Looking Good in Leather – 'Worn to be Wild' Exhibition at the EMP

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Punk jacket, c. late 1970s-early 1980s. From a private collection. Photo: courtesy of Harley-Davidson Museum.

What do Marlon Brando, Michael Jackson, The Ramones, Elvis Presley and The Fonz have in common?

If you’re still puzzling over the answer (and no, they won’t all be appearing on the next season of America’s Got Talent) then you may want to visit Seattle’s Experience Music Project to see their latest exhibition. Worn to be Wild is the newest addition to the EMP’s impressive lineup of exhibits, offering an in-depth look at one of the most iconic fashion items of all time: the black leather jacket.

Even if you’ve never been a leather fetishist, the exhibition offers more than just a collection of animal hides. It also traces the history of the leather jacket as a symbol of rebellion, from early biker gangs to pulp fiction covers.

Then there are the jackets of the rich and famous. If you’ve ever wanted to see Elvis’s leather jacket (and his motorcycle) in person, or wondered just how big Arnie’s bulletholed jacket from Terminator 2 is, then this exhibition has the answers. Movie fans will also marvel at Derek Smalls’ jacket from This is Spinal Tap – even if it looks notably fake and tawdry alongside the genuine articles.

Jean Paul Gaultier jacket, c. 2008. Photo: courtesy of Harley-Davidson Museum.

Those who have an interest in the leather jacket as a fashion icon will find plenty to entertain them too, including pieces from Jean Paul Gaultier’s collection and an imposing mob of customized jackets from the British punk scene. In fact, even if you’ve never owned, admired or coveted a leather jacket before, Worn to be Wild is enough to make you reconsider your lifestyle choices. Featuring leather jackets old and new, large and small, it reminds you why this ‘second skin’ has become so revered over the decades. It’s still cool to be a rebel without a cause – but nobody respects a rebel without a jacket.

Worn to be Wild is open now at the EMP(325 5th Avenue North, Seattle). More details can be found on the official EMP|SFM website.

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