The following is a guest article from Peter Nguyen of The Essential Man.

 

Ah, Fall is here, or what I like to call “Leather Weather”.

01 George Harrison

A young George Harrison wearing a bomber jacket. Photo via PAPERMAG.

I first fell in love with leather jackets working with Robert Geller, where he walked me through a new leather jacket straight from the factory in Japan on my very first day.

Since then, I created my own leather jacket line and amassed more leather jackets than any one guy should honestly have at one time.

A proper, staple leather jacket will not only last you forever, it’s timeless and extremely versatile, a no brainer when it comes to building your lean wardrobe.

Outside of the suit, a leather jacket will be one of the biggest investments a guy will make in his wardrobe. Just like a suit, there’s something transformative about putting on a properly fitted leather jacket.

There’s no other way to describe it: You feel like a badass.

Barron has invited me to help you become a leather expert so you can pick the perfect leather jacket for you.

FREE BONUS: I put together a special page for Effortless Gent readers. There you’ll find a FREE package that includes a full color, 26-page e-book version of this post and a printable leather jacket quality checklist to help you pick up the perfect jacket.

 

Five Common Leather Jacket Styles

02 Jeff Goldblum

Jeff Goldblum in a classic double rider jacket. Photo via USAToday.

While you can technically make any jacket style into a leather jacket simply by making it in leather, there are roughly five types of jackets you’ll most likely run into and want to consider when it comes to picking up your staple jacket.

The Schott Perfecto (aka “Double Rider Jacket”)

03 Schott Perfecto

Schott 50s Perfect Leather Biker Jacket via Mr. Porter.

Ever since Marlon Brando donned a Schott Perfecto in “The Wild One”, the Perfecto became what most picture when they hear ‘leather jacket.’

It’s hard to top this classic.

The Perfecto is still made with high quality full grain leather in the USA, and with most models clocking in at under $900, it’s hands down the best buy you can make.

Fun fact: “Perfecto” is actually a trademarked term, the generic term for this jacket design is called a “rider” or “double rider” jacket (the latter of which is more accurate, considering it’s double-breasted). Variations will have two zippers instead of one.

The Racer Jacket

04 Cafe Racer

Schott Café Racer Jacket via Mr. Porter.

A center front zipper jacket, traditionally with a band collar, with very minimal design details. Classic racer jacket pockets are zippered. The simplicity of this jacket make it an extremely easy and versatile jacket to wear.

The A2 Flight Jacket

05 A2 Flight Jacket

Schott Shearling Trimmed Leather Bomber via Mr. Porter.

Sometimes referred to as a “flight jacket” or “bomber”, the A2 is a originally a military designed pilot’s leather jacket. The center front zipper is often covered by a placket for added protection against the wind.

Signature details include ribbed cuffs and hems, along with two large front flap pockets.

Traditionally insulated to keep pilots warm at high altitudes, A2s are usually cropped at the hips to make it easy to wear when sitting. Some will often have fur collars, which is a detail from the newer G1 model.

The MA1 Bomber

06 MA1 Jacket

Supreme x Schott Leather MA1 Bomber via Supreme.

Similar to the A2 bomber, the MA1 is originally a military design, and is originally made in nylon. The generic term for this jacket is also a bomber.

Some distinct features to separate it from the A2: Ribbed collar and slit pockets instead of the two front flap pockets, and a zipper pocket on the left sleeve.

This is one of the most popular casual jacket styles for men, and is often adopted in leather, though more sleeker than the puffy military version of the jacket.

The Fencing Jacket

07 Fencing Jacket

Carol Christian Poell Double Fencing Jacket, Photo via Superfuture.

Adapted from the jackets fencers wear, zippers are placed extremely asymmetrically (and sometimes feature a strong S curve design).

This style is generally favored by higher-end avant garde labels, like Rick Owens, Carol Christian Poell and Julius.

 

The Dirty Little Secret of Leather Factories

08 Leather Factory

You don’t run your own leather jacket brand without learning a few surprising things.

There are fewer factories in the United States than there were 20 years ago, and even fewer of those specialize in leather. That means that a lot of jackets, from the less expensive to high end, are often made in the same factories.

A factory I worked with in NYC will sew a $2,000 retail leather jacket right next to a pile of $500 leather jackets they just finished. So, if the quality of the sewing is the same, what would make a jacket four times more expensive?

The simplest way to answer that question is to show you a rundown of how I would go about designing a $500 and a $2000 jacket.

 

The Leather Jacket Showdown

09 500 vs 2000

Keep in mind, these are rules of thumb and not set in stone, simply what I’ve observed as a designer and as a shopper. It will give you a realistic idea of what to expect when you go jacket hunting.

