Leather Jackets have long been a staple of every discerning gentleman’s wardrobe. In this comprehensive men's leather jacket guide, we cover how to buy and wear a leather jacket.
Maybe something around you is brewing. Rebellion pulses through your veins, and so you reach into your wardrobe. Furiously perusing through your options, until smell takes over your tactile senses. You know that leather jacket is approaching fast. You get to it, and with a quick grab of the fist, remove it from your wardrobe and swiftly cover your torso. The mood has been set. Rebellion it is. You’ve even got your hair slicked back. Like backstreet boys meets sons of anarchy. Ok, drop that visual. But you nevertheless get the point.
The question remains though, what happens if you have more than one leather jacket? Or if you have none, and you are looking to ‘man up’ your wardrobe. In this comprehensive leather jacket guide, we will answer all these questions and more.
Why Wear A Leather Jacket
Well, plain and simple – it makes you look like a badass. Who wouldn’t want that vibe? Dispelling the popular notion that leather jackets are simply for an aesthetic purpose, they also provide a functional one, making them an incredibly compelling item to add to your wardrobe.
Courtesy of www.hommyshop.com
First and foremost however, leather coats do connote masculinity. Tough guys and alpha men have worn them since the early days of human history, when the best source of a leather jacket was derived from your personal conquests in the animal kingdom. Thankfully, the contemporary functioning of a well oiled economy doesn’t necessitate Braveheart like behavior to don a leather jacket!
The timeless notion of the rebel, the warrior, the tough guy still linger on though – and in mostly a good way. Even a smooth and polished leather look, sans studs and spikes, conjures associations of manhood, toughness and swag.
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The leather jacket as we know it today came into the forefront in the early 1900’s. Brown leather flight jackets were worn in aviation and the military, and notably with the German Air Force during World War I. The contemporary leather jacket was conceived in 1928 by Manhattan based rain coat manufacturer, Irving Schott, who designed a motorbike jacket for Harley Davidson. The jacket was specifically created to protect riders from the elements and accidents.
Subsequent to that, during World War II, the flight jacket became known as the bomber, and was prized for its warmth, having been designed for open cockpits.
There is a reason that leather jackets are your motorcyclists go to item. While it is not going to provide complete protection against a sledgehammer incident with the pavement, it is spades better than denim or alternative variations of cloth.
Longevity and Durability
In the contemporary world of fast fashion, leather jackets are one of the few antidotes. A proper, staple leather jacket will stand the test of time, in addition to providing your wardrobe with a shot of versatility!
The significant advantage that leather enjoys over cloth lays in composition of the fabric. Leather consists of a solid mat of fibers that are all pressed together. There is nothing to unravel, even if the surface undergoes a deep cut. While the damage will remain, the rest of the fabric remains intact.
The type of leather that you are opting for will depend on both the type of aesthetic that you want, in addition the functional requirements you are seeking. If you are looking for something soft and smooth, you are best off prioritizing lambskin or calfskin, but it is important to note that these will not be as durable as a thicker biker type leather jacket.
For the best quality and hence longevity, opt for a full grain. While these are considerably steeper in price than other alternatives, they utilize the best quality hides. As such, these jackets will take a while to break into, but will be well worth it!
For something more affordable, top grain leathers are a great option. These have had the natural skin sanded off and been stamped, to give the leather a uniform, even aesthetic.
Alternatively, if you are looking for something conscious or cheaper, synthetic alternatives such as polyutherane will provide the look of leather, without using actual animal skins.
Types Of Leather Jackets
Courtesy of www.theoneandash.com
The most prevalent type of jacket out there, the biker jacket was pioneered by American brand Schott- the first brand to invent the modern biker jacket, the Perfecto, that has only grown in popularity over the year.
The biker jacket is a cropped leather jacket, usually in black, complete with studs and asymmetric zips. This asymmetric cut was created to allow motorcyclists to lean over their bikes, without the fastenings digging into their bodies.
One of the earliest examples of the biker jacket popularized by Marlon Brando, comprised of a snug fit, with lapels designed to fold down or over each other and zipped all the way up.
The Perfecto Leather Jacket is still manufactured with high quality full grain American leather, and is considered a value purchase given its longevity.
The biker jacket provides an edgy, youthful style that is best paired with fitted jeans. Other suggestions include wearing a turtle neck sweater, a Henley or a polo shirt underneath. Your options are fairly wide – with the most important requirement being that what you are wearing underneath isn’t too dense, so as to keep the jacket and silhouette close to your body.
