This post is based on the video – How to Buy a Leather Jacket for Men – Men's Leather Jackets Guide – Leather Jacket Types
Now, this is in support of my article over at The Art of Manliness. In that article, I go into a lot more detail. I'm going to talk about the different animal leathers over there.
I'm going to talk about how to actually wear a leather jacket with casual clothing, with dress clothing, and I'll give you a number of scenarios.
In this video though, I'm going to talk about why it's important. I'm going to talk about the materials and what you need to be looking for when you're purchasing a leather jacket, and then we're going to talk about the three main types of leather jackets and I'm going to give you a few other variations, but again, go check out the article, fully illustrated, a lot more information, I go into deeper detail, but in this video, I want to give you a quick overview.
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They did this study over at Liverpool John Moores University, over in England, and I think at 2001, they surveyed a large population of women, and guess what leather symbolized?
When they showed them all these different fabrics, all these different materials, leather, unlike anything else, sent a signal of masculinity, sent a signal of strength.
If that's what you're looking to do in your wardrobe, if you want to send the signal of a rebel — let's go back and let's look at the 1950s. We had a number of gangs popping up throughout the United States. Motorcycle gangs, what did they wear?
Leather jackets. “The Wild One” is a movie based off of that. These gangs, by the way, were usually a lot of military men who were missing that camaraderie. They had come back from the war and they were looking, in a sense, to form groups, and leather jackets were one of the symbols.
Throughout history, you look at early pieces of armor. What were they built from? Leather. It wasn't always going to be able to stop a direct puncture from an arrow or from a round from an early rifle, but you know what leather would do?
Oftentimes, if a sword hit or if a sharp edged weapon that didn't have enough power, it could turn a very nasty cut or even losing a limb into something that just left a really bad bruise.
Leather sends the signal of attitude. It's done it for hundreds of years and it is ingrained and has been shown scientific research that yes, it does send that signal, so number one, attitude.
Number two, I alluded to it, protection. I used to ride a Triumph Sprint ST, actually did all 48, lower 48 states, rode my bike on a motorcycle. Every time I was riding my bike, I can tell you I had on a leather jacket, not this one. Actually, I had one that was more of a moto-classic European style.
I tell you, I wore that and I actually had leather pants, too. I had that full leather outfit, and I went down a number of times. Pretty much every time, it was usually I would hit a patch of gravel. I remember one time it just started raining and I slid out. Every time I went down though, I had the gear on and that protected me from getting road rash, so protection.
I was looking at a picture the other day of General Patton's bomber jacket, which we'll get into fly jackets and stuff here in a second on types. That jacket was, I don't know, 70 years old?
It had been taken care of. It was in a museum. You could literally take that jacket and put it on.
That's the cool thing about leather. You take care of it, you condition it, you keep it in great shape, and this stuff can last for over a hundred years.
Now, you've got to take care of it because if you don't, you let it dry out. All of a sudden, it starts to crack and you will lose the leather.
Now, that's a good prelude in the materials. Materials, full grain, that is actually where they use both sides of the animal hide.
Right now, I'm talking about cattle, so let's go ahead and we're going to use both sides.
The problem with full grain is that it's thick, it's tough, it uses the full hide, but the problem is the blemishes.
A lot of cattle, especially those raised in the southwest, rub up against barbwire fences. They get cuts. All of a sudden, you're going to have scars from the animal's life that are going to show in the fabrics or in the leather, so that's one of the downplays. The great thing about full grain, very thick, very strong and probably the closest I would say to a natural type of cut.
Now, top grain is actually where they smooth off the top. They've taken the top of it. It's still both sides and I'm talking of the inner and the outer membrane.
If you think about leather, it's basically skin in case you didn't know, but we can cover that in a whole another video. But top grain, they've actually smoothed out the top and that's what you're going to see in finer jackets. Again, it's thick, strong, durable, but it's going to usually be a bit more expensive because they've gone through the treatment process of actually smoothing out that top layer.
Now, genuine leather, it is true leather, but oftentimes with genuine leather, it's only the lower layer, so they've actually torn off where they've separated the leather and they'll find other uses for that top layer, but it's going to be thinner. That's the problem when you see genuine leather. It's not the same as full grain or top grain leather.
Now, let's talk about bonded leather. You want to avoid this. If you see a jacket that says it's bonded leather, do not buy it. This is actually where they take pieces of leather and they bond it together using glue or other materials. It's fine if you just got individual small pieces that are accenting, or if you're really cost-sensitive, and again, it's just accents on certain types of pieces. But if you expect a jacket to last — and I would recommend that you invest in a good leather jacket — do not go with bonded leather.
Now, synthetic leather. Synthetic leather is not leather. However, some people think it is and I've even heard of people treating synthetic leather with conditioners and stuff. Don't do that; it could damage it, but synthetic leather is a good alternative to those of you that are very conscious.
In a sense, you don't want to be involved with any type of animal products, but you still want the bad boy look, then there are some synthetic leathers out there. If you're going to go that route, what's pretty cool is the price goes down a lot. Now, it's not true leather, but I think when it comes to signals, if it looks like leather, then you're still going to get the number one benefit, which is the attitude.
We've talked about why, we've talked about materials. Let's go ahead and talk about types of leather jackets. Primarily, I'm going to talk about three types.
