I was sent an email a while back stating, “I would like to find a good leather jacket. DO NOT want some every day model like you see every other middle-aged corn-fed golf dolt wearing. You know the type I mean. YAWN. I want something a bit more badass than that, but don’t want something way out there. You know, too much. Too buckly, zippery. Something in the middle. Any suggestions of what to look for?”
From your description of the type of leather jacket you want — not too flashy, but not one of the old-fart style, yet will keep you warm — I would recommend a police motorcycle jacket. These types of jackets are designed to keep cops warm in cold weather, yet have a lot of function with deep inside pockets, a lining, and cuffs at the wrists. These jackets offer lots of style but less “bling” than a typical “biker jacket”.
There are some superb jackets out there. Vanson is a good choice for a moderate budget. So are jackets made by Taylor’s Leather Wear. I would not recommend a jacket with the X-element label — a Chinese-made knock-off. I also do not recommend a jacket with the Harley-Davidson label. While the quality is good, the cost is often outrageous, due to paying a hefty mark-up for the label. While I ride a Harley, my gear is from other sources for a reason. I don’t pay for merely a label. It is not a status symbol to wear a Harley-branded jacket, anyway.
If you want the best that money can buy, consider a jacket made custom for you by Langlitz. Man, they have terrific jackets. I have long admired Langlitz jackets. However, the price has kept me from buying one. I have been more than satisfied with jackets that are made commercially by Taylor’s and custom by Mr. S. and Johnson Leather of San Francisco.
As you consider any leather jacket, look for:
- Top Grain leather — not splits or unstated.
- Made from leather that originates in the USA, Canada, Argentina, or Australia — not China, Pakistan or India. If the retailer will not identify the source of the leather, then run, don’t walk, to another vendor.
- A good fit. If possible, try it on. Leather jackets are notorious for sizing issues. While you may have a chest size of 40, you may find that a jacket of size 44 actually fits. Also check for how it fits on your shoulders — no puckering or funky-looking drape. If you buy over the internet, make sure the vendor has a return policy, and one that does not involve a restocking fee. A good vendor will allow for a free exchange (except, perhaps, the cost of shipping) of an off-the-rack jacket. Custom gear shouldn’t have that problem because the jacket is made to your specific measurements.
Leather jackets are usually worn in cold weather, meaning that you may be wearing layers of bulky clothing with it — t-shirt, long-sleeved regular shirt. As you try on leather jackets (or get measured for one), put on the clothing that you will likely wear with the jacket so you can accommodate for the bulk of what will be under the jacket.
Finally, we have to remember that a good quality leather jacket will last a long time if cared for well. Thus, to make sure you can wear the jacket for years (and decades) to come, consider that most men are not as slender in the hips, waist, chest, and overall girth in their 40s and 50s as they were in their 20s and 30s. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you can talk all you want about working out and going to the gym to retain a slim physique, but that doesn’t happen for most guys in real life. So what I am saying is that if you are considering buying a good leather jacket and you are a younger dude, consider getting one a little bit bigger. Believe me, you will grow into it, even if you have stopped growing in height. (knowing smile…)
You may also find my Guide to Leather Gear helpful in learning about the types, styles, and various qualities of leather garments.
Life is short: know your gear and wear it well!