Courtesy of www.fjackets.com
Bomber Jackets were initially designed for the crew of planes that they derive their name from. Bomber jackets are waist length leather jackets with a soft inner lining. The center front zipper is often covered by a placket for enhanced protection against the wind. Standard details include hems along with ribbed cuffs, along with two larger front flap pockets.
The bomber jacket is typically cropped at the hips, making it easier to wear when sitting.
The bomber jacket is a great addition to any gentleman’s wardrobe, as it offers a variety of options for styling. This jacket has been further popularized on screen by people including Steve McQueen and Hugh Jackman in Wolverine.
Courtesy of www.macys.com
With the exception of military and sportswear, one of the strongest influences in the menswear realm is the automotive world – the racer jacket being one of those examples.
Racer jackets are snug, streamlined jackets, with a central front zipper and a minimal collar or no collar at all. These jackets lack the warm lining of a bomber jacket, and the flaps of a biker jacket. However, in a natural leather color or in plain black, they are your dressiest option. With their streamlined aesthetic, they offer a far more neutral style than their counterparts.
Aviator / Flight Jacket
Courtesy of www.usajacket.com
With a similar background to the bomber jacket, the aviator jacket has its origins in the air force. While the bomber jacket has evolved over the years to become even more streamlined, the aviator jacket has remained largely the same. The quintessential aviator leather jacket is comprised of shearling, in dark brown leather. Signature details include a front zipper covered by a placket for enhanced protection against the wind.
How To Wear A Leather Jacket
Whether you are looking for a more semi-formal look or want to dress down for a more casual aesthetic, a men’s leather jacket can inject your wardrobe with versatility! Generally, the less detailed a leather jacket is, the more it can be used in semi-formal settings such as a casual work environment. That being said, a casual jacket can also be made to look edgy with a formal twist on an evening out!
What To Wear With A Leather Biker Jacket
One of the more versatile leather jackets out there, try pairing your biker jacket with a plain white t-shirt and a pair of dark denim jeans for a classic, timeless look. This provides for a look that is perfect for most day to day situations. This can be paired with sneakers for a casual look, or with Chelsea boots for a more sophisticated approach. Similarly, you can use the same components to create a brown biker leather jacket look.
Courtesy of www.americasuits.com
Looking to dress up your leather jacket, but in a more casual setting, such as an evening out with friends or date night? Try pairing your leather jacket with a skinny tie or knit tie, both of which are narrower in width than a regular silk tie, adding a formal but casual dapper look to your ensemble!
Courtesy of www.lookastic.com
To view The Dark Knot’s range of Knit Ties, please click here.
To view The Dark Knot’s range of Skinny Ties, please click here.
What To Wear With A Bomber Jacket
A bomber jacket, given its relative lack of detailing, makes it highly versatile across both casual, dress casual and even semi-formal occasions. Looking for something sleek and easy? Pair it with a plain white or grey v-neck t-shirt. A classic, timeless look.
Courtesy of www.thejacketmaker.com
Alternatively, this can be worn with a very light sweatshirt underneath, or an oxford shirt with a knit tie. Polish off the look with leather or beaded bracelets!
Courtesy of www.overland.com
What To Wear With A Racer Jacket
The lighter and less detailed a jacket, the more it can work in a semi-formal / casual setting at work. While you would want to avoid a biker jacket with studs at the office, a racer jacket can work wonders at the office assuming casual is permitted!
Looking for a slick look with a racer jacket? How about a chambray shirt, dark denim jeans or chinos and a pair of Chelsea boots to really elevate your style. Finish off the look with a knitted tie, a leather bracelet or both, and you’re good to go!
Courtesy of www.bloomingdales.com
Please feel free to view The Dark Knot’s range of Knit Ties
Please feel free to view The Dark Knot’s range of Leather Bracelets
What To Wear With a Flight Leather Jacket
While the flight leather jacket provides significant insulation with its shearling lining for warmth, it is best to balance out this heavy outerwear with minimal layering. Keep it simple with dark denim or trousers, and a white t-shirt. Essentially, you want to balance the weight of the jacket with lighter complementary pieces.
Courtesy of www.thursdayboots.com
Black vs Brown Leather Jackets
When determining the color of choice for your pending leather jacket purchase, it is important to note that both black and brown are highly versatile, and can be worn with virtually any color top and pants. Black, however, does provide more of an edge, while brown is softer on the eyes.
Black is typically considered the quintessential leather jacket color, often associated with biker jackets. A good rule of thumb would be to start off with one black jacket and then introduce a brown jacket such a racer, which, with a softer look, can be worn to more semi-formal settings such as an office that permits said attire.
How Should A Leather Jacket Fit?
Shoulders – The jacket shoulder seams should line up as close as possible to the points of your shoulders.
