Behind the story and making of an American classic: the leather motorcycle jacket

A multi-generational family business is the driving force behind the iconic leather motorcycle jacket. It's an American classic that seemingly never goes out of style. CBS News' Vladimir Duthiers visited the factory of Schott NYC where the means of production are as timeless as the jackets themselves.
 
From its hand-cut leather to the signature star, the unique trademarks of Schott's jackets have caught the attention of several stars themselves. 

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Jason Schott

CBS News

"We've been as amazed as everyone else, the way our jackets go out and live a full life. And sometimes they end up on the backs of some incredible people, like Marlon Brando in 'The Wild One,'" said Jason Schott, the company's chief operating officer.
 
"In 1953, the movie comes out, and you've got these bad guys wearing jackets. They ban them from schools … There was a lot of concern around the family that was gonna put a dent into production, but sales just ballooned," Jason said.

Introducing American culture to this new template of cool was a byproduct of co-founders Jack and Irving Schott's original business venture in 1913.

"They started a business in the Lower East Side of New York, and they were making fur-lined raincoats, which I guess there must've been a big market for fur-lined raincoats at that point," Jason said.

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Marlon Brando wears a Schott jacket in "The Wild One"

Stanley Kramer Productions

In the late 1920s, Schott was the first to marry a leather jacket with a zipper, creating an icon: The motorcycle jacket. With the Schott family name not big enough to brand, Irving named his new must-have creation after his favorite brand of cigar, "The Perfecto."
 

"There's such a visceral reaction when you see a jacket. You know, it really does have transformative powers," he said. "I've seen people put a Perfecto jacket on, and they just, they turn into a badass."

Before Schott created a symbol of rebellion, known to grace the backs of musicians and actors, the company supplied jackets for the military, the epitome of order.
 
"We've made the sheepskin jackets, bomber jackets, pea coats, parkas. We've made police jackets for many different police departments, including the New York – NYPD. And all of that is collective knowledge that we apply into many of the jackets that we produce," Jason said.

It's not just about function and fashion for this clothing company.
 

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Schott jacket "The Perfecto" 

Schott NYC

"For us, it's more important to stay true to our heritage," he said. "What we do best is focusing on telling that story in our production, telling the story of Americana through the styles we create … Rather than focusing on what people are doing on runways, we're looking into our past, and that's where get our inspiration."
 
Schott's designs are timeless. So are some of their production methods.
 
"We are using a lot of the same machinery that we used from those early days of the – in the '50s and even before. If it ain't broke, don't fix it," he said.
 
Keeping the company domestic comes with a high price tag, but the tag the Schott family values most is the one sewn into every jacket: Made in the U.S.A.

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Schott jacket tag

CBS News

"I wouldn't want to disappoint my great-grandfather, my grandfather, and be the one to take it offshore. I couldn't even imagine doing that," Jason said.

Now, it's up to the next generation to keep this family affair up and running.

"I feel very confident that there will be fifth-generation family members that have an interest in joining the business, because it's such a great place to work," Jason said. "I love coming to work and producing something. You know, I love the fact that every day, there's hundreds of jackets that are rolling off the production floor, and you can look at it and get such a sense of pride."