In 1979, not long after the cremation of John Simon Richie—better known as Sid Vicious—a suicide note was found. The note read: " We had a death pact. I have to keep my half of the bargain. Please bury me next to my baby. Bury me in my leather jacket, jeans and motorcycle boots. Goodbye."
Even in death, the punk rock fashion-plate wanted to look cool.
But he wasn’t the only one that made wearing the leather jacket cool. From James Dean to Arthur Fonzarelli, the leather jacket has become a fashion choice that often defines cool. Rock stars are probably the biggest supporters of the leather jacket industry outside of bikers.
Albert Hammond Jr. was sporting a black leather jacket when he opened up his special invite-only performance at Mercury Lounge on Tuesday night. Standing on the side benches of the small club, Hammond Jr. was struck with a series of camera flashes so persistent that they acted as strobes, as he played an acoustic rendition of "101." As distracting as those flashes should have been, he seemed unfazed, and it was a pretty magical moment.
Soon after, Hammond Jr. was on stage with his backing band under the heat of stage lights, but that jacket wasn’t coming off. And he wasn’t the only one sporting the leather. The only member of the five-piece that had on a T-shirt was the drummer, but drummers simply can’t play while wearing leather jackets, so he’s forgiven.
Albert, who has always been a bit of a fashion-plate in the rock scene, has been said to be the most influential on the style of The Strokes (for whom he plays guitar). Much of the time, he’s decked out in a three-piece suit, but looked no less stylish in his black leather.
Why is it so necessary to point out the band’s outfits? Well, it was really, really hot inside Mercury Lounge. The crowd, mostly sensible enough to be wearing short-sleeves, was sweating bullets, and the stage had to be at least another 5-10 degrees hotter. Albert Hammond Jr., under the most direct light, was dripping in sweat, constantly needing to wipe his face. He seemed uncomfortable and jokingly asked about the club’s air conditioning. Fans yelled for him to remove the jacket, but the frontman was unwilling.
After rolling a bit more than halfway through an energetic set, playing a lot of new songs off his promising upcoming album Como te Llama?, Hammond Jr finally unzipped the jacket. But he went no further.
What was it that forced Hammond Jr. to put himself through such discomfort just to maintain a look? This wasn’t a fashion show, it was a concert. It’s as if the rock star was hiding something absolutely hideous beneath the jacket, but when he finally did unzip it, no frightening green goblins jumped out of his chest. Perhaps he has record label execs and stylists grooming him so fastidiously about his image he doesn’t want to mar it by acting like any natural guy would and throw the jacket down. Ol’ Albert must know he’s a star and if he doesn’t look his best, someone’ll snap a pic of him looking less than his self-styled brand of cool. So instead he’ll suffer—and sweat.
This is in no way a knock on leather jackets. I love leather, so much so that the word Leather is written on my birth certificate.
Photo by Dave Caplan/Bumpershine.com