How to Buy Your First Leather Jacket

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Buying that first leather jacket is a milestone moment in life. A leather jacket is one of the biggest statement pieces you can wear. Before you pull the trigger on buying one, it's natural to have some questions. How do I know which style to choose? What should I expect to spend? Should I stick to black or brown, or be open to more outlandish color choices?

With all due respect to the suit, I've always thought that the leather jacket was the coolest piece of menswear out there. And I've bought a few leather jackets at just about every price point, which means I know how much you can second-guess yourself during the purchasing process. When you're buying something this important and potentially expensive, you want to be sure that you're making the right decision.

I remember how much research I did before I bought my first leather jacket. To make things easier for you, I've created this guide on how to buy your first leather jacket. When you reach the end, you'll know exactly what to look for to find a jacket you love.

 

What You Will Need to Buy Your First Leather Jacket

The good news is that you won't need much to buy your first leather jacket. Here's a rundown of everything you'll need to follow this tutorial:

  • Your current upper body measurements, including your chest, waist and arm length
  • An idea of what clothes you plan to wear with your leather jacket
  • Enough money to buy a leather jacket ($300 is a good minimum)

For your measurements, I'd recommend going to have a professional measure you. A tailor can do this if you plan to purchase anything from them, and many clothing stores also have staff available to measure customers. You could also have a friend or family member do it, although they may not be as handy with a tape measure. Just don't do it yourself, as you probably won't get accurate measurements.

Knowing what you're going to wear with your jacket will help during the purchasing process. And obviously, you can't buy a leather jacket without money. With that covered, let's get started on buying your leather jacket.

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1. Set Your Budget

It's much easier to narrow down your leather jacket options when you know how much you can spend. This is especially true online, where many sites allow you to filter or sort results by price.

Keep in mind that good leather jackets aren't cheap, and it's a bad idea to buy fake leather because of the lower cost. There's a huge quality difference between real and fake leather.

I said that $300 is a good minimum, and while you can score a quality leather jacket for less than that, it's nice to have some breathing room. If you can afford more, you'll have far more options to choose from.

2. Choose a Style You Like

There are many different leather jacket styles, and your personal style determines what type of leather jacket will be right for you. Do you want a jacket that can look somewhat professional? Or do you want to look like a rock star? Here's a look at the most popular styles and what they're best suited for.

The Bomber

Also known as the aviator, these leather jackets were first worn by pilots in the military. They usually have elastic cuffs and an elastic waist, along with a thick inner lining and an upturned collar. Since these are on the warm side, they're well-suited if you live in a chillier area. These look great with simple outfits, such as jeans and a t-shirt.

The Moto Racer

Occasionally called the Café Racer, these are among the most toned-down leather jackets you'll find. They have a sleek look without much in the way of gaudy extra zippers or buttons, and their standout feature is a small snap collar. If you want something you can wear over a button-up shirt to the office or at a nice restaurant, the Moto Racer is the best option.

The Double Rider

You may know this as the biker jacket, and this leather jacket oozes testosterone. It has an off-center zipper and prominent lapels that are folded outwards, and manufacturers often add many other fun adornments. This is another leather jacket that pairs well with jeans and a t-shirt, although the key ingredient with this jacket is having the attitude to pull it off.

The Best of the Rest

Other leather jacket styles include the varsity jacket, the trench coat, the pea coat and the fencing jacket. While these can all be good styles, they don't have the iconic appeal of the three styles above. For that reason, I'd recommend making one of the classics your first leather jacket so that you have a quality foundational piece for your wardrobe.

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3. Figure Out Your Size

Here's where you'll need those measurements you took earlier. Check out a few leather jacket size charts to see what size you are. Every company has its own size chart, but you can at least get a general idea of where you are.

There are three common leather jacket size charts that brands can use. Some brands use small, medium, large and so forth. Some use the American numbered chart, such as 40, 42 and 44, with the number corresponding to the chest size of the wearer. There is also an Italian version of that chart with the difference being that its numbers are 10 higher. For example, if you're a 42 in American sizing, you'd be a 52 in Italian sizing.

Whatever size you fall under, you should still either go to a store to try leather jackets on or shop at an online retailer that allows exchanges if the jacket doesn't fit. You can't always rely on the labeled size to be 100-percent accurate.

Pro Tip: Go Custom Made for a Better Fit

Although you can find leather jackets that fit off the rack, it's not easy to get that perfect fit. Buying a custom-made leather jacket ensures that your jacket fits you exactly how it should. This doesn't necessarily cost an arm and a leg, either.

4. Select a Color

As you've no doubt noticed, most leather jackets are either black or brown. You can't go wrong with either color. Black is usually the edgier choice, but brown has many different shades to choose from. It's really about personal preference.

If you just watched "Fight Club," you may be wondering about a red leather jacket. I can't blame you – Tyler Durden looks awesome in that movie. Or, maybe you've got another color in mind.

Most experts warn you about choosing a leather jacket with a unique color, and it's true that you can stand out for the wrong reasons this way. But don't feel like black and brown are you only options. Other colors can look good, too. The key is to avoid anything too gimmicky, because gimmicks only work sparingly, and your first leather jacket should be something you can wear all the time.

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5. Make Sure Your Choice Is Tough Enough

One last thing to keep in mind is when you plan to wear this leather jacket. If you lead a fairly "low-impact" life, then you can choose essentially whatever type of leather you want without considering how tough it is. If you want a leather jacket that can provide protection should you fall off your motorcycle, then you need to get one made from a more durable leather.

For example, lambskin and calfskin are two common materials for leather jackets. They're soft and they look great, but the drawback is that they aren't that durable. Cowhide and horsehide are on the opposite end of the durability spectrum. They may not have that luxurious look you get with the softer leathers, but these thick hides will make you feel like the Terminator.

Pro Tip: Thicker Leather Jackets Start Out Stiff

If you compare, say, a lambskin leather jacket and a cowhide leather jacket, you'll notice a huge difference in the feel right away. Lighter, softer leathers adjust to your body quickly and are easy to move around in. Thicker leathers are stiff when you first get them and take some time to break in. If you get a thicker leather jacket and it doesn't feel amazing at first, just trust that it will improve the more you wear it.


Did you like this tutorial on how to buy your first leather jacket? My aim was to cover the key points that can help in choosing a leather jacket, based on what I found most useful for my first buy. Tell me what you think in the comments, and if you found the guide useful, please consider sharing it

Maria Ermolenko