a new iteration of the leather trend: slouchy pants. Something about the tapered waist and easy boyfriend-borrowed cut made it effortlessly chic. I had to have it.
My friend, who had accompanied me, watched as a wide smile plastered my face as I yanked the trousseau off the rack. “I could never pull those off,” she sneered. Thank god because there was only one pair left.
Later that day, after I cheerfully hung my new pants into my closet, I started to think deeper into the resurgence of the leather trend. Thanks to its rich history, leather seems to send an unusually complex message. Loud and rebellious, yet casually chic. Anti-feminine, yet seductively trendy.
When I turned the mirror on my own idée fixe with this garment, I realized I found myself wearing leather as some sort of armor – as if every time I wore it (in any form- jacket, skirt, pant or otherwise) it would keep me safe and protected. Rather than make a rebellious statement with my new leather slouchy pants, I wanted to satisfy an inward conundrum that would somehow change my outward appearance. Hoping to show the world that I was in a constant state of composure, and couldn't be bothered, harmed or hurt by the slightest. Almost as though the leather gave me tougher, unscathed skin.
And so here we are: leather and its *alleged* ability to transform my personality into an alter ego.
Per the dictionary, an alter ego isn't a persona you wish you could be, but actually, a distilled version of who you already are. It's a magnified celebration of preexisting strengths, an opportunity to turn the spotlight on the things you want the world to recognize you for.
Some designers say that "leather, through its many iterations, carries in it the idea of escape and adventure, and promises to transform you into the kind of person capable of formidability and influence." But how can a piece of clothing have the power to give rise to different personality traits we never thought we had? Who are we trying to be?
Or maybe this "persona" already lives inside us. Maybe she has always resided in our core. Patiently waiting to feel confident enough to come out again. Maybe that's the lure of leather and its extensive life span; some of us might view it as a quotation rather than just another piece of clothing.