Personally, I would be VERY cautious of jackets under $500 (truthfully, even $500 is pushing it unless we’re talking used jackets – more on that later). I’ll give you some recommendations of jackets in prices later, but let’s get into the illustrated showdown:

Leather

The biggest factor in the price of the jacket? The quality of the leather.

Cheaper jackets will use leather that is corrected. Animals that have a lot of scarring, branding or knicks from how they are raised.  These skins will be sanded down and sometimes faux leather grains will be pressed into it, as well as extra spraying of dyes and treatments to make them more uniform.

Because of these top coatings, corrected leathers will have an overly smooth, plastic feel, versus the soft, oily, uneven textured nature of uncorrected skins.

Top Stitching

10 Topstitching

Heavy duty Gütterman top stitching.

Topstitching, a decorative stitching on garments, is a highly desirable detail on leather jackets. It’s usually done along the edges of seams and pockets, and gives the jacket more visual punch. Think of it like bolding text.

High end jackets will specifically use a thick thread by German company Güttermann.

Designers will cut cost by using regular, thin thread and/or limiting the amount of top stitching on a garment, sometimes taking it out all together.

Linings

Cheaper jackets (like cheaper blazers and suits) will usually use lower grade synthetic linings in the entire garments.

These linings often shred and tear easily, feel really dry and don’t breathe well. These cheap synthetics are often the first things to fall apart over time.

Pricier jackets will often have two different linings – one for the body and one for the sleeve. Body linings will often be higher quality synthetic, warmer cottons, sometimes insulated and quilted.

Sleeves will usually be lined in a beautiful silk or silk-like fabric, such as cupro (sometimes called Bemberg), an extremely breathable material made from fibers of the cotton plant, and make the jacket feel a lot more luxurious when you put it on.

Armholes/Sleeves

Cheaper jackets (again, much like cheaper suits) will go for larger, lower armholes to accommodate more body types in order to increase the likelihood of making a sale.

Pricier jackets will have higher set armholes. The advantage of having a higher armhole is better arm movement, making for a better overall fit. When an armhole is too large and low, it will literally pull on the body of the jacket when you move your arms.

Design Elements

A lower end jacket will often be simpler in design overall, because the less design elements a jacket has, the cheaper and faster it is to make.

Less design details means less pieces to cut, less pieces to line up, less to sew. This means less interesting elements, simpler pockets, and sometimes no inner pockets.

Zippers

The most common zipper is the YKK, which tend to be made of lighter metal. RiRi zippers, my personal favorite, have an overall stronger build, are buttery smooth to zip up, with much shinier finishes that are more visually appealing.

11 YKK VS RIRI

Left to right: YKK Zipper and a RiRi Zipper in equivalent sizes. Notice the thinner flat pull tab and smaller teeth on the YKK zipper.

Higher end jackets will often have RiRi zippers, or custom heavier weight zippers that are less likely to break instead of YKKs. The price difference between using a YKK Zipper vs a RiRi zipper is often 10x per zipper.

High end designers will also often opt for 2-way main zippers, which make jackets more comfortable to wear when you’re sitting, as you can let the jacket out from the bottom.

 

Leather: The Good, The Luxurious, and The Ugly

12 Jude Law

Jude Law wearing a fencing leather jacket by Carol Christian Poell. Photo via Upscale Hype.

Now that you know what goes into a $2000 jacket compared to cheaper jackets, let’s talk about the most important part of a leather jacket: the leather.

When it comes to leather jackets, you have a good handful of animal skin choices, all with pros and cons.

13 Cow and Lamb

Left to right: cow and lambskin.

The two big ones you’ll most often run into are cow leather and lambskin. Cow used to be the king, but you’ll find that lambskin is more common now because it’s extremely soft.

The downside to lambskin though is that it’s generally more expensive because the size of the raw skins are smaller than a cow, meaning designers have to buy more to make one jacket.

My personal favorite variety is calfskin, basically a young cow. It has the properties of both cow and lamb – it’s as soft as lamb, but durable like a cow.

The downside is that calfskin is much more expensive than even lamb, because a full grown cow yields more skin (and meat) than a calf, so it’s more economically worth it for the farmer to raise the cow to maturity.

Here’s a rundown of other leather types you’ll encounter, and what to expect:

Common

14 Suede

Suede: To make suede, the top portion of leather is separated from the bottom, rougher layer, known as the corium.

These are split further depending on their thickness, and then shaved and sanded smooth to give it its signature soft, fuzzy texture.

Suede is typically made from goat or lamb. Lamb suede is softer than goat, but goat is more durable.

The big downside of suede is that it absolutely cannot get wet, as it will dry and get extremely hard.

