top of page

Symbolism of leather

Symbolic, functional and iconic, leather has gone from a way of life to a material favored by all fashion players. History of a material in search of respectability.

Leather has always been praised for its strength, strength and durability. Cowboys used it to protect themselves by wearing over-trousers: the famous chaps.

Butchers wore thick leather aprons to limit the risk of injury. Plumbers stored their heavy tools in ultra-resistant vegetable leather bags. And, since the dawn of time, it has also been used to make soles.

Before conquering the Haute Couture and ready-to-wear catwalks, leather was associated with the rural world or the working sphere.


Then, with Marlon Brando in The Wild Team (1953), he became a perfecto and thus became the emblem of bad boys and bad girls, the symbol of a rebellious youth, on the fringes, who contested the conservative system of America in the 1950s.

Marlon Brando
Marlon Brando - L'Equipée sauvage (1953)

The urban and destroy rock of the Stooges from the end of the 1960s and the Velvet Underground from 1965, then the punk scene in the 70's, imposed a philosophy of leather which revolved around the values ​​of getting high, counter-culture, urban violence, the rage to exist, the contestation of norms.


The undisputed priestess of punk, environmental activist, anti-fur activist from the start, Vivienne Westwood will use, among other things, the leather jacket to challenge the system in place and promote alternative modes of existence and thought. The same goes for Robert Mapplethorpe's photographic work which expresses transgression by placing leather (jacket, pants, whip, etc.) at the rank of basic vocabulary.

Within gay and lesbian cultures and the BDSM world, leather asserts a particular identity by carrying heterogeneous connotations such as hyper virility, domination, submission, etc.). It can arouse erotic excitement (tactile, olfactory, etc.). Since the mid-1990s, leather fetishists have celebrated the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco. More recently, a Folsom Europe has emerged in Berlin.

Jean-Claude Jitrois
Combinaison - Jean-Claude Jitrois

Ceasing over the decades to be a marker of rebellion, leather becomes one look among others: the total black look of Matrix (Lana & Lilly Wachowski, 1999) or jumpsuits and hyper stretch leathers of Jean-Claude Jitrois in the 1990s. 1990. These stretch leathers that he invented, machine washable, revolutionize the way of wearing a material which sees its fetishistic charge reinterpreted.

Exit any pinch of vulgarity, leather is sublimated in a feminine reinvention with refinement and sensuality.

In the empire of haute couture and ready-to-wear, Hermès - originally a saddler - , Botega Veneta, Alaia and many others have restored its nobility.

Ambiguous and cold, wild or sophisticated, or even a second skin hugging the flesh, leather has become a marker of luxury and elegance in the fashion sphere.

Symbolism of leather

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page