Arthur ‘Fonzie’ Fonzarelli, the beloved greaser from TV’s Happy Days. The epitome of cool back in the day. And in a lot of ways that character is still iconic for representing a certain brand of coveted coolness the likes of which hasn’t duplicated ever since. The Fonz, as he often called, known for his motorcycle, white tee shirt, jeans, and most importantly for his signature brown leather jacket. Back in 1980, one of the jackets used in the program donated to the Smithsonian. And only a handful of others are thought to still exist.
More recently, Henry Winkler, the actor that rose to fame for his portrayal of Fonzie on the classic 1950s-themed sitcom, looking to sell one of his character’s distinct jackets. He had the article of clothing stashed away with his personal belongs for decades now. And an auction to sell it off is expected to take place on December 8, 2021, at Bonham’s auction house in Los Angeles.
The jacket is going to sold as a package deal that includes every component that made up one of Fonzie’s outfits. That means the winning bidder can take home a pair of blue jeans, a tee-shirt, and some snazzy biker boots. The lot has estimated to be worth somewhere between $50,000 and $70,000. The items up for auction are part of the auction house’s ’26-lot Henry Winkler Collection’.
When asked by the press why he was choosing to let go of these sentimental and historical items. Winkler told The Hollywood Reporter that the pandemic had inspired him to do a bit of ‘spring cleaning’. When he’s going through his belongings in storage; he found a trove of 27 boxes that filled with memorabilia; and keepsakes from his time spent on the Happy Days set; as well as props and related artifacts from the films The Waterboy and Scream.
Some of the items in these boxes included tee shirts, hats, books, masks, and various other props. Winkler portrayed the character Principal Himbry in the 1996 horror film Scream. And he is also auctioning off two of the iconic Ghostface masks that featured in that film. Those two items expect to fetch somewhere between $20,000 and $30,000.
A portion of the proceeds from these sales is going given to the nonprofit organization. This is About Humanity, which co-founded by Henry Winkler’s daughter Zoe. The charity’s mission is to help displaced children who separated from their parents down at the US-Mexico border.
Winkler actually has another Fonzie leather jacket in his possession, but only one will be going up for auction. The other, he fully intends on holding on to and eventually passing on to his kids.
As far as television wardrobe choices go, the Fonz’s leather jacket is about as iconic and memorable as they come. Keep watching to learn more about this now legendary garment and some of it’s surprising history.
Fonzie’s Leather Jacket Kept Under Lock And Key
In May of 2020, Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show, expressed his love for Happy Days. Fallon also discussed how he heard that Henry Winkler liked to keep a little memento from every set that he had worked on throughout his acting career.
It only makes sense that Winkler would hold on to Fonzie’s famed leather jacket to remember his time on the Happy Days set. After all, that role was the one that elevated him to star status. If it weren’t for his turn on Happy Days, the world probably wouldn’t even know who Henry Winkler is.
It’s rather intriguing, however, that The Fonz didn’t even wear that jacket during the first season of the show. It’s also interesting to learn that the producers of Happy Days didn’t even intend The Fonz to have that big of a role in the show at first. His character initially conceived just supporting role and nothing more.
Back when Happy Days still just getting it’s feet wet. Arthur Fonzarelli only given a few sparse lines in the show. And instead of donning that brown leather jacket that we all know and love; he wore a particularly drab green windbreaker for the entirety of season one instead.
But despite the fact that he only ever supposed to be a minor role in the series; Fonzie quickly became a fan favorite. And the creators of the show increased his presence and the significance of his role to appease the audience members who couldn’t seem to get enough of him.
When he given more of a prominent role in the series. The Fonz also upgraded with a brand new costume to better fit his ‘cool guy’ persona.
Winkler started rocking his signature brown leather jacket by season two. And it’s argued that it’s the most famous jacket ever won on TV. When he was a guest on The Tonight Show; Winkler made sure to show it off to the starry-eyed host; who looked almost as if he were staring at a relic of great religious significance.
In that interview, which done remotely, Winkler revealed that five jackets had made for the show; but the producers put them under strict ‘lock and key’. But even though they closely guarded to ensure that they wouldn’t fall into the wrong hands. Winkler explained that he still managed to get his mitts on one of them. It’s unclear, however, how he wound up with two of them in his possession.