Luckily, there are a handful of suede protectors you can purchase to make your jacket water repellent without changing the softness.

More Luxurious

15 Goat horse deer bison

Clockwise: Goat, Horse, Bison, Deer.

Goat: Similar to lambskin, but not as smooth or buttery soft and has a tight pebbly texture.

Horse: Slightly stiffer than cow, extremely durable, generally smoother grain and high shine, needs a good amount of breaking in.

Deerskin/Elk: Extremely durable, traditionally yellow/orange tint leather, though they’re sometimes dyed black or brown.

Pig: Similar to cow, very durable with some varying textures.

Bison: Tough, thick with a distinct large, deep grain pattern.

Exotic

16 Kangaroo Croc Alligator

Left to right: kangaroo, crocodile (notice the tiny pores) and alligator.

Kangaroo: Similar looking to cow leather, but thinner and much tougher. Fairly uncommon now, so brands tend to charge a premium for it.

Crocodile/Alligator: Very similar looking, with large square and rectangular shaped tile patterns. Crocodile skins will have visible hair follicles (small dots) on each tile, while alligators will not. Extremely expensive, with jackets often costing 20x+ cow or lambskin equivalents.

Useless

Faux leather: Chemical plastic that is terrible for the environment. Stay away.

 

Regarding Full Grain, Top Grain and Corrected Leather

There is often a lot of confusion and misinformation when it comes to what makes a quality leather, specifically for leather jackets.

You’ll often see people saying you should avoid top grain leather and look for full grain leather jackets, because top grain leather is bad leather that’s corrected.

They’re partially right.

Full Grain Leather generally refers to a leather that hasn’t been altered and retains the natural grain (skin pattern) of the animal.

These leathers are desirable because of the natural pores, which make it more breathable, along with the natural oils, which make the leather feel really soft.

The downside (to some) is that these leathers will have natural scuffs, scars and blemishes from animals just being animals. They’re also thicker, which can make for some less comfortable jackets.

Top Grain Leather is leather that is split from the bottom layers. The bottom split layer (corium) is what they make suede out of. Splitting the top grain from the corium layer makes the leather thinner, creating more comfortable jackets.

Corrected Leather is leather that is sanded down to remove the imperfections, thus removing the original grain, then given a faux animal skin grain via mechanical pressing.

Corrected leathers are coated with topical treatments, oils and dye, to make them more appealing. The result is an often uniform grain, super smooth leather that’s very “plastic” feeling.

This is where most people get confused.

Corrected leather is always made from top grain leather, but not all top grain leather is corrected.

Uncorrected, high quality top grain leathers will often be called a naked leather. Sometimes high quality top grain leathers will be coated with a finish to give it a unique property. One of my personal favorites are waxed lambskins, which make the leather less shiny and give it this smooth, waxy touch.

The most important thing to remember is that full versus top grain is almost irrelevant when you’re thinking about the actual quality of a leather jacket.

A naked top grain leather can be just as nice as a naked full grain. A full grain leather jacket can be uncomfortable compared to a top grain leather jacket because of its thickness.

How does it fit? What’s the quality of the lining, or the zippers? All of these things should be considered when buying a jacket.

 

Putting It All Together: My Tips For Buying a Leather Jacket

1. Stay away from overcorrected, plastic leather

The higher up you go the price chain, the less likely you’ll run into it.

You’ll mostly be dealing with slight differences in quality of full grain and top grain leather, which are sometimes hard to tell apart. At which point it’s really just a matter of your own preference on how the leather feels.

Feel the leather by scrunching and squeezing the sleeve it in your hand. Rub your fingers on it. Is it soft, grainy, a little oily feeling? It’s probably good leather. If it feels slick, smooth or “plasticy,” you might have an over-treated and corrected leather.

2. Real quality is in the details

When it comes to determining the overall quality of the jacket, checking out the other parts of the jacket helps a lot. A trick of mine is to pay more attention to the details, as the quality of the leather can be very subtle once you get away from over corrected leathers.

Check the zipper, the lining, the stitching. If you see a RiRi zipper, or heavy duty, smooth zipping custom branded zipper, then you’re also most likely dealing with good leather. The zipper is usually the first thing to go when trying to make a design cheaper.

You wouldn’t put a RiRi zipper on a crappy quality leather jacket – that would be like slicing truffles on a Subway sandwich. Sometimes expensive brands will use a YKK, but there are other details you can look at.

Check the lining. Are there two separate linings for the body and sleeve? If yes, it’s most likely a nicer jacket as it’s cheaper to just you one type of lining.

Is the synthetic or silk lining smooth or is it relatively rough? Smooth is better sign of quality, bad silk and synthetic linings will be rough, dry and slightly “crunchy”.

