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Is the Leather Jacket Even Cool Anymore? (And Was It Ever?)

It’s not just Paul Manafort‘s $15,000 ostrich jacket. Leather-clad dudes have been a punchline since ‘Seinfeld’

When I hear the word “leather,” I don’t think “jacket.” I think “wallet,” “dominatrix,” or “La-Z-Boy recliner.” The leather jacket seems, I’m sorry, like an item explicitly manufactured for the Rolling Stones and divorced dads who love them. Okay, not true: As far as I know, almost any woman can rock a leather jacket. But dudes? Not seeing it. Even the Hells Angels look better in vests.

Play It Cool Jeff Goldblum GIF by Team Coco - Find & Share on GIPHY

The leather jacket’s already questionable cred has taken another huge hit with the federal fraud trial of Paul Manafort, who served as President Trump’s campaign chairman in the summer of 2016. To underscore the charges that Manafort evaded taxes with offshore bank accounts, prosecutors are pointing to some of his more ridiculous expenditures, including a $15,000 hooded ostrich-leather jacket from Alan Couture in Manhattan, where he spent $900,000 within five years. As a dumpy, white, corrupt, middle-aged, way-richer-than-he-should-be political parasite, Manafort is almost precisely how I picture your average leather jacket aficionado.

Still, it’s hard to imagine him in this:

While we hold out hope for a courtroom portrait of Manafort being made to try on this jacket à la O.J. Simpson and the infamous leather glove, we turn to a critique from journalist and Friday Night Lights author Buzz Bissinger, an admitted shopaholic who wrote about his addiction to Gucci leather for GQ in 2013. “In the past few years, I’ve bought 81 leather jackets,” the piece begins. Speaking to the Daily Beast this week, Bissinger trashed Manafort’s “ridiculous” ostrich jacket, calling it “a symptom” of a somehow afflicted mind: “It’s an ugly-looking jacket,” he added. “Mine is much nicer. He should’ve gone to Gucci if he’s going to waste money.”

Really, Buzz? Because I’m looking at the Gucci leather jackets right now, and even if I did have 50 grand to blow on a few, I’m not sure I could justify it. Check out some of the options here:

Great, yes, I love to dress like the lobby of a Courtyard by Marriott. I will drop $7,980 on this.

Oh, part of the SoundCloud rapper starter pack? Now I just need some Xanax and face tattoos.

I think this one would be better if it said “DO NOT BACK UP! SEVERE TIRE DAMAGE” on it.

By the way, is leather even comfortable? Isn’t it frictiony and squeaky and way too hot? Can’t I just eat animals instead of wearing their skin?

Leather jackets came into existence around the time of the first World War because fighter pilots needed the extra insulation when trying to shoot each other out of the sky in biplanes with exposed cockpits. Now, as Bissinger points out, they are merely decorative, aspirational emblems of conspicuous consumption. It’s impossible for the average guy to make that cool. See, even Nic Cage struggles with this:

I don’t know, man. I feel like we can go ahead and give this up. Wouldn’t you be happier in a windbreaker? A hoodie? Hey, how about a denim jacket! Those are rad. Not too expensive, either. Best of all, you don’t have to fly to Milan for Fashion Week to buy it. Let’s face the facts: Leather-jacket dudes have been a punchline since that Seinfeld episode where Elaine’s boyfriend Puddy got that eight-ball number. All the irony in the world couldn’t save this aesthetic.

8 Ball Seinfeld GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

I, for one, am ready to take the Never Leather promise. Even when I’m a paunchy 60-year-old with hair plugs and a cherry-red Dodge Viper, I will not sink to the level of donning a tanned alligator hide with a dozen gold zippers on it. No fucking way. It’s a velour tracksuit or nothing.

Quote me on it.