According to Merriam Webster, the word “perfecto”, describes a cigar that is thick in the middle and tapers at each end. In Paris fashion speak, it refers to a black leather biker-style jacket with an asymmetrical front zipper, a belted waist and epaulettes. Made famous by Marlon Brando and James Dean, the “Perfecto” has endured to become one of America’s most iconic 20th Century fashion statements, transcending every era and every trend, always coming out on top. Some twelve years into the 21st Century, it shows no signs of stopping. Indeed, I cannot remember a single moment during my twenty-plus years in Paris that the “Perfecto” has been considered anything other than very, very cool.
The one that got away
My first husband had a vintage Norton motorcycle, and a “Perfecto” jacket, which, on those rare occasions when he was ready to part with it, I wore with pride. Although I could have done without the hair-raising rides, dodging and weaving through speeding cars on Paris’ boulevard périphérique, I really loved that jacket. Unfortunately, when husand number one and I split up, I lost custody of the “Perfecto”, and have yet to find a worthy replacement. Indeed, the only trace of my biker babe past is a nasty, oval scar on my right calf, compliments of the Norton’s exhaust pipe. Gosh, I really do miss that jacket!
An American Original
The “Perfecto” Brand originated in America in 1928 when Irving Schott created his first collection of « elite » biker jackets that he named after his favorite cigar. According to Schott’s website, the first “Perfecto” motorcycle jacket retailed for $5.50 at a Long Island Harley Davidson shop. Schott Bros. remains a family business, and continues to make every jacket by hand at its factory in New Jersey.
Originally designed for men, the “Perfecto” has long-since been embraced
by women, and reinterpreted countless times by a multitude of
international designers. Like a Chesterfield sofa, the best versions
always show a healthy respect for the original. Apart from Schott’s
original design, a few of my favorites from this season include Bally’s
beautifully studded version in calfskin, Gerard Darel’s two-tone in Burgundy and Black, and Belstaff’s elegant renditions, which look beautiful, yet built to last.
So the real question is, which one to choose ? The answer sounds easy, but requires some diligent shopping : find the “Perfecto” that fits you like a glove, and once you have it, never let it go ! Times may change, but your “Perfecto” will always be just that - perfect - and it smells a lot better than a lousy, stinking cigar! Trust me, it will be an investment you will never regret – the Perfect “Perfecto” – is an excellent bet, year after year.
I’ll be back next week with more « Country Chic » !