3. The rules still apply: Fit Is King

You want the jacket to fit snug, but not too tight that your limbs go numb.

As the saying goes, it should fit like a glove. You wouldn’t wear a glove that was so tight you couldn’t grip anything. With your jacket, you want to be able to bend your arms comfortably.

A good leather jacket will bend and mold with you.

Make sure you’re wearing what you’d most likely wear your leather jacket with when you’re shopping for a jacket.

For me, that’s usually a dress shirt layered over a t-shirt. That means I’m going to need a bit more room, especially in the upper arm portions.

If you buy your jacket wearing a t-shirt, and find yourself wanting to wear a hoodie under your jacket in the future, it’s going to be a bit uncomfortable.

Whether you should be able to zip it up or not is a matter of preference. I almost never wear my jackets zipped up, so sometimes I lean towards the tighter side.

In general, jackets with higher armholes will fit better. The lower the armhole, the more it will pull on the body of the garment when you move your arms. Higher armholes will give you better movement in your arms.

4. Consider color

For versatility, black and brown are king. If you’re shopping for a main leather jacket, stay away from colored leathers, like bordeaux, army green and grey, for now.

Black and brown leather jackets are more acceptable if you’re looking for a jacket to wear almost every day. If your daily leather jacket is red, it’s hard for people not to think, “Didn’t you just wear that yesterday?”

5. Respect the price

I don’t recommend you cutting corners “just for the look”.

An entry level Schott Perfecto, in full grain leather, made in the USA, will run you $750 brand new. The original is hard to beat, and I’d pick it over some of the jackets I own that cost three times as much.

If you need to save some money, I would recommend looking for a Schott or designer jacket used, either on eBay or (my recommendation), Grailed.

 

The Formality Scale

Business Formal

The style of your jacket depends heavily on where you plan to wear it the most. If your job is full business formal, that is, a suit jacket is required, then a leather jacket is not appropriate. Leather jackets work best in smart casual and casual work environments.

Smart Casual

If your work allows for more casual looks, the best styles to get are bombers and racer style jackets. Their minimal details make them extremely versatile and are easy to dress up and down.

A good rule of thumb to follow: The more details an article of clothing has, the more casual it is.

Casual

If your work is completely casual, you have a lot more flexibility in the style of jacket you can buy.

Perfecto/Rider style jackets are the most casual jackets of the five styles. Fencing jackets, with it’s double breasted design and exposed zipper, is essentially the same style. Because of their slightly avant-garde design, I’d put them in the casual bucket as well.

Before we wrap up, here are a few style scenarios

Work (Business)

So, you’re headed to the office and don’t want to wear a suit jacket, but want to be taken seriously. When it comes to dressing up leather, the name of the game is luxury.

The black shearling trim on the Hugo Boss jacket gives it a more luxurious (translation: expensive) feel, countering the casual nature of leather jackets, making it the perfect blazer substitute.

Pairing it with a white button up, dark charcoal dress pants and oxfords keeps the look formal, while mixing different shades of gray will make you look serious without going full black.

Work (Casual)

A workplace free of dress codes is no excuse to slouch. Denim and dark military greens are a classic, great looking combo that works on every guy.

Swap out the oxfords for a proper, more casual boot, like the Kenton Pacer Boot by J.Crew. The contrasting welt on these boots not only call out to the military feel of the outfit, but give the look an extra pop of color without going overboard.

Weekend Casual

How can you top a leather jacket, white t-shirt and jeans combination when it comes to full on casual? Throw in a textured grey sweater when the weather gets a bit colder.

Sure, you could still rock the boots in this look, but dark denim like this is begging to be worn with a classic, minimal white sneaker.

Enjoyed the guide? Don’t forget about the free bonus checklist!

I put together a special page for Effortless Gent readers, including a bonus package with the full 26-page e-book version of this guide, and a printable shopping guide checklist highlighting the most important points of this post to help you pick up the perfect jacket.

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PUBLISHED October 8, 2015


Peter Nguyen is a Personal Stylist, Menswear Designer, and founder of The Essential Man. He lives in New York City.



  • Andy Budnik

    Thanks for this guide. Last year I caught a super clearance sale and opted for a faux leather moto style jacket ($30!) mainly to see if I liked it. It does kind of make you feel like a bad ass and I decided I can pull it off – I really like the look! And despite it being of not great quality – it’s Claiborne – it’s pretty warm and feels not real plasticky. That said, I started to look at real leather, but had no idea what I was doing, so this is great.

    Typically on EG, Barron has some lower priced options and higher priced options to fit the budget. It appears $500 would be the lowest – a pretty high budget anyway. Where are the best places to shop for these? Certainly not online as I usually do, but all I’ve ever really seen is Wison’s Leather. A few good options in the Midwest (WI, IL) would help.

