The Rocky IV Shearling Jacket

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

Vitals

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa, two-time heavyweight world champion boxer

Krasnogorsk, Russia, Winter 1985

Film: Rocky IV
Release Date: November 27, 1985
Director: Sylvester Stallone
Costume Designer: Tom Bronson

WARNING! Spoilers ahead!

Background

“New year, new you” messaging seems to dominate the beginning of every January, and what character better embodies getting in shape than the Italian Stallion and his famous training montages?

The Rocky story famously began as a passion project for Sylvester Stallone, who became an overnight star after tenaciously refusing to sell the rights to the screenplay he wrote in three days unless he could play the lead role… resulting in an iconic sports drama that received ten Academy Award nominations and became the highest-grossing movie of 1976.

As Stallone’s stardom rose, he took directorial control of the series as well, evolving the Rocky series with a new sequel every three years until Rocky IV, when the stakes had grown so high that the scrappy Philadelphia boxer was now basically responsible for defending the very concept of American freedom against the Soviet Union, represented by the cold-hearted Russian champion and Army captain Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren) who famously commented “if he dies, he dies,” after brutally clobbering Rocky’s respected rival Apollo Creed (Carl Weathers) in the ring.

Apollo’s death inspires Rocky to surrender his world championship by challenging Drago, who agrees to an unsanctioned Christmas Day fight in the Soviet Union, selected to protect Drago from supposed American threats of reprisal. While the steroid-enhanced Drago undergoes high-tech training with state-of-the-art equipment, Rocky returns to his more modest analog methods with saws, sleds, split logs, and speed bags around his snowy secluded cabin in Krasnogorsk, located north of Moscow… though you may think it looks suspiciously similar to Grand Tetons National Park in Wyoming.

Rocky receives the usual support from his gruff brother-in-law Paulie Pennino (Burt Young) and Apollo’s devoted trainer Duke Evers (Tony Burton) as well as unexpected emotional support from his wife Adrian (Talia Shire), who had initially protested the match.

Talia Shire and Sylvester Stallone in Rocky IV (1985)

Yo, Adrian, thanks for coming!

Rocky IV remains the only entry not to include an original score composed by Bill Conti, though a few of his beats can be heard in Vince DiCola’s score, including during the “Training Montage” track. In addition to reprising the Rocky III theme “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor, the Rocky IV soundtrack produced the hit singles “Burning Heart” (also by Survivor) and “Living in America”, performed by James Brown to Drago’s hilariously increasing bemusement at the spectacle of American boxing.

Despite considerable criticism, Rocky IV punched its way to box-office success as the third highest-grossing movie of 1985 and the highest-grossing overall in the franchise. Stallone released a director’s cut in 2021 that somewhat rebuilt Rocky IV‘s critical reputation as it was considered an improvement on the theatrical release.

What’d He Wear?

The Shearling Jacket

Rocky wisely dresses for his freezing destination in a civilian bomber jacket made from heavy shearling, the venerated sheep or lamb hide that has protected wearers in cold climates since the Stone Age. Shearling is produced by tanning, processing, and dying the hide of a sheep with the wool still intact on the reverse side, providing a plush fleece often used as lining while the outer shell presents the tanned hide with either a grain or sueded finish.

As aviation innovation in the early 20th century took pilots higher and required heavier outerwear for colder air temperature, air forces around the world pressed shearling and its insular qualities into service, from the UK-developed Irvin flying jacket authorized for the Royal Air Force to the B-3 worn by American bomber crews during World War II.

Rocky’s waist-length sheepskin jacket incorporates styling details from both of these iconic jackets, such as the front-belted waist of the Irvin flying jacket and the slanted hand pockets found on the American B-3 flight jacket.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

On Rocky’s jacket, the grain leather outer shell has been dyed to a dark seal brown like the American mil-spec B-3; the naturally beige piled fur reverse side lines the jacket and presents across the broad collar and around the edges of the cuffs and waist hem. The seams have been reinforced by strips of dark grain leather, seen around and down the set-in sleeves and criss-crossing on the back. The collar can be turned up and latched into place over the throat with a strap extending from the right side of the collar through a buckle presumably rigged under the left side of the collar.

