How to Choose a Leather Jacket

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From the Italian cafe racer look to a punk rocker ensemble, the leather jacket can be king during the chilly months.

Ahh, the humble leather jacket. A little homage to our days roaming the plains and wearing the pelts of our kills, leather jackets have long been synonymous with bad boys and men of action. When we think of leather jackets we tend to think of motorcycle gangs, daring aviators, and adventurers on the run. However, that doesn’t mean that you can only wear leather when you’re swinging from a jungle vine or descending on a bombing run. In fact, these durable and stylish jackets can actually define your look better than almost anything else in your wardrobe – you just need to know which style works for you, and that’s where we come in.

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Leather jackets have a long and esteemed masculine heritage. Early aviators kept toasty in short leather jackets lined with fur and the bomber jacket style has stayed a classic ever since. Leather has also protected motorcycle riders from the elements and the tarmac, with iconic styles like the Perfecto, designed by Irving Schott for Harley Davidson, lending a decidedly rugged accent to even the most urbane rider. By the time leather was adopted by the bad boys of rock and roll it has secured its place as a sex symbol, an invitation for adventure, and an addition that was at once stylish and anti-establishment.

From the Italian cafe racer look to a punk rocker ensemble, the leather jacket can be king during the chilly months.

Why Leather?

Sure, it’s not Goretex but leather offers the wearer a lot of benefits. It’s durable, ensuring that not only will it last for years (making it a sound investment) but will take on a patina that only adds to the mystique.

In addition, leather has natural water and wind resisting qualities, even without being treated, which is why it’s always been so popular with riders, while its durability ensures that it offers some decent protection should you take a tumble.

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Of course, there are also more aesthetic reasons for going leather. As a material, it’s about as timeless as it gets, which is nice if you’re planning on investing your hard-earned cheddar in a decent coat. It’s also easy to mix and match; leather jackets can be as formal as you need and as casual as a cruise down Route 66.

From the Italian cafe racer look to a punk rocker ensemble, the leather jacket can be king during the chilly months.

So Which Style?

There are almost as many leather jacket styles as there are dangerous lads wearing them on the silver screen. However, most trace their origins to a few classic styles:

The Double-Rider: Made famous by highway bad boys like Marlon Brando, the double-rider is the bad boy of the leather jacket family and is named for its double breast but is probably best recognised for its elaborate belts, zippers, buttons and fasteners, as well as its broad lapels and flared collar. Cropped for comfort, many feature lapels that are designed to fold over each other, essentially restyling the jacket as a ‘racer’ for when you feel the need for speed. When you’re off your bike you can throw a double rider over a t-shirt or Oxford shirt for a style that’s halfway formal and halfway bat out of hell. It was the double-rider that was adopted by punk rockets and that’s made a successful comeback thanks to its elaborate lines and bad boy attitude.

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The Racer: In contrast, the Europeans prefered a much more minimalist look when they raced their Moto Guzzis and Vespers, giving birth to the Racer or ‘cafe racer’, a stylishly simplistic leather jacket that’s as at home on date night as it is redlining. Also known as a motocross jacket, this style is best known for its clean lines, band snap collar, and form-fitting cut, one that makes it very versatile.

From the Italian cafe racer look to a punk rocker ensemble, the leather jacket can be king during the chilly months.

The Bomber: A style made famous by those daring flyboys, the leather bomber jacket is one we immediately associate with the military. These bombers, also known as A2s, are known for their cropped cut, ribbed cuffs and hem, large collars, and lining, which can include fleece, flannel or corduroy.

The Blazer: A style that’s enjoying its own renaissance, the blazer leather jacket is one that mimics the classic casual blazer, complete with broad lapels, discrete side pockets and a below belt length. A jacket that’s definitely on the formal side of things (see Fletcher in The Gentlemen), the blazer cut is ideal for nights on the town with a pair of sneakers and a shirt or even turtleneck.

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A side variation on the Blazer is the Cattleman, a jacket designed for lads who like to explore by horseback rather than horsepower. This style flairs slightly at the waist to allow for a comfortable riding position and features sizable flap pockets for life’s little essentials. Add a belt to either and you have a variation on a Field coat, another style that traces its origins to the battlefield.

From the Italian cafe racer look to a punk rocker ensemble, the leather jacket can be king during the chilly months.

How About the Material?

Leather jackets can come in a wide range of treated and untreated leathers, including suede, steer hide, deerskin, and lambskin, and if you’re having your leather jacket tailored, you’ll want to choose a leather that suits your activities. For example, cowhide is the most durable and common leather, especially for men’s leather jackets; it’s tough and takes its sweet time to break in but will last forever, even after a few tumbles. Contrastingly, lambskin is super soft and luxurious and brings an additional elegance to a racer jacket that you’ll find represented in the price tag. A nice middle ground is calfskin, which has a little more durability than lambskin but still looks buttery soft.

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How About the Fit?

Again it’s all about how you see yourself using the jacket. Typically racer jackets are form-fitting and are as often worn unzipped, while double-racers are more functional and tend to offer a little more give so you can control your motorised stead with ease.

The key is to have a jacket that is loose enough to allow maximum movement without bunching, but not to look oversized. There should be a little give at the wrist and shoulders, and as much functionality as there is good looks.

After all, we wouldn’t want it to lose its bad-boy rep just yet, right?

For more Style inspiration click here.

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Alpha Men Asia is the region's ultimate destination for today's modern gentlemen, covering everything from travel and style, to grooming, fashion, dating, wines and spirits, and the movers and shakers defining our scene.

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