    Also, Barron, what color would you suggest? I wear a lot of browns, but when it comes to leather, I feel that black becomes even more neutral. I wear mine no matter the color of the shoes or anything else – I curate my outfit first and then throw on the jacket as it does seem to go w/ everything. What’s your take on this and for an every day wear, which color is best?

    Last, any care tips? I use the leather honey on my boots and it’s awesome. Does the same care need to be taken on jackets? Or only once they begin to dry out?

    • Peter Nguyen

      Hi Andy – Peter here, author of the article.

      Sub-$500 Jackets: It’s definitely a challenge. I’m confident you could find a solid leather jacket sub $500. I gave that cut off point just from my personal experience shopping and designing. Even generally solid priced brands like J.Crews jackets are hitting the $1k mark. I can’t give a specific recommendation on brands (Barron might be able to jump in). I recommend doing some quality checks based on what I wrote.

      Color: It definitely depends on the color shoes you wear most often. Generally, you want to pair a brown leather jacket with brown shoes and black leather jackets with black shoes. If your brown is on the darker side, you can wear black shoes. But it’s a bit hard to pull of light brown shoes and a black leather jacket.

      Care: If you’re getting a jacket made with great leather, you’re not going to need to do much for years. If you do come across a rather “dry” jacket and want to recondition it, it definitely depends on the leather. Test out in a hidden area (like under the collar or on the inside) to make sure it’s not going to damage your leather.

      I’ve used Leather Honey in the past, though don’t like it so much because it can leave some leathers “sticky”. A leather lotion works great at reconditioning. I’d advise against something like Mink Oil, which is actually made for leather workwear (like leather apron and gloves) and not suitable for jackets.

      Something to remember, whenever you recondition leather it will get a bit darker.

      If you get stains or a spill, wiping it with a damp cloth (and making sure to wipe off any moisture) is fine. For tears, cuts, etc or general overall reconditioning or relining, I recommend sending it out to a specialist. The one I use are magicians and they do service jackets via mail: http://www.modernleathergoods.com/

      • Rollo_the_Cat

        Peter,

        I think I remember one of the Schotts saying that they used mink oil in the rare case when they applied anything at all to their jackets. He said it is actually one of the oils used in the tanning process. MAny people recommend Pecards but I have no experience with it.

        • Peter Nguyen

          True. Though using it to condition personally I’ve always found build ups when I used it for leather jackets and usually save it for boots. I’ll look back into it and change my rec.

  • theuqbar

    This is great information on a subject I didn’t know much about. It would be terrific to get some specific recommendations for each of the styles in a few different price categories. Personally, I’d be interested in a racer jacket in the sub $1K range that could go either casual or dressy casual.

    • Rollo_the_Cat

      Schott are fine. I have a 141. I strongly suggest looking at Aro, that is aeroleatherclothing.com in Scotland. They are famous for their front quarter horsehide and make a large number of styles, casual, cycle, etc. You can order through Thurston Brothers in the US. Best part? They are made to measure!

      Also, take a serious look at Johnson Leathers. They are great quality and have great customer service and amazingly, they are around 500 dollars. They will do any kind of custom work too, at reasonable prices.

      • Peter Nguyen

        Thurston is a really great shop. Great recommendations!

    • Andy

      theory makes some really nice lambskin racer jackets in your price range.

  • Eugene

    Great article, Peter. I learned a lot from this.. especially regarding differences between Full Grain, Top Grain, and Corrected Letter. Also interesting to hear about $2000 jackets being made in the same factory as $500 ones.

    Love the truffles on Subway sandwich comparison hahaha.

  • +1,000 for the pic of a young (and very handsome, IMO) George Harrison. Whadda babe

    • Peter Nguyen

      Definitely my favorite Beatle and the most underrated!

      • If you ever want to write for SG, let me know! megan @ stylegirlfriend.com

  • carlos

    Great article. I don’t currently own a leather jacket but have been considering getting a custom-made Schott café racer or A2 made, as I hope it would last me the rest of my life. However, I think the double-rider/perfecto looks really bad-ass. Because of the double-breasted style of the double-rider, does it look it look better on people who have bigger noggins? I think I now have the confidence to pull it off even though I don’t ride a motorcycle, but I have a slightly smaller than average head, so I’m afraid it would make my head look smaller.

    • Peter Nguyen

      Hey Carlos,
      Thanks!

      To answer your question: It could, maybe. The epaulettes of the Perfecto tends to give your shoulders more heft and could potentially make your head look larger, the same way getting a blazer with padded shoulders can make you look like you have a tiny head.

