How to Style a Leather Jacket
There are few pieces of clothing as timeless as a leather jacket.
It is a simple item that adds masculinity, edge, and style to anyone’s wardrobe. Not only does a leather jacket flatter every body type, male and female, it also serves—quite literally—as a second skin that can keep you warm and protected in almost any environment. It’s practical. It’s stylish. It’s a classic. Long story short, every closet needs one, including yours.
Purchasing your own leather jacket can feel much like a rite of passage into adulthood, as it will last you well throughout the years and provide for you in both versatility and reliability. That being said, styling them may seem daunting. They are statement pieces full of plenty of personality, which can be intimidating.
We’re here to put your worries at ease with a basic step-by-step guide on how to go about finding, purchasing, and styling a leather jacket in a way that is personal and fashionable.
What You'll Need
There aren’t many things you will need in order to style a leather jacket—other than a leather jacket of course. This tutorial will require a few essentials, but will mostly involve your personality, style, and confidence.
- A Leather Jacket – If you don’t have one already, we’ll help you pick one that suits you.
- Your Wardrobe – Leather jackets are so versatile, what you already have in your closet probably already works! You won’t need to go out and purchase anything new unless something really stands out to you.
- Pinterest, Magazines, etc. – Essentially, anything that inspires you to help you figure out your own sense of fashion.
- A Little Creativity – At the end of the day, styling your jacket will be up to you, and there are no wrong answers, so dare to step out of your comfort zone (and don’t limit yourself by saying, “I can’t pull that look off.” You totally can.)
Step 1: Figure Out Your Look
Start by evaluating your closet and asking yourself what your personal style is. Do you feel rugged and masculine when you look in the mirror? Maybe you float more toward preppy items?
If you’re having trouble identifying your style, try to find inspiration in your favorite magazines or Pinterest. If you have a favorite celebrity you would like to emulate or a character you like, get an idea of what that person wears and use that as inspiration.
Another important thing to keep in mind is your lifestyle. Do you work outside frequently or do you spend most of your time at a desk? Is your home located up north, or do you live in a temperate climate? Leather jackets are naturally warm pieces that are generally informal—make sure you are aware of what kind of style is going to suit the life you are already living.
Step 2: Decide How Much You Want to Spend
Two main factors determine how much a leather jacket will cost: the material and the brand. Whether or not name brands are important to you is a personal preference, but we can help you learn the difference in leather quality.
Full grain and top grain leathers are made from the whole outer hide of an animal. It’s thick, authentic, and the most expensive. If durability and warmth are high on your list of priorities, we recommend you invest your money here. Full or top grain will give you the best bang for your buck and produce jackets that last lifetimes.
Genuine leather is made from the inner hide of an animal, making it a little thinner, a little less durable, and a little cheaper. This may be a good option if you aren’t worried about your jacket’s resilience to the elements.
We recommend staying away from bonded leather. Its low prices are tempting, but bonded leather is rarely worth the price in comparison to genuine or top grain leather.
Step 3: Pick Out Your Leather Jacket
Leather jackets are an all-encompassing term that covers a variety of different styles. At this point in your journey, you can use the information you’ve accumulated in Steps 1 & 2 to find your ideal leather jacket.
It’s easy to spot a leather biker jacket when you see one, and purchasing one might feel intimidating. Forever a common favorite, the biker jacket is full of rebellious spirit and youthful style.
The aviator jacket was originally made for military men to keep them warm during flight. These jackets are often lined with a thicker fabric on the inside, such as fleece or flannel, for additional warmth.
This particular model is for those who like to keep it simple. Racer jackets are understated and fitted, pockets and a snap collar being their most intense features. They come in a variety of colors and are the easiest jacket to dress up.
Step 4: Learn to Layer
Now that you have all the details worked out, it is time to start putting it all together. There are a few articles of clothing that will pair perfectly with a leather jacket every time without fail. As you start adding pieces, remember that leather jackets are already quite warm, so there’s no need to bulk them out with too many layers.
For a casual day of errands, dress your jacket down with any t-shirt. Stark white gives you a classic greaser look, while graphics make your look little more modern.
Want to look a little more put together for a night out or a date? Go for a crew cut sweater in a neutral color like heather grey or cream to look both masculine and polished.
Darker button-ups made of denim or flannel can contribute a look of sophistication and readiness to your look.
Step 5: Stay Dark On the Bottom
The style of your leather jacket will influence what kind of jeans you go with—and I say jeans, because when you’re wearing a leather jacket, you should really be wearing jeans.
Generally, darker denim works best with leather jackets. You’ve most likely selected a black jacket, as they are the most popular and versatile. In this case, solid black or dark stone-washed jeans can really pull your look together. Or, if you’re keeping it casual, this might be your chance to make your old ripped jeans fashionable.
Perhaps you went a little bolder and selected a brown leather jacket. With brown, you still want to stay true to darker colors, but be sure to select jeans the same tone as your jacket. If the jacket is more of an ashy color, go for cool-toned blue or distressed grey jeans. For warmer browns, pick out pants that are more jewel toned, or reach for your blackest black.
Step 6: Balance Your Look with Shoes
There are generally two pairs of shoes that will always look good with a leather jacket, no matter what ensemble you’ve chosen for the rest of your outfit: sneakers and boots.
Sneakers in almost any color will complement your casual t-shirts and sweaters well. Brightly colored shoes especially can make for interesting fashion statements that balance the natural confidence of a leather jacket. We tend to stay away from pastels, though—the softness clashes too jarringly with the ruggedness of leather.
If you went with a biker jacket, feel free to marry them unapologetically to your favorite pair of boots. Trust us on this: a biker jacket needs biker boots. In fact, boots work with any leather jacket, especially when you want a little added edge.
Ultimately, remember not to underestimate the power of your kicks to finish a look, and make sure you chose a pair that complements the feeling of your outfit.
Everyone’s personality and wardrobe is different. At the end of the day, this tutorial on how to style your leather jacket is a guideline that will hopefully inspire you to feel comfortable enough to reach for pieces instinctively on your own. Leather jackets should give you a sense of security and satisfaction, so don’t let their presence in your closet intimidate you. Let it encourage you instead!
Remember to let us know how you feel! Did this tutorial help you? Be sure to let us know in the comments below what you think, and feel free to share if you enjoyed.