Fitting of Leather Breeches or Jeans

Someone from Russia sent me an email recently telling me that he had decided to purchase a pair of leather jeans from Northbound Leather of Toronto, Ontario, Canada after reading this blog and how I have complimented the store’s quality and service.  However, he was confused by the sizing chart on Northbound’s website.

Here are my thoughts about how to determine if you should order a stock size of a pair of leather jeans or breeches, or order them custom — and how to determine the proper sizing.  (Note, I refer to U.S. measurements.  Use a conversion chart if you do not use U.S. measurements in archaic inches.)

1.  Well-constructed garments made of high-quality leather do not stretch at the waist very much, such as a pair of cloth jeans.  The leather used for the waist, as well as double-stitching with thick thread, makes the waistband much less “stretchable” than other parts of a leather garment, such as the seat and thighs.  So if you are torn between two stock sizes, such as 34″ and 36″, go with the larger size.

2.  The older you get, the easier it is to put on weight in the middle.  If you get leather pants that fit tightly now, you may not be able to fit into them in a few years.  It is easier to reduce the size of the waist by using a belt (or by having the pants altered professionally) but you cannot add more to the size if it is not there in the first place.  Again: go with a larger size if you’re choosing between two sizes.

3.  My experience with custom-made leather garments from Northbound has been that their products are a bit more tight than leather garments I have had custom-made from U.S. vendors such as Mr. S or 665 Leather.  I have kidded Northbound about Canadians measuring things differently. (Only a joke!)

4.  Do NOT use the measurements from a regular pair of blue jeans!  Sizes and people change.  In fact, Consumer Reports did some testing last year and indicated that men’s jean sizes can vary as much as two inches in the waist.  You cannot use a pair of jeans that fit you to determine the proper size of a pair of leather pants.

How do you determine if you can purchase at stock sizes or require custom work? It is simple: have your measurements taken, and determine if your measurements at critical areas (waist and inseam) are the same as the measurements to which stock garments are made. If the measurements are the same, then buy pre-made, stock jeans or breeches. If not, then you will have to buy custom.

5.  Even if you can wear stock sizes, I still think the best way to go is to have leather breeches or jeans made custom to your measurements.  That way, you know that you will have garments that will fit you perfectly.  I have said this before, such as in my “Complete Guide to Leather Gear,” but I should emphasize once again:  do NOT measure yourself!  Have a friend use a tailor’s tape to measure you.  Use the form in my Leather Gear Guide to note your specific measurements.  Not only is it impossible to get accurate measurements yourself, you have to realize that you’re human, and may not want to accept the results that the tape shows.  You may pull the tape a bit tighter on your waist to get the results you want — and then end up ordering a pair of leather jeans that are too small and will not stretch to accommodate you.  Believe me, quality leather garment vendors like Northbound want to get it right the first time, and they’ve seen it all.  They don’t care if your jeans are a size 36, but the tape shows a waist size of 39.  They will make what fits you best, so get the measurements done correctly with a friend’s help.

Well-fitting leather jeans will last a long time.  I have worn leather jeans and breeches regularly for decades.  I admit, though, that leather jeans that I bought in the 1980s would not fit me today, 30+ years later.  Those garments are gone.  But once I got past age 40 or so, where my “middle-age spread” settled, I ordered some leather garments that still fit me well today — and I wear them often.  (Though I must admit, I appreciate that with a recent 40-pound weight-loss, I have lost three inches at the waist, so now I have to wear a tighter belt than before — and, I don’t feel squeezed such that my gut rises up above the waist of the pants and hangs out prominently.)

In summary, my recommendation is to consider your age and lifestyle, as well as how often you plan to wear the leather.  If you are like me and want to get a good return on your investment by wearing leather regularly — not just to a once-a-year fashion show & gathering of the leather clan — then choose to have custom gear made to your actual measurements.  If, however, you may wear the leather jeans less often, then go with stock sizes, but if you have to make a choice between two sizes, go with the larger of the two.

Gear in the photos:
1) Leather shirt and breeches with LAPD markings from 665 Leather of West Hollywood, California, USA.
2) “Sailor Leather” pants from Northbound Leather of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
3)  Hunter green leather shirt from Mr. S. of San Francisco, California, USA.  (Pants are the “sailor leather” shown in #2)
4)  Blue-striped leather jeans from Northbound.

Life is short:  wear leather!