How To Instantly Look Like A Badass: Ultimate Guide To Buying A Leather Jacket

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No article of clothing says badass more than a good leather jacket. While there are other clothes that have a toughness to them, the leather jacket has been associated with bikers and bad boys for decades. If you want to buy a leather jacket for the first time, you probably have plenty of questions about finding the right one.

How can you tell a high-quality leather jacket from a bad one? How much should you expect to spend? What style of leather jacket should you go for? And for that matter, what are the different leather jacket styles even called?

I get it, because I've been there. I remember the initial confusion I had when I first jumped into the world of leather jackets and saw the many brands and options available. I've spent hours researching leather jackets and spent more money than I care to admit building up my collection.

That's why I put together this guide to finding the right leather jacket. Stick with me until the end and you'll know more than enough to purchase the best one for yourself. Here’s the Ultimate Guide To Buying A Leather Jacket.

What You Will Need to Follow this Tutorial

You don't need much to buy a leather jacket, but you should have the following to make the process as simple as possible:

  • Your measurements
  • The clothes you're going to wear with the leather jacket

For a leather jacket, these are the measurements you'll need:

  • Chest
  • Shoulders
  • Waist
  • Arm length

It's tough to take some of these yourself, which is why you should have a friend, or preferably a tailor, get your measurements for you.

When you try on leather jackets, it's important to do so with the same type of clothing you plan on wearing with the jacket. This allows you to check the fit properly and see if the style of the jacket works well with those clothes. It doesn't make much sense to try on leather jackets wearing a thick sweatshirt if you plan to wear it with just a t-shirt.

Now that we've covered what you'll need, let's move on to how you can find the leather jacket that checks all the boxes for you.

1. Decide What You Need the Jacket For

To choose the appropriate leather jacket, you need to decide what the purpose of this jacket will be. You probably want something that looks cool, and fortunately, you'll have plenty of options there. But is there anything else you'll need the jacket for? The most common reasons for getting a leather jacket, besides the looks alone, are to protect yourself and to stay warm.

The leather jacket is an excellent choice for protecting your skin, hence why so many bikers wear them. All leather isn't created equal, though. If you're getting a leather jacket to wear while riding a motorcycle or any other activity where you need protection, then you'll need a jacket made of a thicker leather, such as cowhide. Softer leathers, such as lambskin, look amazing but tear more easily.

The material and design of the jacket also determine how warm it will keep you. Jackets will wool linings and thicker leather are more appropriate for colder climates. If you live in a warmer area, then you'll need something lighter.

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2. Choose a Style

Leather jackets come in a variety of styles, although a select few are the most popular with the rest being niche styles.

The Double Rider, also known as the Perfecto, is the classic style you've probably seen in plenty of movies, and it was first popularized by Marlon Brando. It has a diagonal zipper and prominent lapels. This is the style of choice for bikers and tends to look the edgiest.

The Moto Racer is the simplest style. It has a clean-cut appearance with a vertical zipper and often includes a snap collar. Since this jacket takes a minimalist approach, it's the best choice if you need something you can wear in more formal settings.

The Bomber gets its name because it was originally worn by flight crews on bomber aircrafts. It features elastic on its waist and cuffs, and it typically has a collar made of flannel, fleece or another warm material, all of which help the jacket keep the wearer warm.

Those are the three most popular styles, and there are also long leather trench coats, leather fencing jackets and leather utility jackets with more pockets, to name just a few of the many additional options.

Pro Tip: Get a Versatile, Classic Style First

It's tempting to get a unique leather jacket that makes you stand out. If this is your first leather jacket, you're better off choosing one of the classic styles – the Double Rider, the Moto Racer or the Bomber.

Those styles are popular for a reason. While they may not be as unique, a high-quality leather jacket doesn't need gimmicks to get people's attention. A black Double Rider still turns heads.

There are two big problems with getting a unique leather jacket. The first is that you can't wear it as often. You can get plenty of use out of the classic styles, but a more unique style loses its appeal when you wear it all the time. People start wondering if that's the only jacket you own.

The second is that those more unique styles can make you look like you're trying too hard. Maybe you can pull off a leather trench coat, but most people will look like they're dressing up as a character from "The Matrix."

3. Learn About the Different Leathers

When it comes to leather, you need to look at both the skin itself and the type of leather.