The end of each sleeve has a zipper that can be unzipped to more easily fit the jacket over heavier layers, then zipped closed again for insulation. Three grommets under each armpit allow air to pass through to ventilate the wearer, which Rocky would have found particularly suitable during the rigors of his analog workouts.

Like its military forebears, Rocky’s shearling jacket closes with a straight front zipper, int his case brass with a brown leather pull tied onto the slider. As mentioned, a full belt also extends across the front of the jacket, positioned just above the waistline through a leather self-loop on each side. You can tell by looking at the belt buckles that more than one jacket was used; the primary jacket was made by the California company Golden Bear Sportswear (which uses the slogan “A Bear for Wear”) and closes through a squared brass single-prong buckle, while a secondary jacket has a more rounded, D-shaped buckle.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

Warmly clad in his shearling bomber jacket, Rocky trains with saw and axe to organically develop the strength he’ll need to take down the Siberian Bull. Note the squared belt buckle of his more frequently worn Golden Bear jacket as he saws logs, while the jacket he wears while downing a tree with an axe has the rounded D-shaped belt buckle.

Stallone’s size 40 screen-worn Golden Bear sheepskin jacket was sold by Heritage Auctions in December 2015, with the listing including a personal anecdote from the actor, writer, and director:

I remember buying this jacket because I wanted it to represent the difficulty Rocky had training in Siberia, at such high altitudes. The jacket has a military feel and it was made for severe weather. It became an important story point because it represented how difficult Rocky’s training was in order to fight Drago. We were at about seven thousand feet in the Grand Tetons and it was freezing when I was doing the training montage, where I finally arrive at the top of the mountain and yell at Drago. Thank God I was wearing this coat or I woulda froze to death.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

“Draaaagggggoooooooooo!”

Many inexpensive copies of shearling jackets abound, often marketed as "sherpa" jackets with artificial fleece lining. In many cases, these can still be quality items (and in many cases, not), but true shearling sheepskin jackets are worth the investment.

The Champ Sheepskin Jacket from Cockpit USA

Cockpit USA currently offers two sheepskin bomber jackets resembling the Rocky IV coat, with the description for "The Champ" suggesting it was directly inspired by the Italian Stallion: Price and availability current as of Jan. 5, 2023.

From Philly to Russia

The fall weather is more temperate when Rocky leaves his Philadelphia estate, his shearling jacket merely flung over his left shoulder until he gets to the limousine that takes him to the airport.

Rocky wears a soft cream-colored sweater, possibly cashmere, with broken tic-stitched vertical stripes spaced about two inches apart across the body and set-in sleeves. The sweater is accented by a wide ribbed taupe bandolier that slants down from the right armpit across the torso, running perpendicular to two more sharply diagonal cream-ribbed bands that extend down from the left shoulder.

Outside the sweater’s round crew-neck, Rocky wears the short gold necklace with the boxing glove pendant that first appeared in Rocky III (1982) but wasn’t explained in-universe until Rocky V (1990) when Rocky’s trainer Mickey Goldmill (Burgess Meredith) gave it to him, sharing that it had once been one of the real-life boxer Rocky Marciano’s cufflinks. According to a story Stallone shared in a Heritage Auctions listing for the screen-worn necklace, it actually did once belong to Marciano, who had given the pendant to Rat Pack comedian Joey Bishop, who—in turn—gifted it to Stallone in the late 1970s after being impressed by the first Rocky.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

When not actively exercising or dressing in a suit and tie, Rocky typically spends Rocky IV wearing black gabardine double reverse-pleated trousers with on-seam side pockets, no back pockets, and straight-cut legs down to the plain-hemmed bottoms, perhaps best seen under the bright Vegas spotlights during the fatal Apollo Creed v. Ivan Drago match in Vegas.

