The Savvy Man’s Guide to Wearing Leather Jackets with Jeans

Are you hiding this article under your jacket right now because you worry about being seen reading about fashion? Dude: get that out of your head right now. Not only guys eager to impress do themselves favors by keeping up with trends, but you show your peers that you don’t care what they think: You’re going the fashion route and opinions be damned.

Because you’re curious about what’s going on in men’s fashion, you know coordination is the name of the game. At Independence Brothers, we feel a sense of obligation to your image, which is why we rely heavily on feedback and trends when we set about educating men. In fact, we consider it a public service when we help men put outfits together.

Is the topic of coordinating leather jackets and jeans too mundane to bother with? Not if you are known for your taste and style--or if you want to be known for both. You may be surprised to learn how many looks you can pull off, simply by pairing leather jackets with jeans. And if the folks in your circle don’t notice your upgraded fashion acumen, maybe you need a new circle of friends!

You gotta pick your look

It’s no mystery why leather jackets have such romantic histories: they have been standard issue for several branches of the U.S. military, which is why you see the good guys wearing them in WWII movies. But, the leather jacket has evolved, which is why they have become such important statements for guys eager to impress.

Begin your education by being introduced to four basic types of leather jackets. At least one belongs in your closet. If you’ve got two, congratulations. You’re already a savvy dresser.

1. Biker bad: Be a bad boy wannabe in a biker jacket, a style that is currently making a big return after decades of being on the outs. This distinct look has lots of potential thanks to signature zippers and unique styling. Even good girls can't resist this retro design.

2. Varsity vibe: No PhD required to wear the leather jacket that makes you look like a brainiac even if you barely finished your undergraduate degree because you were eager to start writing your success story. The varsity jacket features elements of academia that stand out without asking you to show your diploma.

3. Bombers away: You don’t have to enlist in the military to resemble a guy ready to pin on wings and fly. The bomber is the quintessential symbol of masculinity; but that doesn’t mean you won't share a cockpit with a lady pilot if the occasion arises now or in the future.

4. Earthy brown: Black may be back but brown sets you apart from the crowd. Earthy, stalwart, solid and easy to coordinate, the brown bomber jacket says you’re no slave to fashion but love taking your own road. And if that road happens to be littered with adventure or less traveled, so be it.

Does it matter what you wear?

Dr. Jennifer Baumgartner is a specialist in the field of the Psychology of Dress and writes for the magazine “Psychology Today”. Baumgartner's insights into how and why men dress in certain ways are fascinating. She based her findings on interviews with guys who aren't shy about talking about their wardrobe choices and how those choices impact their images. What did she learn from her research? Revelations include these six insights:

  • Men are influenced by emotions and may use fashion to make themselves feel better.
  • Upwardly-mobile guys evolve over time and their fashion evolution is likely driven by changing lifestyles.
  • Today’s man isn’t above emulating fashion-forward trend setters.
  • Men’s shopping behaviors are rarely driven by impulse, but rather by need.
  • When men go out, they dress for women. At work, they tend to dress for other men.
  • Every man’s wardrobe reflects his lifestyle, whether he acknowledges that or not.

A word about jeans

Check out the page on the “Esquire” magazine website that shows an early pair of Levi’s on sale for the outrageous price of $1.95 around 143 years ago ( You’d have to move a few decimal points to bring that price up to today's standard!
Those basic Levis have morphed into a wide range of styles that include unwashed, cropped/folded hem jeans, skinny jeans, slim fit, embellished and ripped designs, according to style trackers focused exclusively on the 2018 jeans market.

So many styles—-but not all of them are appropriate when using a leather jacket as a fashion focal point. Can you imagine yourself showing up in a cool bomber jacket atop ripped or unwashed jeans? And what would it take for you to get the wrong kind of second looks if you paired embellished jeans with a rugged brown military jacket?

Jeans and leather jackets 101

Having been enlightened by the words of Dr. Baumgartner’s subjects, it’s time to get to the meat of this guide: pairing leather jackets with jeans to emulate today’s hottest looks. Like jeans, leather jackets shout attitude, protection, durability and longevity, so they’re twin sons of different mothers. To achieve a look you’ll be proud to show off, peruse these pairings and see what works for you.

Biker bad:

You don’t need a photo of Marlon Brando or James Dean to pull of this vintage look, but if either inspire you, go for it. Make your acquaintance with Schott, the iconic company that has been around since 1913 and the brand responsible for the Brando look in leather jackets that are almost always sold out.

This jacket features star-shaped, shoulder epaulette studs, belted hem and asymmetrical zipper. Complete your image with APC slim fit jeans, a classic Merino wool sweater and Converse kicks and you’ll look like you stepped off the silver screen back in 1950.

Varsity vibe:

If you’re preppy and make no excuses, pairing a men’s leather varsity jacket with jeans could make you feel smarter because you’re a trendsetter. Whether you select a varsity jacket that’s only identified by its signature silhouette or opt for embellishments that run the gamut from contrasting cuffs, waistband and color, you can pull off the look you crave.

The Washingtonian suggests an Oxford shirt, Cordovan lace-ups and perhaps a cashmere V-neck sweater to accompany jeans that had better have a more conservative leg because a skinny jean could ruin the look.

Bombers away:

Bomber jackets do double duty when the weather turns bad — especially if you choose one with a hood and/or quilted or sheared lining. Offer a woman your bomber when things get nippy and that thick shearling liner will endear her to you. Does it matter whether the hide is bison, lamb, pig or bovine? Not really—as long as it’s not bonded leather that screams “low quality.”

A solid black t-shirt always passes fashion muster and nothing says “I’m out to save the world” like a Berluti slim-fit wool polo that will require you to open your wallet wide if you add it to your wardrobe.

Earthy brown:

Even if you watched World War II films in black and white, colorization revealed the true story: Those original leather bomber jackets were dyed brown to match military uniforms. We don’t have to tell you that Indiana Jones wouldn’t be caught dead roaming underground caves in a black bomber jacket, do we?

In fact, brown is standard for plenty of guys who rock an earthy vibe, though bombers come in plenty of unconventional colors. Can every dude pull off maroon? That’s your call, but “too much of a good thing” can screw up a cool look composed of Ermenegildo Zegna jeans and Harry’s of London sneakers.


History worth repeating

Philosopher and writer George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past, are condemned to repeat it.” In some cases, that’s true, but in fashion, there is no condemnation—-but rather celebration—-in both recalling and repeating the past when two products live on, as do jeans and leather jackets.

In fact, it’s been over 100 years since a military designer came up with the idea for a rugged jacket that could take a guy through a war if need be and come out looking cool. It’s been even longer since Bavarian entrepreneur Levi Strauss cashed in on the San Francisco Gold Rush by working with tailor Jacob Davis to patent rivet-reinforced pants made to stand up to heavy labor.

A match made in fashion heaven? You bet. The overwhelming number of jeans and leather jackets on today's market are infinite, which is why it’s so important to understand your own aesthetic each time you shop. And if our tutorial has enlightened you, we encourage you to share this post with guys eager to learn more about the wardrobe choices they make. Oh, and feel free to take some credit for influencing their improved fashion sensibilities down the road!

GuideMaria Ermolenkostyle