No single item of clothing screams “Badass” like a leather jacket. For decades, these jackets have been a staple piece for every larger-than-life-baddass you can think of. Because of their very nature, leather jackets are not an accessory, they are a statement or a lifestyle piece. An entire outfit can be built around a single statement piece like a leather jacket, even whole wardrobes. Women will love you. Men will want to be you. (Don’t believe me? Read this review NSFW-language .
For that reason, never skimp on your leather jacket purchase. Look around. Take your time. Make your decision wisely because this is an investment. Be prepared to spend no less than $500 on an entry level leather or more around $1k on good leather. Yes, you can find some really crappy companies selling for around $200 or $300, but I would generally avoid those because they use cheaper leather which will not last as long and they usually do not have a fitted cut. If you really need to pick something up for the 250-500 range, it’s a much better idea to look for used or vintage items on ebay or buy/sell forums. This is definitely one of those places where the rule should be “Don’t buy something similar to the thing you want. Buy the thing you want.”
Also, a word of CAUTION to the novices: A leather jacket can be the fast lane to swagger like you know who
, but can also be a fast route to
. Leather jackets are not to be taken lightly. If you are new to the fashion community, do NOT rush into a leather jacket thinking that just because you put one on it will give you insta-swag. You must already have everything else pretty much on point to have the prerequisite amount of swag to pull these off.
Styles Every leather company always makes jackets in a few different styles. If you find that you like the quality of one company but want a specific cut, I would suggest looking around their products because you’ll invariable find that style of jacket in their list of offerings. If not, you could even hold off because they might just make it next season. The 3 major styles you’ll see most often are Bomber, Double Rider, and Moto. More details are below, but as you get to know each style, you’ll find a lot of the other weird cuts are just variations of these 3 styles.
- Bomber (aka Flight Jacket, aka MA-1) – One of the most popular and versatile styles of leather jackets. Because they were originally developed for pilots sitting in unenclosed cockpits, they are designed with warmth in mind and are characterized by elastic/ribbed cuffs and elastic waist and will frequently have fur lining and/or a fur collar. They can be worn casually or dressed up
equally well. Definitely a good versatile addition to anyone’s wardrobe. Example of killer swag in a bomber? Our very own Renalan
- Double Rider (aka Perfecto
) – The original first leather motorcycle jacket developed by Schott NYC and introduced in 1928. This is the jacket that was worn by Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones
, punk rockers, and greasers, and all around badasses
since their introduction. This jacket has become synonymous with rebellion and is not to be taken lightly. It was made for motorcycle riders so it was meant to be functional. This jacket has a very distinct look because of it’s asymmetrical front zipper and large snap lapels. Usually meant to be worn casually, but can be added over a button up and tie for an edgier look
. So the next question you should ask yourself is…..Are you man enough to rock the DR?
- Moto (aka Cafe Racer) – The deconstructed minimalist motorcycle jacket. It is a smaller simpler version of a Double Rider Motocycle jacket that is a little slimmer and will not include the extra flaps, epaulets, and belts found on the rider. This jacket usually has a little more sleek modern look to it. Unlike the double rider, this jacket does not have an asymmetrical zipper and will usually have a small snap collar
instead of the large fold-over ones. Some “collared moto” styles will add a small collar
while still keeping the minimalist design. Because of the minimalist design this jacket has a less “edgy” look and is a lot more versatile. This jacket can be a great addition
- Peacoat Just like they sound. A peacoat style jacket but in leather
. I would stay away from these because the traditional peacoat is a wool jacket (sometimes with leather trim) and these leather versions are not as versatile as the wool. They were popular a few years back and are generally aimed at a little dressier look and would not work as well with a completely casual outfit. Still acceptable if you have your heart set on one but a nice wool peacoat may serve you better in the long run.
- Fencing Jacket An aggressively cut jacket designed similarly after fencing jackets. Usually only reserved goth ninja styles and will definitely not be as versatile as the jackets above.
- Varsity and Baseball These are casual jackets that can have either leather only sleeves or be all leather. Because the all leather versions are generally made in suede these are a lot less expensive than many of the jackets above and can be a great addition to a casual wardrobe for a street inspired style .
