If you don’t have a particularly powerful flavor for gold plated tops or diamond-encrusted panties, a leather jacket will probably be the largest investment you will ever make in your wardrobe. Splash out on a great one, as well as your future grandkids might wind up wearing it. On the other hand, do not begin believing you can go from zero to badass just by throwing lots of cash at the issue. A badly-fitting leather jacket seems silly, however much it cost.
We undertake one of the most tricky sartorial matters around with a record of four things everyone should remember when looking to purchase a leather jacket.
Pick Your Fashion
A leather jacket is not so much an item of clothing as an expansion of your character. More so than every other garment you have, your option says something about you – so do not go writing checks your style can not cash.
There are six or five principal styles to select from when looking to purchase a leather jacket. An actual basic of dress that is rebel, for many the iconic Schott 613 Perfecto is the sole name you should understand in this class, although a lot of others exist. Check out ASOS, Surface To Acne Air and Givenchy for a wide selection of costs and goods.
For a sportier appearance, the “motocross” (also called the “cafe racer”) coat does away with all unneeded zips, studs and epaulettes for a purposefully streamlined fit that was initially meant to minimize drag while racing at high rates. Its naturally body-hugging cut means this design should actually just be worn over a T shirt or another underlayer that is slender. Diesel make an adequate affordable alternative, while Phillip Plein, Lanvin and Saint Laurent are at the opposite end of the spectrum.
Similar in shape to the moto, although with a very different history, the classic “bomber” is more prone to be thickly lined (to keep those aviators warm at 10,000 feet), and generally features an elasticated collar, hem and cuffs made from cotton or wool. Assess Anerkjendt, All Saints and Alexandre Mattiusi for examples, along with this headturner from Hood By Air. Meanwhile, the College coat is a popular subversion of this style (seen here in this piece from Beams Plus) that features a wool body and leather sleeves.
Elsewhere, the “fencing” jacket is a slim, form-fitting choice that incorporates a high turtle-neck collar that opens out when unzipped. Rick Owens is the father of the look unless you possess a lot of black, and you shouldn’t attempt it. Eventually, the “exhaustion” jacket (like this one from Belstaff) is the one exception to the rule that leather should never hang lower than your hips, and frequently has a belted waist to prevent looking too boxy.
Under no conditions should you get carried away and attempt anything. This is simply not The Matrix and you will look like a massive tool, no matter what measurement you’re in.
Under no circumstances should you get carried away and attempt anything longer than this. This is not The Matrix and you’ll look like a massive tool, regardless of what dimension you are in.
Taking the time to pick the right skin for your coat is a choice you’ll thank yourself for every single time you place it on. This critical selection will order everything from appearances to operation, to relaxation and long lasting durability, so it is not a thing you need to take. Having said that, the tanning of leather is a really complicated process and there are many, many aspects to take into account. Here’s a brief breakdown of a number of them:
The first choice is what animal you want your leather to come from. While you might think most leather comes from cows, in actual fact bovine leather (also known as steerhide) is fairly stiff and takes a long time to wear in. As such, it’s often reserved for the more practical end of the market (motorcycle protection etc.) along with similar hides like horse or buffalo. A far softer alternative is calfskin, which is pliable and feels like it’s broken-in almost from the first wear, but is less hardwearing in the long run.
A sound alternative to these is goatskin, which manages to be long-lasting and supple at exactly the same time, as well as highly water repellent. Sheepskin is not heavier than cow or goat and has some similar qualities that are elastic, but is not as demanding. Lambskin is the thinnest, lightest and softest of them all, but is very fine and likely to tear and scratch easily. Your final selection is pigskin, which – despite what some might say – is truly a fine choice if tanned nicely. Soft and pliable, it has a very slight grain that makes it seem smoother than many alternatives, although poor-quality pigskin can not look clearly expensive.
The following thing to think about is the kind of leather. Raw creature hide comes in a variety of thicknesses, determined by the animal it came from, and all these are split into various styles. Simply the top quality hides are appropriate for creating full grain leather and that is represented in its cost. Because of its depth, it’s quite stiff and over time will produce an all-natural patina, developing a particular type of beauty that is exceptional with years.
