I can't actually remember the very first time I saw a Leather Goose Jacket being sported by one of Hip Hop's great artists of the 80's but it may have been a certain James Todd Smith looking fresh in 1986, after release of his debut LP "Radio".
If it wasn't Cool J that introduced me to the Goose Jacket then it was possibly the release in 1987 of Eric B & Rakim's "Move the Crowd" 12" on 4th & Broadway records which showed Ra in the background looking serious as ever in a V-stitch Bomber Goose in Black leather. That was it for me, I had to own one of these jackets. Furthermore Run DMC rocked these throughout the 80's and were also seen wearing them on their classic LP from 1987 "Raising Hell" with the shocking green/purple and mindbending orange/blue negative cover prints. (I remember hearing these covers caused some epileptics to have fits!)
However, my favourite Goosedown action has to be from the film "Tougher than Leather" which also starred Run DMC. During the club scene, the camera pans across the dancefloor to reveal several homeboys wearing Gooses in varying dope colours. My favourite being the powder blue with black fur - what an awesome jacket! Another classic record cover showing how dope these jackets is the 12" cover from Public Enemy's "You're Gonna Get Yours". Below you can see a black one, a blue one and even one in red being sported by PE's crew -
they knew what time it was! But it wasn't just the artists themselves to be seen in them - these jackets were widely and cheaply available and worn by hip-hoppers and homeboys alike.
There were many companies in the US producing leather goosedowns, but the first and original jackets were made by GOOSE COUNTRY, and DOUBLE GOOSE COUNTRY. Despite many imitators, some good and some bad, these were the real deal leather jackets available in bomber form, or 3/4 length, and with or without the real fur collars. Available in every colour you can possibly think of (I have seen pink and even bright yellow) and the freshest thing to be seen in when winter draws in. And believe me these jackets were super warm - keeping the average knucklehead toasted as he hit the streets. In NY these were available across all boroughs, and in Manhattan the places to find them were Orchard St and Spring St (just off Delancey Street). Prices were not particularly high because these Korean manufactured coats were designed mainly with the purpose of keeping warm rather than for fashion - it was only that the Hip Hop community did what it always did & took something run-of-the-mill and made it uniquely it's own.
Back in the 80's one of the only places to get your hands on one of these incredible jackets in London was a very small basement Hip Hop shop known as 4 Star General in Carnaby Street. George and Everton, who ran the shop back then, were some of the first guys to travel to NY in order to buy a stock of these Double Goose jackets and return to the UK to sell them. Even back then (circa 1986/87) these jackets were expensive at £350-£400, but where else could you find one of these and dress like your Hip Hop heroes?? Sadly for me I couldn't afford to buy one at that age (16 years old) but the feeling of wanting one never faded, even when the Hip Hop styles changed and rappers stopped wearing them.
Now you don't need me to tell you that life runs in cycles, so I knew eventually these Goose jackets would be in favour once again. So in the mid 90's when I finally could afford to, I made the pilgrimage to NYC - the home of Hip Hop. The Rocksteady Crew were holding their Anniversary Jam and this provided the best excuse for me to hit the streets of New York for a 2 week Hip Hop holiday. My intentions were to take in a few of the Rocksteady events, check some NY Hip Hop clubs, rinse the record spots clean of their dollar bins, grab some really fresh sneakers, and of course continue my search for the elusive Goosedowns!
I travelled to NY in '94, '95 and '96 and despite my best efforts trawling the tri-boroughs no-one seemed to be able to tell me where I could find an old stock of these vintage coats. From Canal Street in Manhattan to Gun Hill Road in the Bronx, I spent days taking the train uptown and downtown, taking in the graffiti spots as I went, but every day ended fruitless. We had a few close calls though - with some store owners taking us through the back only to be disappointed with other moth-eaten stock they wanted to push on us, thinking we were naive tourists! In '95 and the following year my close friend and brother from another mother Break DJ Leacy (RIP) also made the trip to our "mecca" with his brother Aidan Orange. Now if anyone would track down these coats it was him. James Leacy had an unrivalled passion for all things Hip Hop, and his journeys to New York lead him into a career as a break DJ at many of the US B-Boy championships in the late 90's and early noughties. When Jim did something, he did it to the fullest degree, never giving less than 100%, and the same went for his search for the Goose Jacket.
It was the late 90's after Leacy had made many trips over to the capital of Hip Hop (where I had now given up my search) that the phone call that I had been waiting for finally came. Nothing could prepare me for the story I was about to hear. Jim had been going every year since my early visits, and every year he would head over to the same spots and re-visit the stores and warehouses where we had learned that Goose jackets could be purchased back in the days. Jim's connections led him to one warehouse in particular out in the tri-borough, where he had been repeatedly refused access to the back of the store to allow him to search through their old stock. However his persistence had eventually paid off, and the owner who had become sick of the site of him but admired his balls in coming back again, told him he could finally search through the loft space at the very top of the warehouse. Jim told me he had to climb up some rickety ladders to gain access to the storage loft, and under years of dust and some god-awful 80's leather jackets he found a "pile" of original goosedowns still in the polythene covers. HOLY SHIT! Of approximately 20 jackets though, most were rotten or had simply disintegrated over the years, but luckily a handful at the bottom of the pile were still as fresh as the day they were made. Jim being the great friend he was, called me up on his return and took great pleasure in hearing my heart miss several beats when he told me. I must have sounded like a kid on the night before Christmas! He was gonna give me first refusal on them.
So, it took me over 10 years, but eventually I got my sticky hands on 2 original jackets from the 80's. One a V-Stitch Bomber in beige leather with brown fur, and the other a V-Stitch Three Quarter Length in dark blue leather with fox fur. In that very pile he also found the most amazing bottle green example with black fur. My classic old school image was now complete, but little did I know that 10 years later these jackets would become collectable and highly sought after by other old school fools like myself (just watch 'em sell on eBay!). And of course you can now buy the French made Double Goose jackets, which are of amazing quality and designed to be as close a reproduction of the Double Goose Country originals as possible (check out their website and peep their Camo edition above). YMC (You Must Create) also produced a jacket along the same lines but it fell short of looking good in my honest opinion. If you wanna cop an original yourself then I suggest you trawl through eBay's vintage clothing section on a regular basis, and have at least a couple of hundred pounds (approx 400 dollars) at your disposal. You won't regret it! ..and you will never complain of the cold again!