      Without seeing your headsize, it’s hard to say. But some recommendations I have:

      1. Make sure you get the right size. If the jacket fits everywhere else properly, you should be fine. If your jacket is too big, it’s going to make your head look even smaller.
      2. Get a softer leather, like lambskin. Lambskin with have a softer structure compared to cow or horse. You’ll get the same look, but it would be so rigid looking and will help balance out your proportions.
      3. If you can, go to a store and try different jacket styles on.

  • Gunnar.XCII

    I’ve always wanted a leather jacket but there are so many confusing factors to consider that i never really seriously did the homework. The breakdown of the leather and suede making process was especially helpful because iv always wondered how it was done but when i tried to research it before it was confusing but all the pictures in this piece really helped. Thanks for this because it really broke things down and was such a quick read that i am going to bookmark it and start looking for a leather jacket finally ?

  • Andy

    i picked up a leather jacket from OAMC, but the leather is quite stiff, not soft like my lambskin jacket. What do you recommend for breaking in the jacket? Conditioner or just daily wear or something else?

    • Peter Nguyen

      It’s hard to say, it definitely depends on the leather. Some leathers will never get as soft as a lambskin, that’s the appeal of lambskin. Something I personally do to all my jackets: I scrunch/ball them up a lot instead of hanging them. Wearing them a lot of not being to precious with it helps too. “breaking in” a leather jacket is simply just creasing it, like leather shoes. Conditioners prevent it from drying out, but won’t necessarily make it softer.

      • Andy

        its not that i want it to get soft as lambskin, but the jacket is extremely rigid. hard to raise my arms, and the shoulders and collar dont drape/lay flat along my shoulders. i will try your suggestions. i also heard that getting it a little wet helps break it in, but im scared to try.

        enjoy your blog, keep doing what you are doing

        • Peter Nguyen

          Ah. It might be the leather/jacket style in general. You might not be able to do much with that. It sounds like you have a thicker leather – I suspect cow? Getting it wet won’t do much unfortunately, and you run the risk of drying it out.

          And thanks! Always appreciate it.

    • leftyjeenyus

      The factory leather jacket from OAMC is from horsehide. It will take some breaking in. Please remember it is a slim fit as well and runs small, so I suggest sizing up from your usual size.
      ~Lefty

      • Peter Nguyen

        Wow. I haven’t heard of this brand before. Beautiful jackets! Yes, Horse will def need breaking in, but it really won’t get soft like lamb, but will still get much softer

      • Andy

        Thanks for the info, yes I sized up to a large.

        Cheers

  • Andy

    selling a very beautiful lambskin quilted leather jacket from burberry

    https://www.grailed.com/listings/224018-burberry-leather-lambskin-quilted-coat

  • Dora Winifred

    What about YKK Excellas though 🙂

    • Peter Nguyen

      Rarely see them on jackets at actual stores, but nice zippers. I still prefer RiRis though.

  • macdemarco

    Those recommended pieces are shit.

    • Cool. So what would you recommend? The more options for readers, the better.

  • Wealth is not what you can get — it’s what you’ve got – Frank Wilder

  • Daniel

    Hi,

    I paid approximately $3000 for this jacket a year ago;
    https://www.firmamentberlin.com/stone_island_shadow/25652/leather_rider_jacket.html

    After reading this article it feels like the jacket is quite overpriced even though Stone Island usually makes quality jackets (and yes, I have no complaints about the jacket).
    Would be thankful though if you have any opinions about the jacket and if it was worth its price.

    Thanks

    • Daniel

      Found this information as well

      Stone Island’s Shadow Project has a new leather Biker Jacket and if you’re familiar with the brand, you know it’s going to be a much more than just a piece of leather with sleeves. Their jacket is a collarless piece made from premium cow with diagonal cuts all over the jacket that not only gives it a unique design, but also reinforces the garment. It’s also leather lined and has ventilation under the arms and heat-sealed seams to add even more strength to the jacket’s construction.

    • Peter Nguyen

      Hi Daniel.

      I’m very familiar with Stone Island and Errolson, who does the Shadow Project.

      Simply – no, you didn’t get ripped off. The work both Stone Island and Errolson do are technological and creative masterpieces. The details and innovations are subtle, but that’s always a sign of great design. If anything, you got a really good deal.

      Color me envious.

