There may be some debate on this, but in my opinion Jim Morrison is responsible for making leather pants a staple in rock n’ roll stage attire. I say this with a bit of hesitation as Elvis and others must have worn leather pants in a music context, but ultimately it was Morrison who made the look iconic. The debate as to “who wore them first” has been raging since Gerard Melanga claimed Jim jacked his look in the early 60s at The Doors first performance at The Ondine. Andy Warhol mentions this little pop culture diehard-rock n’ roll- fashion-junkie-tidbit in his 60s social history book Popism: The Warhol Sixties. “When we walked in, Gerard took one look at Jim Morrison in leather pants just like his and he flipped. ‘He stole my look!’ he screamed, outraged. It was true enough—Jim had, I guess picked in up from seeing Gerard at the Trip”. The story made me think of the scene in Velvet Goldmine when Brian Slade first meets the gender bending beauty Jack Fairy. Brian kisses him, steals his earring and eventually “steals” his image. All rock stars and pop culture icons are the sum of many influences, icons and unknowns alike, but what makes the star a star in their own right is the way they curate all the elements. Jim Morrison took leather pants out of their motorcycle context and made them rock n’ roll.
Jim’s look is all about carefree minimalism, there’s restraint in his color palette, in the few articles of clothing, the lack of layering, and little adornment. Yet, it’s carefree from his wild wavy hair, to the loose buttoning of his shirt, and the grab n’ go easiness of the look as a whole. I see a lot of rockers on the scene doing the “The Morrison” and it’s all good. Leather pants are a classic rock n’ roll staple just like The Doors.
- A flowing silky button down shirt, loose enough to expose bits of chest
- Skin-tight leather trousers- tight enough to keep you guessing both how he got into them and how he’ll get out of them
- A western style belt conveniently drawing your eyes to hips
Get the Look: Tips for buying leather pants
- It’s all in the fit. They should sit right on your hips or 1-2 inches above or below. I like how I look in higher waisted, pocketless leather pants, but svelte narrow hipped men tend to look better in lower waisted pocketed pants that sit right on or below the hip. Make sure they fit well before you buy them as leather pants are difficult and expensive to tailor.
- There shouldn’t be any bunchiness in the crotch area. This is a big problem I find with most cuts of leather pants. Sometimes you have to compromise thinner leather for a better fit. I find thicker leather pants to be more bunchy.
- Leather pants come in many variations. My favorites are high-waisted, pocketless, with slits or zippers on the bottom, but they come in many different fits, cuts, colors, and variations of leather.
- Leather pants are versatile. Pair black leather pants with a white ruffle top and a blazer and you have an office look. Pair leather pants with a sequin top and stilettos and you're ready to go dancing.
- You don't need to be a rock star to afford leather pants. I purchased my favorite leather pants are from the French label Plein Sud at Housing Works Thrift Shop for $55. I highly recommend Housing Works Thrift for leather pants, they usually have about 10 pairs at all times. It took some searching before I found the right ones but ti was completely worth the time. If you don’t live near a Housing Works, any thrift shop or Salvation Army will do…most people don’t have the guts to wear leather pants, so many beauties wind up in thrift stores, for 80% off the price tag.
- Leather pants aren’t only for rock n’ rollers or for people of a certain age. I recently saw a woman I assumed to be in her 80s walking in Madison Sq Park in red leathers. She made me smile.