One step down is top-grain leather, which has the under “split” layer removed, leaving just the outer layer. This is thinner and more flexible than full-grain, and is often coated with colored stains or weatherproofing materials to increase its useful application. As such, it doesn’t develop a patina, meaning a top-grain jacket’s looks will remain broadly the same throughout its lifespan. Most fashion jackets (as opposed to functional jackets) on the market today will be made of top-grain leather.
Corrected grain, meanwhile, is the lowest grade of leather available and is stamped with an artificial pattern to simulate the look of higher grades. It’s unlikely you will find a jacket made from this material, but you certainly shouldn’t buy one if you do. Finally, split grain leather is the underside of the hide (divided from the top-grain), which is then lightly abraded to produce suede.
The last thing to consider is the tanning and finishing process applied to the hide. Both main procedures used nowadays are chrome and vegetable tanning (although many more exist), and they could be broadly looked at as synthetic and natural strategies. Chrome tanning – using the chemical chromium sulphate – is really quick, and produces a soft, uniformly coloured leather with strong weatherproof credentials, like this. It appearances notably more manufactured and is, however, awful for the environment. Nappa leather is almost constantly chrome tanned.
Vegetable tanning is the centuries-old practice of treating leather using wood barks and other plant matter, and is what most great quality jackets will choose for. It’s a procedure that is far slower, making it more expensive, but one that’s kinder to the environment and that creates rich, natural appearing hues that’ll hide buffs and scratches well. The important disadvantage of vegetable-tanned leather is its predisposition to stain or discolor somewhat when wet, after the tanning process is finished, although this may be decreased with the inclusion of weatherproofing treatments.
Find A Good Fit
As we mentioned earlier, without a good fit, all that money you poured into good quality leather and a stylish cut is like sticking chrome rims on your grandma’s Volvo. A good jacket should look and feel as effortless as a second skin, so you need a fit that suits your frame. By and large it should sit close to the body, so the general advice is to be sparing with your underlayers and take a size smaller than the one you might normally opt for. After all, this is not a winter coat, and you are not an eskimo.
High-cut armholes are commonplace in good quality pieces and ideally there should be just enough room to move your arms freely without any unsightly bits of loose-hanging leather at the armpit or shoulder. The sleeves, meanwhile, should come down no longer than the wrists, while the rest of the jacket should sit at waist height in all cases but the Fatigue style (as mentioned earlier).
Those with a thinner shape will benefit from a tight or elasticated waistband, as it will accentuate the shoulders and suggest a broader torso. Conversely, the bulkier among you should avoid anything that will stretch around your contours or make you look more round. Go for a straight cut, unless you want to look like a beer-swilling nightclub bouncer.
By following these tips you should avoid most of the major style crimes committed by leather-sporting novices. Just remember: leather is incredibly difficult to tailor or get altered, so you need a good fit from day one. Always try before you buy and don’t ever order online unless you know you can return it.
Pay Attention To The Finish
Unless you’re stacking serious pocket change, buying a leather jacket is likely to be a major long-term investment, so you’ll want it to last. While it is technically possible to replace things like zips, buttons and buckles if they wear out, doing so is neither cheap nor easy, so save yourself the headache and make sure the hardware is up to scratch before you hand over any green. YKK or RiRi zips are a must – anything less is a con.
Beyond that, be sure to check the quality of the lining. If a jacket is lined with something thin and flimsy, then chances are the leather is cheap and low-grade too. What’s more, if that lining rips, you’re going to have a serious job on your hands to replace it. Check the stitching at the seams both inside and outside for an indication of how many man-hours went into producing it. A good quality jacket will be stitched densely and evenly with strong polyester thread, and should have no loose ends or potential points of weakness to come undone further down the line.
With all this knowledge at your disposal, you should find yourself equipped to make a purchase you will love for decades. Stay tuned for future posts in this series and check out the entire Check Before You Buy archive.