First worn as a flight jacket in the early 1900s, the leather jacket is now a style essential for men more than 100 years on. But knowing how to wear a leather jacket poses a flight risk for many.
It makes sense considering the leather jacket’s played so many roles since its aviator origins: on the silver screen with Marlon Brando in The Wild One, and centre stage in the Seventies as punk bands (think the Sex Pistols) took the leather jacket for ransom.
Going hell for leather, brands are now offering a plethora of jacket styles, steeped in subcultural references and contemporary trends. Preppy lads, cowboys, punks, bikers and mods are all privy to the delights of leather, as well as today’s athleisured.
So with all this choice, how to wear a leather jacket today? Read on for our simple yet comprehensive guide on wearing the fashion item, whatever your personal style or the occasion.
#1 Bold Contemporary
An eclectic mix of embroideries, studs and details is defining the new leather jacket in menswear. Jackets come richly embellished with hand-painted florals, stitched military markings in gold and accented with studs. These details can be seen on the arms and chest areas the leather, creating a quasi-tattoo on the body.
The biggest jacket trend, however, is the statement appliqué on the back of leathers. Embroidered words, a sentence or an animal, bird or plants are softening the ruggedness of the leather jacket.
Style the look with a neutral outfit, void of other prints, letting the flamboyant jacket be the feature of an off-duty outfit.
#2 Biker Rock
The leather perfecto – an asymmetrical, lancer fronted motorcycle jacket – roars along to a punk rock tune for a blend of biker and badass. Big on details – metallic hardware (made up of zips, buttons and press studs), as well as front pockets and shoulder lapels, the perfecto is designed to pack a sartorial punch (in the face) as an off-duty look.
All-black styling – with denim that’s ripped and a vintage-wash t-shirt – enhance the rocker rebellion, while plaid shirts give off a nineties vibe and inject some colour into the monochrome. Pair with boots (biker or Chelsea) or a creeper-sole Derby shoe for a sense of new-wave punk. Accessorise with metallic jewellery.
#3 Sports Luxe
Getting on the athleisure train doesn’t always mean windbreakers and shell jackets (and Lycra). The leather perfecto jacket is an essential outerwear piece, worn as a definitive luxury when teamed with sweats.
The hoodie – in soft cotton jersey and zip-through construction – tops-off the track suit over black track pants; cuffed at the hem and in slim-fit for comfortable street style. Opt for a leather duffle bag as fashionably functional accessory to tie in the jacket.
Finally, keep your feet neat with active sneakers or low-cut leather kicks. The former – when you’re actually heading to the gym, the latter – best for days out-and-about.
#4 Cool Collegiate
Not everyone wants to look like they’re in a band or just hopped-off their Harley. Consider the preppy look, then. The varsity-inspired bomber is classic and collegiate, but with leather sleeves which add a bit of edge to your day.
When it’s not leather, it’s wool – ultra warm and naturally luxurious. Black and navy are a subtle colour combination and keep the jacket minimal and chic.
Style the varsity jacket with slim blue jeans and charcoal knit, closing the top button for an open a-frame shape (and Italian sprezzatura). Grungy accessories make this feel less sports prep: fingerless gloves, black wayfarers, and even a smart leather folio for functional style.
#5 Parisian Chic
Parisian men are in a league of their own when it comes to style. Simple, mais chic. In true minimalist design, the spread collar leather jacket (like a Harrington with a shirt-inspired collar) is a sleek outerwear option for day-to-night dressing. The jacket – with its collar’s nod to formalwear – looks best crafted in lightly textured leather (like calfskin). It should fit and sit like a piece of tailoring.
Stick to a dark palette – black and white – with a hint of grey or brown, to soften the monochrome.Play with knit layers or a crisp button-down shirt switching between slim-cut black jeans or a woollen trouser, depending on the temperature. Chelsea boots or leather lace-ups keep the Paris refinement.
#6 Office Charm
The leather jacket has a job to do in the modern office too. Stick to the uniform bomber for work (not the biker) and consider tan or brown suede instead of a polished black. Finally, avoid any embellishments and heavy padding, letting the weight and cut of the suede hug the shoulders.
All zippers and buttons should blend in and pockets kept to a minimum. Likewise, select a minimal collar and cuffs – nothing overly ribbed (this will look more collegiate than corporate).
Now, add a sharp shirt-and-tie combination and refrain from doing the jacket all the way up. Goodbye, stuffy work-look.