Number one, the flight jacket. Now, the flight jacket came out of the First World War pilots. At high altitudes, they needed something that was durable, that would keep them warm, and at the same time, they needed a bit of movement. So in order to get in and out of the airplane — and we saw this in a number of jackets come out of military service, is they had an elastic band around the midsection.
The reason flight jackets had to have this is you didn't want air to circulate in there. You wanted to basically be able to put on something. It had an elastic band around the wrist, around the waist. If you zipped it up, it's sealed up around here. You could put a scarf on and it would keep you warm. Now, that's where it came out of. We would see then the bomber jacket, which broke off of the flight jacket, and many variations. Eventually, it would make its way all the way down into the tankers type of jacket that they would actually use.
Again, this is going to be one that's marked by — basically, it's going to have the elastic around the waist area, it's going to have elastic usually around the wrists, and it's going to be able to seal up pretty close.
The problem with the bomber is it can make the upper body look a little bit large. Modern bombers, especially those coming out of reputable companies, you're seeing actually they're making them a bit more trimmer to the body, classic older bomber jackets oftentimes, especially if you had one as a kid. You probably remember you had all that excess room around the torso area. That can make you look a little bit off.
If you're a larger guy, that's probably not going to be a great look for you. You're going to want to go with something that is a variation of it. By the way, I'm talking about three types, but understand most jackets out there do not fall in one of the perfect types that I'm describing. Instead, there are going to be variations. In fact, the one I'm wearing here is a variation, I would say, of a flight jacket. However, it doesn't have the elastic.
So we've talked about bomber/flight jackets. Let's now go into the double rider. I mentioned Marlon Brando a little bit earlier in “The Wild One”, but this is the classic American jacket that we see for motorcyclists. It's called a double rider because it has basically almost like a double breasted jacket. It has the fold over.
The reason that you have this is that when you're riding a motorcycle, you've got wind coming at you. If you just got this zipped up right in here, then guess what? You're going to have an issue with wind basically going right through the zipper. It's not really a big deal if you're going 15 miles an hour. If you're going 70, 80, 90 miles an hour, not that you would overspeed, but if you are, you're going to find airs going right through there. That's what the double rider overcomes. In a sense, you have it so it loops over and it fully protects you. Also, it provides an extra bit of layer and cushion, a little bit of extra warmth as well.
The double rider, the big thing you're going to notice is they have a lot of zippers on them. They have a lot of buttons, a lot of metal, usually going to be in black. Because of that, there's a high contrast. They definitely draw attention to themselves, very popular with the Harley, Indian, those kinds of riders, not so popular with those of us that would ride more street bikes because what we would be looking for is style number three, and that's going to be the motor racer.
The “Moto”, the “Racer”, you call it various things, but that one has more of a straight front; it doesn't have the overlap. Here, you would actually have some piece of material that would go over. Some of them I've seen have double zippers within them. Other ones have a little bit of a flap that goes over. Also, the arms are a lot longer.
You will see this, too, on the double rider as well. You'll see longer arms, but basically, they're built for you to have your arms out. This jacket right here, not made for motorcycles, and I can tell because when I put my arms out, it still does not cover my wrist. Motorcycle jackets usually have much longer arms simply to be able to cover your wrists.
I've even seen some that actually can loop through or have got a piece so that you can basically keep it up there. Also, some of them will have an inside elastic to keep the air from going underneath that, but most motorcycle riders know they don't really need that because you can simply have on a pair of gloves, especially gloves that go over and that would help alleviate that problem.
Now, the racer, what we're going to notice with the café racer is it's going to be very slick. Instead of going with straight black, you'll see a wide variety of colors, patterns, and it's actually one of my favorites. This is the type of jacket that I used whenever I rode my Triumph motorcycle around the United States.
A few other styles I want to talk about quickly, let's talk about the Cattleman, the Blazers. This is where you actually have what looks like to be more of a classic jacket like I've talked about with sports jackets, except this is going to be made from leather, so you'll see leather blazers out there. A variation of this is the Cattleman. Now, I'm not going to say this is for everybody, but if you're rancher, you can pull this off. It's not going to be for every man though.
The fatigue, this is a variation. I'm not going to go too far down here. They're a bit harder to find, but this usually makes full use of the full grain because it's got a bit of a rougher look. Usually, the fatigue came out of a military-style jacket. I have seen them leatherize though, again, harder to find. Usually, you're going to see them at fashion stores.
The duster, now the duster was originally made from cotton, from wax cotton, very lightweight, made a name for itself with the Texas rangers. However, I am seeing a variation of dusters being worn by motorcyclists especially those that are into the cruisers, unless you're going to be riding a motorcycle and you actually want to protect yourself from road rash. I'm not going to really recommend it for most people. And then you'll see a few other things like trench coats, pea coats. I don't really recommend them in leather.
Okay guys, go check out the article. I go into a few thousand words, a lot more detail. I talk about how to wear leather jackets. I also go into a little bit more detail on how to buy them, what to look for, and the different types of skins out there. If you want more information as well, go check out Real Men Real Style. I will be covering leather jackets in more detail. I do cover all types of other jackets, so I've got that great infographic. I've got other types of jackets, which we do cover over at Real Men Real Style. Just go use the search and you'll be able to find what you're looking for.
Hopefully this video was useful. I'll see you in the next one. Take care. Bye-bye.