The toughest leathers are horsehide, cowhide and goatskin, in that order. All three can take some punishment, although horsehide and cowhide are by far the best choice for any heavy-duty activities. Calfskin, sheepskin and lambskin are the softest. Lambskin, in particular, is a very soft, light leather that's used by quite a few luxury brands.

For types of leather, full grain is the skin in its original condition, making it the most durable. Top grain is the skin's upper layer, which means it's a bit thinner and fits better. Split grain is the skin's bottom layer and a popular choice for suede jackets. Finally, there is corrected grain, which is lower quality. Full grain and top grain are the best choices.

Pro Tip: Never Buy Faux Leather

After seeing the prices of a real leather jacket and a faux leather jacket, you may be tempted to go the fake route and save some cash. Trust me – you won't be happy with this decision in the long term. A leather jacket can last you decades. It's something you can pass on to your kids.

A faux leather jacket may not even last you a year. And the difference in quality is obvious. Faux leather has a completely different look, feel and smell than the real thing. If you can't afford a real leather jacket, save until you can, because faux leather is a poor substitute.

4. Choose a Color

The most popular leather jacket colors are undoubtedly black and brown. Other colors you'll see include red, blue, green and white.

Just like how I suggested you choose a versatile style for your first leather jacket, I also recommend choosing a versatile color that you can incorporate with many different outfits. That means either black or brown.

Leather jackets in other colors can be fun on occasion, but you won't get nearly as much use out of them. They're also a riskier choice.

5. Get the Right Fit

Remember how you took your measurements earlier? This is where that information will help. You have two options for buying a leather jacket – you can get one custom made or buy one off the rack.

If you go the custom-made route, you have it easy. All you need to do is send your measurements in, and you'll get a leather jacket that fits you perfectly. This is what we do at Independence Brothers – we make you look perfect.

If you're buying a jacket off the rack, you can compare your measurements to that brand's size chart to see what size you fall under. You can't trust size charts completely, though, which is why you should always try before you buy. If you order online, make sure the company will let you return the jacket if it doesn't fit.

The fit on a leather jacket should be snug, without feeling too tight or like it constricts your movement. A leather jacket is literally a second skin that you're wearing, and that's exactly what it should feel like in how it fits. In terms of length, the sleeves should come down to your wrists, and the bottom of the jacket should sit right at your waist, unless you've chosen a longer style.

Pro Tip: A Leather Jacket Will Break In

Leather conforms to your body and fits better the more you wear it. A jacket that feels very snug when you first try it on could be perfect after a few weeks of wearing it. You still shouldn't buy anything overly tight, but a little snugness is no problem.

The break-in period depends on the skin you choose. A thick horsehide or cowhide could take months before you work out that initial stiffness whereas softer skins will break in much sooner.

6. Inspect the Jacket

While the material can tell you a lot about the jacket, you need to inspect it to truly assess its quality. Look at the lining to see how strong it is, since rips can be expensive to fix.

Check all the metal hardware, including zippers, buttons and buckles. Good leather jackets will use high-quality hardware. Lower-quality brands will cut corners in this area to save money. The hardware should feel solid, and the zipper should click securely into place. Make sure you look at the zipper brand, as well. RiRi zippers are known for their quality, while YKK zippers are the budget option.

7. Take Care of Your Purchase

The great thing about leather jackets is that there isn't much care required. Still, proper maintenance will help your jacket last a lifetime.

The two things to avoid with a leather jacket are moisture and high temperatures. Leather can handle some rain or snow, but you'll need to let it dry after. Long exposure to extreme heat is bad for leather, which means you shouldn't leave it outside on a hot day.

The occasional application of leather conditioner and leather oil are about all you need to keep your leather jacket looking great. If you don't want to do this yourself, you can take your jacket to a professional leather cleaner about once every year or two.

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Finding Your New Favorite Jacket

I love leather jackets, and I feel like they're just about the coolest piece of clothing a man can wear. You can look great wearing one with jeans and a t-shirt, or dress it up a bit with a button-up. With all the leather jackets I've bought, I know how tough it can be to choose one, especially since they're one of the costlier items out there.

What'd you think of this tutorial about buying a leather jacket? Do you feel more confident in finding one that you'll love wearing? Let me know what you think in the comments, and if you enjoyed this article, please share it with anyone who could benefit from it.

Maria Ermolenko