Jean jackets have been around for a very long time. Of course, with their inception they were meant for work and not as a fashion statement. However, in the 1980s there were a number of different articles of clothing that became not a fashion statement, but a staple of certain subcultures. The jean jacket became especially popular with punk fashion in the 1980s. The punk fashion trend developed in both the United States and the United Kingdom at around the same time period. They paralleled each other and in some respects copied each other with the intent of outdoing one another. This, of course, could have been a mere coincidence. Regardless, the jean jacket was a statement that evoked images of tough people and times.
The entire point of the punk fashion was the tough, often dirty look most followers had. They took simple items of clothing such as t-shirts, jeans, and combat boots and transformed them into something that made punk fashion look militarized. They look as though they were ready to fight at any moment (which for the lyrics of the songs and type of music makes sense).
There was also a means of decking out jean jackets with all sorts of symbols. There were many of them, some that still persist today. The typical symbols were for punk bands, anarchist symbols, swastikas, and what would be considered hardcore symbols (skulls, fire, dragons, etc.). The style was simple and meant to be intimidating. The t-shirts those in the punk rock subculture typically wore were adorned with messages of hate and anarchism. Popular among the shirts and jackets were those symbols of the bands who helped grow the subculture tremendously.