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Here at Gear Patrol, we love the latest and greatest tech. We’re easily wowed by newfangled gizmos with innovative functions and aesthetics. However, we hold in the highest esteem brands and products that have stood the test of time. Such items have endeared themselves to individuals and to popular culture alike; the classic American motorcycle jacket embodies this ideal as well as anything, and as far as motorcycle jackets go, none are more classic or more American than those made by Schott NYC.

Hit the jump for an impressive history lesson and to hear our take on their Classic Racer.

It was nearly 100 years ago that Irving and Jack Schott began making raincoats in a basement on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. The brothers’ business grew, and they gained acclaim for making great garments and earned a reputation for innovation (early 20th century-style) for being the first outfit to equip their jackets with zippers. Really.

This innovation continued, and set Schott on the path to becoming true Americana, when Irving designed and produced the first leather motorcycle jacket in 1928. It was called the Perfecto (named for Irving’s favorite cigars) and retailed for $5.50 at a Long Island Harley Davidson dealership. Later, in 1954, a young Marlon Brando would sit astride his motorcycle wearing this same jacket in The Wild Ones. James Dean, who would die the following year, was rarely seen without his Perfecto. Incredibly, that same jacket that ushered in a new style in the 1920s and that epitomized 50s-era rebels can worn today, offered by its original maker. Now that’s iconic.

We at Gear Patrol wanted to see for ourselves if Schott’s reputation for quality and style were well-deserved, and to do so we opted to check out one of their more streamlined designs, the Classic Racer. Though offered in several materials, we opted for naked cowhide in black. Immediately upon unboxing the Racer, its smell and feel left us with no doubt about the quality of the materials. The jacket feels darn-near bulletproof, and donning it imbues the wearer with a similar feeling.

Though we’ve had ours only a short time, the Schott leather jacket is clearly something that starts well and only gets better with time. Their leather is smooth and supple, but requires some dedicated break-in time for maximum comfort. The Classic Racer does offer some nice fit features such as an adjustable stand-up collar, underarm footballs, zippered sleeves and side buckles. Additionally, the jacket includes a removable poly-twill liner for added warmth on the coldest days.

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Whether worn on a day-long fall ride or just out for a very urban night, the performance benefits of Schott’s creation are easily felt. The cowhide is virtually impenetrable to wind, an obvious benefit to motorcycle riders (or nosebleed-section sitters). Be not mislead, this jacket is not light. Its heft, however, is a good thing, as the jacket wears like something of a second-skin, albeit a tough, exoskeletal one. The sense of rugged protection, infused with the American spirit, is a tough one to quantify. Suffice it to say, this Schott leather jacket wants to be worn, and you’ll want to wear it. Made by Local 169 Union workers, the Classic Racer carries all the pride with which it was made.

Few things have changed since Irving and Jack set the Schott story in motion back in the 1920s. They’ve moved out of the Manhattan basement and into a brick factory in nearby Elizabeth, NJ. They offer a wider variety of clothing, but motorcycle jackets remain the mainstay. Schott’s commitment to quality and innovation remain intact, if not improved. If our experience with their Classic Racer is any indication, you’d be proud to own and wear it or any of their other leather jackets. Odds are that your son will be jealous of your well-worn Schott a generation from now.

Cost: $484

Editor’s Note: I really couldn’t have been more impressed with the Schott product, but don’t just take our word for it. Our friends at A Continuous Lean recently toured the Schott factory and came away equally impressed. As an authority on American apparel and style, they ought to know.

Also, Schott is currently offering an impressive giveaway where you can win your own Perfecto and tickets to the concert of the year at Madison Square Garden. It ends today, so throw in an entry, post haste. Oh, and tell ‘em Gear Patrol sent you.

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