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How to choose a leather jacket

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A wardrobe is an expense: most clothes wear out over time and are replaced out of necessity. A men's leather jacket is an exception to this rule, an investment for a lifetime and beyond - it's a statement piece that you will pass down to your children or even your grandchildren.

With rare exceptions, the leather jacket looks fabulous when you pair it with almost anything, a quality that gives it a versatility that few other items in your wardrobe can claim. And it only gets better with age. But knowing how to choose the leather jacket best suited to your budget and wardrobe takes some effort on your part, and looking good in it doesn't just involve throwing it on your back. We bet it's worth the effort and to help you get started, we've answered some essential questions about this classic piece of outerwear, the men's leather jacket.



  • Leather is durable. You'll be hard-pressed to find a sturdier material for a coat or jacket. A high-quality leather jacket lasts for decades, and if you treat it well, it will outlive you. It may have a nick or scrape, but the garment itself will remain intact despite its characteristic dents and bruises. And while a standout leather jacket or coat can be expensive, it may end up costing less than any other item of clothing in your wardrobe when considering its longevity.

  • Leather protects you. It has long been the first choice of motorcyclists due to its tendency to behave like a durable second skin; it can't save anyone from the worst scrapes, but it puts a respectable barrier between your own skin and the pavement. It also offers windproof and highly weather-resistant protection, even without waterproofing treatment.

  • Leather is timeless. As durable as leather is, it's also durable: your leather jacket will never go out of style. And he is decidedly masculine. Perhaps the best reason to own a great leather jacket is its transformative, rugged behavior: it gives you carte blanche to feel like a badass without being flashy. It's the one item every man should have in his wardrobe.



  • If there is a single style to define the genre, it is most certainly the leather motorcycle jacket , known in the clothing industry as the "rider" or "double rider": belted, zippered, the original has wide lapels and a flared collar with snaps to secure it against the wind. He was and remains the champion of Harley-rider biker gangs and teen idols, but Marlon Brando brought him to the forefront of pop couture. Despite the authenticity of the item, other people of its kind borrow pieces of this archetypal garment to make a new piece, always classic and avant-garde.

  • Close on its heels is the bomber or flight jacket, which sometimes goes by its more official name, the A2. Originally designed for Air Force pilots on the eve of World War II, it is a military-issue leather jacket with a center front zipper, cuffs and hem ribbed, and two large flap pockets on the front; the G-1 is its naval variant. This jacket was made for serious business: it was cut at the hip so a pilot could sit comfortably for long hours, and most were lined with sheepskin for warmth in the cockpit. Fleece, flannel, and corduroy are popular lining materials today, and sheepskin is still present in modern descendants of bombers. The bomber jacket has changed very little over the decades, a solid example of stylish utility.

  • The motocross jacket, or racer, is a slimmed down and apparently more aerodynamic version of the "rider". It typically features a symmetrical zipper front, snap button collar, zippered pockets, and other minimal design details. The motorcycle jacket has a slimmer fit than its popular sibling; clean and simple, it is undoubtedly the most versatile of leather jackets.

  • The Cattleman Jacket is a thigh-length leather jacket made for riding; it often flares slightly from the waist, a detail that betrays its equestrian intentions.

  • Variations are leather fatigue, field jacket and blazer. Just like its fabric cousin, the fatigue is cut, with a soft collar and large flap pockets, sometimes fitted at the waist, sometimes belted. Many jackets have some or all of these details, each defying a true style category.


  • If beef or cowhide comes to mind when you think of a leather jacket, you're spot on: this type of leather is the hide of an adult steer or cow, frequently used for make jackets. It is strong and durable, but it takes a long time to break in and as such is usually reserved for more practical outerwear.

  • Deerskin is lighter, traditionally dyed yellow or orange, and is better suited to making warm weather jackets; it doesn't resist damage like thicker leathers do, but it's nonetheless durable and stretches well.

  • Goat skin is even lighter than deer skin, wears well over time and has a characteristic pebbled appearance.

  • Lambskin is the softest, silkiest, most luxurious leather, but it is not as durable as others. It is still increasingly used for leather jackets, precisely because of its softness. But since rawhides are smaller, more are needed to make a single jacket; its price reflects this and the softness premium.

  • Calfskin is a good compromise between cowhide and lambskin because it has the softness of the first but the durability of the second.



  • First you have to decide on a style. The bomber is made to be warm and practical, so if that's what you're looking for, it's a great choice. A jacket with motorcycle-inspired details is more fitted and, therefore, less accommodating of the layers worn underneath. If you want length, opt for a "fatigue" type jacket. And if you find something longer - a duster, for example - your wearing options will be severely limited by this highly stylized leather coat.

  • Also think about the type of leather you need: choose calfskin, goatskin or lambskin if you want a soft and lightweight jacket. But in general, the lighter the skin, the more likely it is to tear: don't choose lambskin if you plan to tear on the highway while wearing it on your bike.

Remember that, by its very nature, a leather jacket is a casual garment; it won't work in every situation, although it will in most cases. But if your work environment isn't casual, it won't qualify as work attire and won't look out of place in the meeting room. In some casual work environments, you can get away with a motorcycle or bomber-inspired jacket, paired with a shirt, wool pants, and black leather shoes. Stick with brown or black leather, and remember this basic rule: the more "decorated" the jacket, the more casual it is.



If it doesn't fit like a proverbial glove, then it doesn't fit:

  • There should be enough "play" that it doesn't pinch or bind, but that's about it.

  • A leather jacket should be snug, but not too tight, and there should be room for a sweater underneath if you need the warmth of other layers.

  • If you plan to wear a hoodie under the jacket, wear a hoodie when you try it on. If you don't take this into account, you will most likely be uncomfortable in the jacket later when you try to stack layers.

  • Jackets that are too big do not hang well and should be avoided.

A leather jacket should bend and mold to you. You should also be able to move your arms freely; the sleeves should not extend past the wrists, and the rest of the jacket should stop at the waist unless you choose a longer style. The jacket must fit well from day one to fit you well thereafter; leather can't be weathered like other materials (at least, not easily), so it's important to get it right from the start.



It's the thought that counts, that is, the details thought through. The highest quality leather jackets will have them in abundance. Here's what to look for:

  • Leather grain: This is the most important factor in determining the price of a leather jacket. Full grain refers to leather made from the entire hide of the animal, including the outer layer of hide; it is not altered and retains the natural pattern of the animal's skin. It also has natural irregularities - splinters, scars and imperfections - that occurred during the life of the original wearer. This is what gives full grain leather its appeal.

  • Top grain is preferred for leather jackets; the outer skin is separated from the lower layers of the full grain leather and smoothed to create an even surface. The result is a finer, more supple and arguably more comfortable leather.

  • Topstitching: visible topstitching on the top, or “right” side of the jacket. Beautiful stitching sets an exceptional leather jacket apart from its less expensive counterparts.

  • Lining: Lower quality synthetic materials are used in cheaper jackets. They breathe poorly and are usually the first to deteriorate over time. The best quality leather jackets have separate linings in the sleeves and body, and you will often see higher quality insulation material in the body in particular.

  • Armholes: Look for armholes higher up on the jacket. This helps make movement easier and improves the overall fit. Armholes placed lower on the jacket will limit arm movements.

  • Zippers: A cheap zipper is an indicator of the quality of a cheap leather jacket.

You get what you pay for, that's one of the great truths of life. An exquisite leather jacket gets better with age and lasts a lifetime and beyond.


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