Email Us – or – CALL (757) 664-6200

Oct 3, 2014. - Jan 4, 2015.

Worn to be Wild

The Black Leather Jacket

Conde Nast Traveler calls it one of the world’s nine must-see shows of the fall.

Click to enlarge

This show will never be seen again. We're the last stop on a two-year tour.

From military aviators to motorcycle enthusiasts, from movie and music stars to famous fashionistas, the black leather jacket has been a siren of cool for decades. And now it gets the serious treatment it has long deserved—a full-blown exhibition at an art museum.

Click to enlarge

When he purchased this 1956 Harley-Davidson KH, Elvis Presley signed a promissory note to pay $50 a month and listed his occupation as "Vocalist, self-employed." He had just recorded "Heartbreak Hotel" but it had not yet been released. His life was about to change immensely, and this is the second of many motorcycles he would purchase over his lifetime. The odometer reads 123 miles. Click image to enlarge.

In a nod to the connection between the black leather jacket and motorcycles, the exhibition includes two classic Harley-Davidsons, a vintage 1920 Model J, and a 1956 Model KH owned by Elvis Presley.

Jackets include:

  • The rich military-history display ranges from World War II aviators to the jacket worn by General of the Army Douglas MacArthur.
  • Garments from solo rock 'n' rollers from Gene Vincent to Joe Walsh, and groups from Judas Priest to the Doobie Brothers
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger's jacket from Terminator 2
  • Rooney Mara's Gothic geek look from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • Harry Shearer's jacket from the mock rockumentary This is Spinal Tap

The impact of the black leather jacker on fashion gets the full runway treatment, with works by Gianni Versace and Jean Paul Gaultier.

At the exhibition exit there's a take-a-souvenir photo station featuring a Harley-Davidson and a selection of jackets. Among our favorites so far: #bikerbaby.

Worn to be Wild, organized by the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee and the Experience Music Project Museum in Seattle, will never be seen again. This is its last stop on a two-year exhibition tour, and come January 2015, the show will be dismantled and the objects returned to the lenders. To see the other eight fashion-as-art exhibitions highlighted by Conde Nast Traveler, click here, and scroll down for more pictures.

Painted WWII-era A2 military flight jacket from a private collection. Photo courtesy: Harley-Davidson Museum, Milwaukee.

View Larger