How the ’90s Leather Blazer Took Over Spring (and Your Instagram Feed)

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The old-school supermodel staple has lately been spotted on everyone from Kendall Jenner to Kaia Gerber. Here, tips for wearing the season’s jacket sensation.

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Cindy Crawford, a much-documented fan of the leather blazer pre-Y2K, recently revived the look alongside her mirror-image daughter, Kaia Gerber, bringing the piece full circle. Along with Ms. Gerber, Bella Hadid, Emily Ratajkowski and Hailey Bieber are among the new generation of celebrities gravitating toward the garment. Gucci has brought it back (embossed all over with the label’s logo) as have Saint Laurent (long and single-breasted) and Versace (slim and shrunken). Brigitte Chartrand, vice president of womenswear buying at retailer Ssense, who’s stocked that Versace take, called it her favorite modern interpretation of the trend. “It’s so emblematic [of the era] and we haven’t seen much of this specific style since Gwyneth and Winona wore it in the ’90s,” she said. New York stylist Tyler Okuns points to notable versions by the Row, Khaite and David Koma, while Los Angeles stylist Erin Walsh calls out designs by Staud and Nanushka as her top picks.

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If you’re a ’90s completist who insists on authenticity, you can also hunt down first-wave iterations, a move advocated by Brynn Jones, owner of LA’s Aralda Vintage, a go-to for celebrities like Alexa Demie of “Euphoria” and Olivia Rodrigo. “The ’90s versions by Chanel, Alaïa and Jil Sander were incredible,” she said.

An ideal barrier for spring’s fickle temperatures, the leather blazer injects a classic, tailored silhouette with danger and insouciance. Whether new or vintage, it needs to be well cut. “It should have some structure at the shoulder, but not so much that it is overpowering you,” said Ms. Jones. “It should either taper in at the waist to enhance your figure, or be a boxy, oversize shape, which feels more relaxed and is great for layering.”

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When Nanushka founder and creative director Sandra Sandor was designing her brand’s faux-leather blazer, ’90s-era Ms. Crawford dominated her moodboard. “She made the leather blazer so effortless,” said Ms. Sandor of Ms. Crawford’s low-key styling choices. Ms. Walsh sees Ms. Paltrow as the ultimate blazer wearer for the same reason. “Gwyneth’s ’90s leather blazers set the bar,” she said, adding that the Goop founder’s look embodied an easy, “too-cool chic.”

Emulate that ease. Ms. Walsh likes pairing her blazer with a simple white button-down, turtleneck bodysuit or a striped tee. “Let the blazer be the statement piece,” said Ms. Sandor, adding that straight-leg jeans and a white T-shirt are ideal supporting players. Or, for another ’90s nod, said Ms. Jones, slip yours over a slip dress. Perhaps while listening to “Bitter Sweet Symphony” really, really loudly.

Kara Pfaffenbach, 45, senior line builder at Ecco, a Brooklyn-based shoe brand, appreciates the versatility of her well-loved black lambskin Zero + Maria Cornejo version. “I usually wear it over a graphic T-shirt with a pair of high-waisted jeans and a chunky ankle boot,” she said. “I also mix it with more feminine, printed midi skirts by Dries Van Noten or Rachel Comey for a dressed-up but cool moment.” Becky Rashidifard, a 32-year-old registered dietitian in New York, styles her leather blazer with flared Norma Kamali pants and lug-sole boots or black jeans and a T-shirt. “That’s my classic everyday outfit,” she said.

The leather blazer’s renewed relevance comes courtesy of the broader ’90s and Y2K revival dominating the fashion sphere (see all things low-slung, midriff-baring and Avril Lavigne-esque). But it’s also, said Ms. Okuns, simply a sign of our collective sartorial mood. “Fashion is a reflection of the times, and in a pandemic, minimalism works,” she said. Ms. Walsh agrees. “I think people more than ever are looking for easy solutions to pump up comfort clothes,” she said. “Throwing on a chic, streamlined statement item can really pull together a look.”

The leather blazer has an ageless appeal. “We can all see how classic a piece like this actually is and that it stands the test of time,” Ms. Jones said. “When I think of all of the throwback photos of people in their leather blazers, I feel like they translate to the present day really well.” Ms. Chartrand similarly contends that the leather blazer’s comeback is more than just a stop on the cyclical trend train. “Like a pair of vintage Levi’s 501s, it should be a staple in everyone’s wardrobe.”

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