So, at this point, we know where at least three of the jackets currently reside. One is tucked away in Henry Winkler’s home; forever loved and cherished by him and his family. Another is hanging in the Smithsonian for all the world to see. And as we mention at the start of this video, another auctioned set shortly. But that still leaves two jackets unaccounted for. Where they might be, no one can be certain.
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Happy Day’s Producers Were Concerned About The Fonz’s Bad Boy Image
Once Fonzie had become the breakout star of Happy Days. The show’s producers began to worry that his bad-boy image might clash with the sitcom’s wholesome standards. To address this perceived problem, the network execs over at ABC came up with a rather peculiar solution.
Marion Ross, the actor who portrayed Richie’s mom throughout the show’s 255 episode run. Discussed the Fonz’s notorious wardrobe change in her 2018 book My Days: Happy and Otherwise. She confirmed that the Fonz’s signature jacket didn’t even exist at first. It was really Winkler’s doing that established his character as the smooth-tongued greaser who was popular with the ladies. But ABC brass were at first worried that his image would corrupt the show’s clean-cut image.
For the show’s first season, Fonzie, as we already touched on briefly, wore that green windbreaker. Ross disparagingly referred to it in her memoir as ‘god-awful’, and to be fair, it kind of was. Fans of the show today most definitely don’t picture Fonzie with a windbreaker on when they reflect on the iconic character that he played on TV. According to Ross, Henry Winkler’s original look on the series was, as she put it, ‘dorky’, which is the polar opposite of how most people picture who The Fonz was and what he represented.
Ross further explained that those ever-so-cautious ABC executives who trying to keep their show family-friendly, worried that The Fonz’s leather jacket would make him appear like some kind of low-life common criminal.
So, to combat this potential image problem and to make Fonzie look a little less menacing while still attempting to make Winkler’s character feel authentic, they devised a compromise of sorts. The Fonz allowed to wear a leather jacket on one condition; whenever he wore it, he either had to be alongside or on his motorcycle.
After being given permission to wear the garment that is now synonymous with his character, Henry Winkler’s Fonzie grew into one of the most beloved and popular television characters to ever hit the small screen. Fans of the show adored the ‘cool guy’ greaser, and many people imitated his distinct sense of style. What was once a clothing item typically associated with nefarious street thugs had successfully entered into the mainstream.
In time, The Fonz no longer restricted to just wearing the jacket when a motorcycle involved. The jacket became ubiquitous and was just as crucial to his image as his greased-back hair and his knack for fixing that perpetually malfunctioning jukebox over at Arnold’s Drive-In.
The Fonz’s Leather Jacket Has Become A Cultural Touchstone
It’s actually pretty shocking how the network execs over at ABC so terrified that The Fonz’s brown leather jacket would potentially tarnish the squeaky-clean image of their show, especially considering how significant that wardrobe choice has become since it’s introduction in 1975. If you were to ask any random person on the street to describe The Fonz’s look, they would most assuredly cite his leather jacket as one of his most defining features.
In the years since Happy Day’s became a television phenomenon, Fonzie’s leather jacket has been incorporated into many different portrayals, homages, and memorials dedicated to the character. In 2008, for example, the city of Milwaukee, Minnesota, erected a bronze tribute to the Fonz at the city’s Riverwalk.
The Bronze Fonz, as the installation is known, depicts Winkler’s character flashing his trademarked double thumbs-up gesture and features his brown leather jacket, white tee, and blue jeans. Can you imagine what that statue would look like if he were wearing that hideous green windbreaker?
Additionally, Fonzie made an appearance in the season four episode of Family Guy entitled ‘The Father, The Son, and the Holy Fonz’. Once again, it would have been inconceivable to depict The Fonz wearing anything but his signature jacket. In that episode of the popular animated sitcom, Peter Griffin is so enamored by his idol that he starts his very own religion around the man, which he dubs the First United Church of the Fonz.
The centerpiece of Peter’s newfound church was a statue of The Fonz which, of course, featured his leather jacket. Once again, just picture what that would have looked like if the Fonz statue hadn’t incorporated the character’s signature piece of outerwear. Audiences likely wouldn’t have even known who the statue suppose to represent.
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And before you go, just ask yourself this. Do you think The Fonz would be as iconic of a character if he had never given the green light to don his signature brown leather jacket? And do you think Henry Winkler is doing the right thing by putting the fabled garment up for auction? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.
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