Made cool in the fifties by Brando, McQueen and James Dean, the leather jacket has since sustained a long lasting covenant with the modern man.
The timeless wardrobe piece has seen us through the proceeding decades effortlessly, with only a slight shoulder-pad and acid-wash glitch in the eighties. That said, the last ten years have been good to the leather jacket, smoothing any incongruous fit and colour issues.
Today men have a plethora of leather options to choose from via the most fashionable luxury brands. The last order of the call is simply showing you how to wear it properly. Leather up and learn.
Knowing The Basics
The key to buying a leather jacket is finding a type that already rides well with your personal style – don’t be somebody you’re not.
Then, nail the fit (think slim and flat to the body), before selecting the leather type (calf, cow, lamb or goat) and a neutral colour. A neutral colour ensures that it can be paired easier with your existing wardrobe like jeans.
Honing in on the finer details is the final step to personalisation; selecting how many zips, buttons and metal things you want – or none at all, is all part of the your personal taste. If you’re new to leather jackets start with something clean and understated first and then move your way up as you get more comfortable with wearing them. The leather is your oyster.
Style It Up Your Way
Leather jackets require confidence. Celebrities and rockstars wear them to stand-out and make a grungy style statement. That said, you can find a clean-cut, more demure type. Knowing your personal style is important, helping you decide what jacket style is most appropriate.
Leather jacket styles are defined by length, the way it closes or zips (and just how much hardware it boasts) and the collar. There are generally three types: the ‘bomber’, the ‘biker’ and the ‘racer’.
The bomber is the most casual looking. Recognised by its waist-length, the jacket is made from soft leather, which tends to be more malleable giving it a relaxed look. The jacket has contrast trim (sometimes in contrast colour and fabric), which usually mixes up the waist and sleeve cuffs for a succinct fit. Hardware in minimal, with solely a symmetrical zip up the front, with functional kangaroo-pouch side pockets – or without.
The biker (think Marlon Brando) boasts large lapels and a flared collar, that can be snapped down for extra security. Packed with metallic hardware (studs, plugs and zips), the front zipper is normally asymmetrical, allowing the wider side to fold in underneath its partner.
Go Speed Racer
The racer is the most standard looking despite its motocross-look. They are streamlined jackets with a little collar that snaps shut, or can be without a collar at all. Straight zipped, they aren’t lined with plush fabric and have no lapels or extra hardware to flash things up.
Focus On The Fit
The fit of the leather jacket – like a suit – is paramount. But unlike a bad fitting jacket or blazer, leather jackets can’t be altered easily and it’s expensive if you do.
So what should you look for exactly? The jacket should sit cling to the contours of your body, with shoulders cutting sharp and square on the shoulder – like a blazer.
A leather jacket isn’t really designed for wearing over bulk layers – more a fine-gauge sweater or tee – so buy the smallest size that fits, allowing for a bit of stretch to occur. Your arms should be able to move freely and not feel tight and uncomfortable. The length of the sleeves should skim the the wrist and hem bottom should cut at the belt line.
The skinny guy should opt for a tight or elasticated waistband, tapering the body section and accentuating the shoulders. The larger gent should go for a straight cut – avoiding anything that will cling to lumps and bumps. Same rule applies for muscles, gym junkie.
In summary, leather jackets are expensive – unless you’re more of a cheap guy, so play around with fit and brands. And try, before you buy.
Cover Your Hide
The type of leather or skin affects the coat’s function and feel. There is no perfect leather, with each carrying its own unique characteristics. In general, larger animals tend to have more durable, sturdy skins, while the smaller animals are known for softness and are more lightweight.
There’s also the quality of skin, which also changes what the leather feels like to touch. This relates to the lifestyle of the animal before it was killed, the tanning or manufacturing process, and the final finish application.
Cowhide is the most common leather. It’s slightly cheaper and tougher and has a resilience to water and dirt like no other. It’s a great protector because of its thickness, but can take time to wear in. It comes mostly in a matte finish giving the jacket a more casual feel.
Similar to cowhide’s rugged feel and durability, bison skin differentiates itself with a natural graininess on the skin, which adds texture to the jacket and gives it a raw, earthy aesthetic.
Goatskin is a popular choice for most luxury brands, and is recognised for its pebbly grain. Goatskin is softer, lighter, and more flexible than cowhide. It’s durable and wears-in well, becoming more supple, and better-looking as the years roll on.
Lambskin is the most luxurious of leather for its softness, suppleness, and wearability. It has a luxurious texture and is quite versatile, creating a more chic leather jacket. It’s naturally very lightweight and creates a jacket that can be worn all year-round – whatever the season.
Keep It Classic Cool
The timelessness of the leather jacket does depend on what colour you choose. Like suits, neutral colours such as brown, brown, and grey are your best bet. Navy and contrast-sleeved biker types are more fashion-y and are a different option for guys who may already have a classic leather in their cupboard.
Fashion can also be played around a bit with suede as the coat tends to come in brown (from to tan to chocolate), meaning it can work as seamlessly into an outfit as black leather would.
Stick to one suede piece as break away from leather, opting for shearling on the collar for extra plushness. But avoid gimmicky tassels or fringing and anything that looks even remotely metro sexual cowboy – unless you have matching ass-less chaps.