- Trench Coat Just like it sounds. A trench coat made of leather that will be long and used as an overcoat. CAUTION: Unless you really know what you’re doing and are going for a Goth Ninja look
, I would avoid these at all costs. Society currently frowns on these since they hold connotations of nerds who think they
and American kids that shoot up schools.
Leather Quality -Because leather is one of the strongest and most durable materials you can use for apparel, just like in shoes, quality leather can last you decades and will continue to look better as it breaks in. Always look for high quality Full Grain leather, just like in nice shoes. Durability and quality is the #1 reason why you do not skimp on your leather purchase. When looking at leather jackets one of your major considerations is what type of leather it is made of and the thickness of the leather. Unfortunately, this is one of those scenarios that the better stuff is usually way more expensive. The list below can serve as an intro to the most popular leather types, but is by no means an exhaustive list:
- Cowhide, Steerhide, and HorseHide – All stiff types that are designed to be heavy and durable. These will last you eons, but may not be as supple to the touch. Cow Example
- Calf skin similar to cowhide but slightly softer. Meant to be broken in and is still considered heavy.
- Lamb Very light and soft type of leather. The feeling of this will almost feel like cloth or silk like. Many people may not even believe it’s leather because of it’s soft hand feel. Example
- Goat Softer than calf, but not as soft as lamb. Will be much more porous and heavy grain. Very good versatile all around type of leather. Example
- Buffalo and Bison more heavy leather types. Used for protection and functionality. Will last eons.
Low End Cheap Leathers Generally recommended to avoid these unless you’re really on a budget
Mid Range ($500 – $1000) This is a great place for most people to start with their leather purchases
- SchottNYC Website These guys are the real deal. The original motorcycle jacket company and still relevant today
- Vanson Website
- Temple of Jawnz “Unofficial” Official Website This is the #1 company that you’ve probably never heard of. If could you only own 1 leather piece in your life, it should be a ToJ.
- Burberry 1
- Acne, Alexander McQueen, etc.
Designer Baller Leathers ($3k+) aka fashion status symbol
- Yves Saint Laurent
- RLPL (Ralph Lauren Purple Label)
- Rick Owens
- Julius 1
- CCP (Carol Christian Poell)
- Maison Martin Margiela
- Bottega Veneta
- Valentino, Brioni, Boris Bidjian, Belstaff, Incarnation, and too many more to name
Recommended Further Reading
- Mr. Porter Series on Leather Styles:
- Previous MFA Discussion on Leather Quality
- Askmen article on Leather
- StyeForum Discussion on Leather Quality
- Leather Buying Guide from Caine
- A cool site dedicated to identifying and selling the same leather jackets worn by film stars and movie characters
- Wiki entry on Leather Quality
- Leather Types
- More on Leather Types
- StyleForum Thread on Favorite Leather Jackets
- Leather 101 by Saddleback Leather
I can’t afford a real leather jacket, can I buy faux leather as a replacement? No.
Seriously? Come on, please? Seriously. No.
Ok. What if, I don’t know what my style is and I can’t afford to experiment with an $800 jacket, now can I buy a faux leather jacket? For chrisakes, don’t buy a leather if you can’t afford it. Leather jackets are a lifestyle piece, if you don’t know what your style is yet, don’t experiment with them. Experiment with cheaper clothing and find your style. Just build up your wardrobe with other items, look around, try on leathers, then buy one when you know that it is something you want and will wear. Think of it like getting a sleeve tattoo. It’s a major financial and/or lifestyle commitment. If you can’t afford a sleeve tattoo, you wouldn’t just go to a mall, get a stick-on temporary tattoo, then show it off to your friends and talk about how much of a bad-ass you are, would you? No. You either get a sleeve tattoo or you don’t. There is no in between.
What makes faux leather so bad? If you’ve ever actually made the mistake of buying faux leather (I have), you’ll know that they look like crap and fall apart faster than a Kardashian marriage. The $100 you spent on the piece of crap you’re going to throw out next year is now the $100 that you won’t be able to spend on a real leather jacket. Save your money and acquire slowly.
I’m writing this because I see a lot of repeated questions and requests for leather on MFA, but haven’t seen any good guides sidebar’d yet. Since I’m writing this with the hopes of getting it sidebar’d some day, I welcome any comments/concerns/criticisms.
If you want a tl;dr, then here it is: tl;dr just buy a TOJ.
Edits: Added “Leather 101” page by Saddleback Leather