Here’s the Story Behind Nicolas Cage’s Glorious Leather Jackets

Here at GQ, we’ve long celebrated Nicolas Cage as a leather-jacket god.

Ever since 1990’s Wild at Heart, in which he wore his own snakeskin piece—“a symbol of my individuality, and my belief in personal freedom,” says his character, Sailor Ripley—these jackets have been an inextricable part of his style. The freakier, the better.

Cage as Sailor Ripley in Wild at Heart

Sunset Boulevard / Getty Images

Though he was relaxing in loungewear (a black kung fu suit) during our first hang at his home in Las Vegas for our April cover story, Cage strolled into our second interview at Antoine’s in New Orleans flexing an excellent emerald suede jacket. It was elegant and bold, albeit comparatively straightforward considering some recent ones he’s been spotted in. Like the black leather jacket emblazoned with cheetah fabric, red piping, and studs. Or the bubblegum pink leather one covered in elephant, poodle, and angel-wing patches. So, naturally, I asked him about the jackets.

Cage in 2020.

JC Olivera / Getty Images

Cage in 2018.

Bauer-Griffin / Getty Images

“That’s sort of how I was passing my time in between movies,” he said.

“You were buying jackets?” I asked.

“I was making jackets,” he clarified.

That bubblegum pink jacket that he wore on the set of The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent and people assumed it was for his character? “It’s not in the movie,” Cage said. “It’s my own personal silliness.” He saw the original pink jacket and envisioned it as a canvas for various patches, then made it happen.

Cage in that custom pink jacket. 

Grgo Jelavic / Splash News

I proposed to him that if all clothing is armor, in a sense, then jackets are the purest expression of that. “I do like to have a sense of humor. And also, I like the idea of dressing in season, as a celebration of life,” Cage told me, elaborating on his fashion philosophy. 

“I find it something sort of tragic and beautiful and humble at the same time, that one would make the effort to try to show well, in the face of hardship,” he continued. “Or: ‘Whatever’s going on, I’m still going to put that tie on.’ Or: ‘I’m still going to wear that blouse with those flowers. It doesn’t matter what’s happening around me, it’s not going to break me.’”

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He is one of our great actors. Also one of our most inscrutable, most eccentric, and most misunderstood. But as Cage makes his case here, every extraordinary thing about his wild work and life actually makes perfect ordinary sense.


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