He arrives in Russia with his feet adequately protected in a pair of heavy-duty black lace-up snow boots, constructed of vulcanized leather mid-calf uppers and heavy rubber soles with a narrow white band around the outsoles and lugs that provide traction in the snow and ice.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

From the Keystone State to Krasnogourbinsk.

Rocky arrives in Russia wearing a soft paneled-crown newsboy cap woven in black-and-white that creates an overall gray effect, with the colorful flecks characteristic of Donegal tweed. He wore the same cap at the start of the movie, when his son Rocky Jr. (Rocky Krakoff) asked “where’d you get that hat?” to which his dad responded “a friend gave it to me, you like it?”

Rocky sports a pair of black leather gloves, presumably lined for additional warmth. Between the gloves and the substantial fur-covered cuffs of his jacket, we can’t see if Rocky wears any rings or watches. He also wears a gray scarf with super-soft fibers suggesting mohair, though angora and alpaca fleece are also possibilities.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

Cold-Weather Training

Through the duration of his outdoor training montages, Rocky wears his shearling jacket zipped up over his invariably black workout gear. His intermediate top layer is a black cotton or cotton-blend pullover sweatshirt with a drawstring funnel-neck, like a hoodie without the hood. He appears to layer the sweatshirt over an off-white henley shirt and white thermal cotton long underwear.

Rather than the more fashionable peaked newsboy cap, Rocky keeps his head warm with a plain black ribbed-knit beanie.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

Rocky works out in skin-tight black elasticized workout pants with a double black drawstring waist closure. The manufacturer can be identified by the gray chevron logo positioned over the left thigh, though I can’t discern who it is.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

Rocky presumably tucks the bottoms of his workout pants into the tops of his boots, though his exercises in the heavy snow call for the addition of black polyester gauntlets around his calves that strap around the boots.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

A Different Jacket

At the start of the movie, Rocky arrives home for Paulie’s birthday party wearing a similar waist-length brown leather jacket with a shawl collar faced in a beige fleece, over his black crew-neck sweatshirt, red-striped warmup pants, and white sneakers.

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

Rocky returns home at the start of the movie, excited to join his family in presenting Paulie with a birthday robot that he gradually falls in love with. When it comes to this part of Rocky IV, YMMV.
Note that he wears a brown leather jacket with a fleece-faced collar; whether this is a costume-related continuity error meant to be his later shearling jacket remains unknown.

How to Get the Look

Sylvester Stallone as Rocky Balboa in Rocky IV (1985)

When spending time in a place so chilly that it’s detrimental to Paulie’s sinuses, you’ll want a hardy outer layer from a time-tested fabric that will keep you warm and dry without sacrificing any of its own abilities to do so. Like generations of pilots who literally rose up straight to the top before him, Rocky relies on a sheepskin bomber jacket with military-informed details like a belted waist.

That said, sheepskin may not be the most practical workout gear for most people’s purposes… unless you’re training to fight a deadly boxer nicknamed the Siberian Express on his frozen home turf.

  • Dark brown sheepskin shearling zip-up bomber jacket with beige natural fleece reverse side, broad collar with throat latch strap, brass zipper, full front belt, slanted welted hand pockets, and zip-back set-in sleeves
  • Cream cashmere crew-neck sweater with V-shaped contrast ribbing
  • Black gabardine double reverse-pleated straight-leg trousers with straight/on-seam side pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms
  • Black vulcanized lace-up mid-calf snow boots with heavy lugged rubber soles
  • Black-and-white Donegal tweed newsboy cap
  • Dark gray mohair scarf
  • Black leather gloves
  • Gold necklace with boxing glove pendant

Do Yourself a Favor and…

Check out the movie.

The Quote

I just wanted to get away from things, you know?

One comment

  1. Eric

    Small correction: The original issue B-3 jacket did not have handwarmer pockets, instead only having a small exterior patch pocket. The slimmer, intermediate weight B-6 jacket later introduced slash pockets. These days, many jackets in the B-3 and Irvin mold have slash pockets, as Rocky’s does.

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