Leather on a Budget

A few guys have written to me asking me about my leather gear along with questions such as where I bought it. Some have commented that they admired the gear and wanted to get leathers like it, but have not saved up enough money yet. Recently, someone asked me to make a video about “leather on a budget” like I did recently on “Biker Boots on a Budget.”

While it may take me longer to think about what I might put into a video on “buying leather on a budget,” let me address the question in a blog post. I’ll get around to doing a video sometime later.

First very important point: do not buy cheap leather from on-line retailers that sell gear made in Pakistan or China. You’ll be very disappointed. The leather is all shiny and smells great when you get it, but soon enough, the garment starts to fall apart at the seams. The leather discolors. Hardware rusts. Leather stretches. Blemishes become obvious. So by all means, before you buy leather (especially from on-line vendors), ask about the origin of the leather and where the product is made. If the leather is from Pakistan or China, then forget about it.

The good stuff uses leather made in the USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Italy, Germany, Mexico, or South America (to name most, but not all countries that produce quality leather).

You can usually tell quality leather origin in two ways: vendors of the good stuff will tell you on their website and on a label in the garment what the source of the leather was. You can also make a good guess by the price. If a price seems too good to be true, such as a pair of chaps or leather jeans for about US$100, then run! Something’s wrong — usually with the leather, but also with the construction.

Usually, leather garments sized in off-the-shelf sizes will fit “okay” but usually will hang funny on regular people who are not built like buff models used in photos on websites. The gear may sag or pucker in the wrong places — such as off-the-shelf chaps may pucker around the crotch. The gear may be cut to fit men of different heights, and close with snaps along the bottom (many off-the-shelf chaps come that way.) The trouble is, chaps that are not hemmed, but rather are cut, eventually fray at the bottom and don’t look right. Or the snap closures are bulky and they eventually oxidize, too, so they will not close correctly in a year or two.

The difference in cost between quality off-the-shelf, sized-for-the-masses leather and custom leather gear really isn’t that much. But the fit is astronomically different. A good pair of quality chaps from any of the vendors listed on my website links page can make you great stuff for market prices. Yes, some of those market prices may seem very high. Shop around. Wait for sales. Usually leather vendors offer sales in advance of the holidays.

Oh, one other thing: don’t buy a license. Huh? What I mean is, don’t buy leather that has a Harley-Davidson logo on it and think you have a high-quality product because you were charged an arm and a leg for it. Check the label in the garment — you may see a label indicating country of origin as being China, Indonesia, or Pakistan. You see, when a company that has a well-recognized brand name allows its name to be used in a line of related products (such as H-D branded leathers), the Motor Company is licensing the use of its name for that purpose. So what you’re doing is buying a license rather than getting even better quality gear for the price. That’s why you see me — a Harley-riding guy — with “non-label” gear and no H-D brand on it. I have the brand on my bike, and that’s where it should be. Not on my lapel.

Back to the subject — interested in leather gear on a budget? Save your money. Shop around. Use the vendors listed on the links page on my website. Wait for sales.

It is better to wait and buy the good stuff than go for the cheap and have it fall apart soon and look like a sack of potatoes when wearing it.

I wish I could offer some better news on how to buy leather, but the moral of the story is to buy the good stuff, and wait if you have to so you can afford to get quality gear that will last a long time.

Life is short: wear quality gear!