A stern man with a rough proletarian face in a leather coat with a Mauser C96 in his hand. Approximately such an image appears before the eyes of most compatriots when they hear the words of the Cheka, the Chekist, the NKVD. Today we will talk about how the red commissars and rank-and-file chekists got such a virtually “anomalous” passion for leather clothing.
Unhealthy passion for Chekists in leather jackets among contemporary creators of artistic culture. Real Chekists wore cloth coats - soldier's and officer's overcoats no less often than leather jackets and raincoats. If you start looking for photographs, then, with rare exceptions, Chekists appear more often in greatcoats, and not in leather jackets. Nevertheless, the "leather jacket" really enjoyed particular popularity among the people. There is no trick or secret here, they loved it for its practicality: it keeps warm, is not afraid of wind and dampness. Anyone who has worn leather outerwear at least once will immediately agree with this.
Another question is where did the leather jackets come from about the Cheka fighters. It is unlikely that in the conditions of the Civil War in Russia, an urgent mass production of this wardrobe item was established. Moreover, leather clothing (especially at that time) is not the cheapest and simplest thing in terms of manufacturing technology. The answer to this question is quite simple: like much else in the matter of the material part, leather jackets and raincoats in marketable quantities went to the young Soviet state from the Russian Empire.
In the Russian Empire, they both sewed their own leather jackets and bought them abroad since the 1860s. They bought mainly in Sweden, which is why before the revolution leather jackets, coats and raincoats were nicknamed "Swedes" among the common people. They were purchased not for the needs of the common people, but for civil servants, employees of state security agencies and the military (mainly those who served in the navy). The reason is simple: leather clothing has remarkable utilitarian properties. It is durable, warm, does not get wet, does not blow out and does not damp. It also does not become a habitat for lice. Therefore, in the Russian Empire, "leather jackets" were relied primarily on those who served in the most "innovative" areas: in the navy, in aviation, in automobile and motorcycle transport.
By 1910, leather clothing in Russia went to the people. Not everyone could afford it, but every wealthy person wanted his chauffeur or cabman to be dressed in a "fashionable manner" like a pilot. Simpler leather jackets and raincoats gradually went to the poorer strata of the population from among those who still could afford such happiness: small civil servants and highly skilled workers in factories. Thus, by 1917 there were already a lot of "leather jackets" in Russia, both imported and of their own production. Such clothes were especially popular, which gave rise to even the concept of "chauffeur chic".
"Chauffeur chic" turned into "commissar chic" in the course of a completely natural process of denying everything old on the basis of revolution. A striking example is the Great French bourgeois revolution of the 1790s, which brought out of fashion the "feudal" magnificent and luxurious Rococo style and led to it being replaced by the more strict and sophisticated Empire style. Something similar happened in Russia. However, here the tsarist and bourgeois power was replaced by the power of the people, which naturally, out of hatred for the old regimes, began to deny their fashion. Therefore, in the early Soviet state, any excess was denied and condemned: peasants and workers brought their fashion to the fore - clothes as simple as possible and extremely utilitarian.
Of course, as the revolutionary fuse cooled and the standard of living rose, Soviet society would nevertheless take a step towards more stylish clothing in the 1930s. As for the VKCh, without a statutory uniform, it worked for only 5 years from 1917 to 1922. Subsequently, a completely statutory uniform appeared. Although leather cloaks were still worn on a number of occasions by officers in the army, navy and state security agencies up until World War II.
If you want to know even more interesting things, then you should read about hammer and sickle, Teddy bear, pioneer tie, or how 5 famous symbols of the USSR appeared.