  • himelator

    I design and build expensive high quality jackets in Toronto. Its a good all round article, some important notes. Patterns go beyond arm holes…most importantly does the jacket shape enhance the wearers shape or look. Always check where seams overlap…bulky overlaps especially in the arm hole create giant leather knots that make a jacket look cheap and also make for uncomfortable wear. Stitches per inch and the size of the needle can create an ugly cheap look. When jackets are jammed out as quickly as possible the stitch sizes are uneven, often quite large (5 stitches per inch and lower) with a large needle that punctures the leather and leaves a perforated look. checking for even tight stitching with correct tension makes beautiful tailoring (7-10 stitches per inch). Ultimately most jackets expensive or cheap are badly made production jackets. Finally leather tanning is a very toxic process, chrome tanning vs veg tanning, first world vs third world leather tanning makes a huge difference. The best leathers are veg tanned, the most ethical leathers are produced in Japan, Europe and the USA and Canada…other jurisdictions are not subject to any labour or environmental restrictions and most likely dump toxic wastewate directly into their water sources without any purification and maintain poor work conditions and little to no safety. Even high end brands often use third world leathers and sewers. Beware of labelling. Most high end companies will strive to claim they make their products in europe or the usa… many are circumventing or using confusing regulations to label 3rd world products as made ethically in the first world. Keep in mind it costs approximately 40-65 usd to produce a leather jacket in the 3rd world (pakistan/china et al) and the cost to produce a leather jacket in the USA for example typically costs 300-1200 usd….so sometimes even when your paying 4k for that designer jacket the cost might be 60 dollars to produce it. Ask quesitons, check labels and be skeptical of brands unwilling to share details of their production process. I work very hard on my brand in toronto and I can tell you I face these issues every day as I am being compared to inferior and poorly made and designed jackets,
    best
    David Himel

    • I strongly support David’s comment and I think he makes fantastic jackets. If you can’t find the style that you look for on his page, you might want to take a look at sapayol.com (less styles, but maybe a little more “European”). We specialize in made-to-measure jackets and share the same principles of quality craftsmanship, materials, and ethical production.

  • Great info here, Peter. Also like the weekend and work (business) look a lot.

  • Rollo_the_Cat

    I am coming back late to this thread but I really wanted to comment on Schott. While they make a great product and I think the naked cowhide they use is the nicest leather visually, to the eye, there are some drawbacks. They don’t do much custom work and when they do it is expensive. Schott has a particular person in mind: 5’10” maybe, with a beer gut. If you don’t fit that, you might want to reconsider spending 800. on a garment. And short guys…forget it in most cases as they don’t make short styles.

    Aero, Johnson Leathers, Langlitz, Pegasus, Eastman all make great jackets that go from limited made to measure to full bespoke and for something around Schott prices.

    • Thanks for the alternative suggestions! Always helpful.

      I feel like Schott has a number of different fits (at least based on my limited try-on sessions at the shop) and my 654 medium is pretty slim (I’m 5’9″ and fluctuate between 170-190lbs) at 170, fits great, at 190, a bit too slim to zip up… so I’m not sure that they only cater to a specific body type (with a beer gut, as you mentioned)

      Also, mine is pretty short, hitting me at the hip. But even at, say, 5’6″ I can’t imagine this model appearing too short. I guess guys just need to try these different brands on to get a good feel for what works for them.

      • Rollo_the_Cat

        Barron, you are correct. I think Schott does have some models, beginning with 6xx, that are based on older, vintage patterns. They are supposed to be slim fitting. I never did try one. However, from the size charts I can tell you that the body length is long for those if you are 5’6″ like me, or at least on the long end of acceptable. It does depend on how you wear your pants-high or low- and how you like your jacket to fit.

  • qin

    I just purchased the Schott Cafe Racer however came into a problem

    I am not sure if i can determine how the jacket should fit. The article says it should fit like a glove but didn’t specify how the sleeves and how the length should be. Should it end at where suit sleeves end? Or coats?

    The Cafe Racer appeared to me being too long in the sleeve for me. But i do need some expert opinions on it.

    • Khalid

      Hey man, jacket fits great. Once it breaks in the sleeves will go up 0.5 inches. Great fit

    • Peter Nguyen

      Hey Qin, sorry for the late response. I never got a notice about this comment. Fit is spot on. Looks good! Hope you’re enjoying the jacket 🙂

    • Hi Qin, I think it looks fantastic on you. I have a few of similar shape and love them. I think any shorter would make you look like you’re trying too hard. This one looks like perfect from where I can see. colour, design, everything looks really pretty. Hope that helps. (i have quite a few in my instagram if you wish to have a look> http://instagram.com/ric.luz

  • Vinod Gupta

    Please visit http://www.leatherclue.com for 100% pura and genuine leather products with 100% Gaurantee… Must visit once… We also customize leather jackets…

  • Joseph Padilla

    H! I’ve made a purchase of a Topman leather jacket for my birthday last month. I’d like to know from the picture if I’ve made the right choice, size-wise. I’m usually a large in everything and I chose a large for my leather biker. Thoughts are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

    • hey Joseph, it looks like you got quite a statement-jacket over there. It is very hard to tell how it fits on you given that the photo was taken from slightly too high…why dont you set the phone up at around waist level somewhere on self-timer and try a few shots for us to see? from and back without leaving an arm up like this. it looks like the body is slightly too lose from here but again the angle of this photo is not helping much. Hope that helps, will keep an eye to see if you posted some images.