Armholes – Like with a sports jacket or blazer, the higher the armholes, the better the fit. If the armhole is cut too low, the jacket will shift with any arm movement, which is a definite no! A lower armhole is indicative of a poorly cut jacket, and worse yet, an inadequately fitted jacket.
Sleeve – Opt for a fitted sleeve length that is not too tight. Look for sleeve length that ends at your wrist or the base of your thumbs.
Length – The ideal leather jacket should be just long enough to cover your waistline / belt.
What To Look For In A High Quality Leather Jacket
So you’ve figured out the type of jacket that you want. Heck, you even know what to wear it with and the type of occasion to wear it to. But that elusive question looms. How do you determine what constitutes a high quality leather jacket?
1. Type Of Leather
The biggest variable in determining the quality of your jacket is the type of leather:
Full Grain is made from the entire hide including the outer layer of skin. Full grain is durable and long lasting, but frequently has blemishes from the animal’s lifetime. Full grain leather jackets are desirable because of the natural pores in the fabric making it more breathable. Additionally, this finishing retains natural oils, which makes the leather soft.
Full Grain leather contains the entire grain layer, without any removal of the surface. Courtesy of www.unihandmade.com
Top Grain is often the preferred choice because these jackets are more comfortable. Top grain uses the entire hide, but typically, has the skin smoothed off to create an even surface. The process of smoothening out the leather is known as ‘correction’. Corrected leather is leather that has been sanded down to remove imperfections, removing the original grain, yielding a pseudo animal skin grain via what is known as mechanical pressing.
Top grain leather is typically sanded down or corrected to smoothen out the leather. Courtesy of www.unihandmade.com
Corrected Leathers are then treated with oils and dye, to make them more appealing. This results in an even, uniform grain of leather.
Genuine Leather is an industry term used to denote leather made from the inner hide. Genuine Leather is thinner, cheaper and less durable than top grain or full grain, but is still derived from an entire animal hide.
Courtesy of www.bestleather.org
Bonded Leather refers to cheaper, lower quality material that is composed of scraps of pressed down leather that have been synthetically fused together.
In general, you are best off opting for a Full Grain or Top Grain Leather Jacket!
2. Top / Edge Stitching.
While not all leather jackets will have top / edge stitching, this feature will be found in higher quality jackets. While this stitching is mostly decorative, it does add a stamp of manufacturing integrity that lower quality jackets don’t necessarily warrant. Higher quality jackets will be topstitched with heavier duty threads that stand out, whereas cheaper alternatives will use thinner threads or avoid topstitching entirely.
Top Stitching is a hallmark of a high quality leather jacket.
3. Cut & Fit
As mentioned above, and with any piece of clothing in a discerning gentleman’s wardrobe, cut & fit are of paramount importance. Lower priced jackets are designed for mass consumption, and so will be designed to fit as many people as possible. This results in a looser cut and a generally unflattering aesthetic.
4.Sleeve & Body Lining
An often overlooked element, higher quality leather jackets will use different types of lining for the body and the sleeves, with the sleeves typically having a softer lining that makes it easier to slip on. Cheaper jackets often have a simple, synthetic lining that is often prone to easy tear.
Courtesy of www.anchorsupplies.com
5. Zipper Quality
Who would have thought?!? Higher end leather jackets typically utilize heavier duty, higher quality zippers that can withstand all the pulling. These high end zippers are often 10-15x more expensive than standard zippers.
Courtesy of www.leatherrick.com
Detailing with any item of clothing is traditionally a hallmark of superior quality. Higher end leather jackets generally utilize a greater degree of detailing, paying attention to areas such as seams, cuts, zipper details, pockets and so forth.
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So while you're out there shopping around, looking for your perfect jacket, keep these things in mind:
- Leather jackets do, in fact, make you look like more of a badass.
- Leather jackets tend to have a long shelf life and are worth the money.
- There are many style types of leather jackets to choose from: biker, bomber, racer and aviator/flight. Each unique to personal style.
- Leather jackets are so versatile in style that you can wear them in most settings. Dress it up with a chunky knit tie or nice sweater, or down with just a solid white v-neck and jeans.
- Black is the traditional leather jacket color, but you often see racers in shades of brown. It's a good rule of thumb to own black first and then introduce a brown, but do as your personal style sees fit.
- Get any leather jacket that you love, just make sure that it fits correctly.
- When evaluating jacket quality, factors to consider are: leather type and quality, top/edge stitching, cut & fit, sleeve & body lining and small added details like zips on the cuffs and sides of the jacket.
And that’s a wrap for this one! We hope that you have enjoyed reading this as much as we did writing it.