Native Themes, Tradition and America

Indian themes and indeed Native cultural knowledge is essential order to understand the North American leather jacket. Culture is viral. Europeans arrived in North America and would have not established a foothold without the help and cross fertilization of Native cultural know how and European ingenuity. Sadly the payback was territorial stealing, disease and in some cases genocide. Natives influenced dress styles of the European settlers and blended technology and design into the mix. This influence stretches back to the roots of American settlement and its strong influence can be seen today in the idealization of "nativism" in the design of jackets, branding and labeling. I pointed out that it was the Indian wives of early fur traders that invented the Mackinaw, and certainly the ergonomic designs and beading of early traditional Native garb influenced the Europeans in the design of their own clothing for survival. By the time of the industrial age in the Americas, Nativism came to symbolize the warrior, the sportsman, and the athletic hero. That positive image was overshadowed by the dismal treament by settlers of their indigenous "enemies".


  1. is that your Chimayo? I'm still in the market. Didn't make it to New Mexico this last trip, so will head out again this fall, with hope in my heart of hearts.

  2. Wow! You've got a really cool blog. This is my first time visiting it.

  3. Thanks for that...Im just keeping my thoughts out there while I develop my research and my line of leather jackets

  4. Doesn't the use of native imagery appropriate native history/culture for the corporate profit of the jacket makers? I doubt any royalty payments went to the Nez Perce or any of the other tribes depicted here.

  5. I think the perspective seems niave and simplistic. To deny native themes and imagery within North American culture would be criminal. Native contributions to the cultural ethos, especially positive ones of the warrior, or athelete are not in themselves inherantly exploitive nor are they or should be necessarily compensatory. Early twentieth century production certainly tried in many ways to rewrite native imagery in a positive light as society started to revisit its relationship with native history and approached with reverance for past wrongs. Also to correct your assumption, many groups contributed the fabrics, design and production of some of these early jackets supporting indigenous employment and cultural production. I would like to think the imagery used is in fact a great contribution to the continuing preservation and contributions of indigenous cultures to the North American cultural tapestry.


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