  • Insert Name Here

    Hey! Thanks for the article. It did answer a lot of questions, but I’m wondering if a leather jacket of say, €200-400 like this one http://jofama.se/fashion/product/ss2016-rowan/ will last long enough to be worth the cost? Is it likely to last at least a decade?

    I get it won’t last forever but I don’t got the cash for a *immortal* leather jacket and, aside from that, I don’t plan on having grandkids to inherit such a jacket anyway.

  • Michael Berk

    Great article Peter, I really learned a lot. I recently picked up this piece for $1k (Blur leather/ Italy) and wanted to get your opinion on the fit, quality, type of leather and anything else you might have to say about it. It currently fitting tight around the upper arms and upper back only when I stretch my arms around my front (like giving myself a hug). Do you think that will eventually form itself to my frame? thank you!!

    • Peter Nguyen

      Hi Michael

      When it comes to fit, it’s a cliche saying, but it should fit like a glove. That is, it should be snug enough where it’s not really loose with extra material. But it also shouldn’t be too tight where it’s squeezing off blood flow.

      While leather will stretch some, it’s not going to stretch THAT much. That’s basic the linings, etc is kind of holding it all together.

      For my taste, it looks like a great fit. Can you zip it up? It looks like it might be hard, but that’s not the end of the world. I almost never wear my leather jackets zipped up.

      So I hate to say this, in terms of fit – it kind of depends. If you want to zip it up or wear a bit more layers underneath (like a t-shirt + button up, or a t-shirt + sweatshirt/hoodie), then I’d recommend you size up.

  • Kevin O

    I am wondering how many inches should you buy a slim fitting leather jacket from your body measurements? I have 17-18″ shoulders, 36″ chest, wear 28″ pant so I’m guessing my actual waist is around 32″ and sleeve length of 24″ from shoulder seam to wrist. What measurements should I look for in buying a slim fit leather jacket that I will still be able to wear a shirt and light sweater under also I have been told that in a lamb skin jacket the leather should be 1.3 mm thick. And in a cow hide is should be 1.5 mm, is that correct? Thanks is advance!

    • Peter Nguyen

      Hey Kevin – I recommend you buy a leather jacket in person and wear what you plan to wear with it often to try it on.

      It’s difficult to shop by pure measurements alone. If this isn’t an option, I would suggest ordering online from a place with a great return policy and trying it on at home. If you can swing it, pick up 2 different sizes to see what fits best.

      In terms of thickness, it varies. You can have thin cow leather and thick lambskin. It just depends on how it’s finished by the manufacturers.

      • swampwiz0

        This advice seems to be useless. I am similar to Kevin O in that I have a large chest and short arms (I am shaped like a midget wrestler, LOL). In the past, I had always lucked out in finding a jacket that fit, but it seems that nowadays, jackets are only sold in standard sizes, so that while an XL fits my chest great, the arms are far too long.

  • Knight

    Leather is one of the earliest crafts, dating back thousands of years.
    The hides and skins come from many parts of the world to be used in
    realizing car interiors, sofas and armchairs. To keep it always smooth
    and nice, you have to take care of it.
    Watch how leather is made: http://dai.ly/x4y3q74

  • Matthew Mansfield

    Thanks so much for this article and your leather jacket guide, Peter. Have sent many a friend here to peruse and read about how to find a leather jacket. Would also like to thank the various commenters on this article for their references to other brands and stores for shopping for a jacket. Found out about Thurston Brothers in Seattle via a comment and am already planning on visiting one Saturday after Winter to start the process for my own custom jacket.

  • Soisuda Hazell

    Hi, I’ve just joined a new start up company as their junior designer and they are wanting to create high end leather jackets. I don’t have a lot of experience with leather jackets, I don’t even own one lol, but as a designer do you have any helpful tips for a new girl like me to the leather industry? I would love any useful advice I can get, from any seasoned fellow designer actually. I want to make sure I help make good quality products where possible!
    Thanks!
    -Soi

    • Jose Marcel

      Refer to the aeroleather company (now in scotland with the best leather artists), rick’s, eastman leather and the two biggest in america–us wings & jacky clyman of cockpit usa.

    • Jose Marcel

      Oops, and of course, Schott in NYC and certainly (Tom Cruise in Top Gun 2 will refer to this & all motorcyclists adore this as the Temple of the Gods) the Spidi Jacket company in Italy