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Since their debut as a men’s fashion piece more than 70 years ago, leather jackets have remained an iconic piece of clothing in every guy’s wardrobe. It seems the style influencers of the Forties and Fifties weren’t simply setting a trend – they were discovering a universal truth.
As with many pieces of clothing, the genesis of leather jackets is in military gear. Leather jackets were first engineered for aviators in the first and second world wars. But leather jackets weren’t a fashion statement until Hollywood stars donned them in the Fifties. The jacket’s most notable early appearance was on the back of Johnny Strabler, the nihilistic motorcycle gang leader played by Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953).
Leather jackets quickly became the subversive uniform of counterculture. America’s youth started sporting them religiously (see, Grease) while rock pioneers like Elvis and Gene Vincent wore the jackets on stage as easily as they wore blazers and printed shirts. This relationship continued through the 20th century with rockers such as Johnny Ramone, Bowie, and basically every punk star wearing a leather jacket.
Today, leather jackets have retained their status as a cool-kid must-have while also sprouting grown-up versions seen on high fashion runways, rap megastars and dapper dads alike. In other words, it’s never been a better time to rock a leather jacket – no matter your lifestyle. To help find the perfect leather jacket, we’ve rounded up some of our favorites below.
What Are the Leather Jacket Styles?
Before buying a new leather jacket, you’ll want to decide which style you’re looking for. Here are some of the main variations of leather jackets.
Classic Biker: The most iconic leather jacket of all time is the moto jacket (a.k.a. motorcycle jacket). It features a fold-down notch lapel collar, zip-up front (usually asymmetrically), plenty of zipper pockets and often a belt.
Café Racer: Another leather jacket designed for biking is the café racer. It’s more streamlined than the classic biker jacket with a round stand-up collar, straight zipper and minimal detailing.
Bomber: The bomber jacket was the original leather jacket worn by airmen in the early 1900s. These jackets have a ribbed hem and cuffs, making them an excellent defense against the cold.
Suede: If you want a more relaxed, western-inspired look, suede is a good option. These jackets are usually more versatile than a classic biker jacket as you can wear them casually or more dressed-up. Of course, you do sacrifice function as suede can’t get wet.
Collared: Collared leather jackets are the most dressy of the bunch. They usually have minimal styling, save for a large collar.
What Are the Best Leather Jackets to Buy?
We’ve rounded up ten of our favorite leather jackets for men, great for both big occasions and everyday wear alike. Don’t be afraid to beat these up and wear them in — premium leather will patina beautifully and get softer over time.
1. Schott NYC Leather Moto Jacket
Moto jackets from Schott NYC are the purebred classic worn by The Ramones and Brando in The Wild One. Their jackets are still as stylish as ever, with a throwback biker look, high-quality materials and the name brand to boot. If you’ve been searching for a no-nonsense leather jacket, you can stop here.
This specific Schott jacket showcases a slightly more modern, slimmer cut than Schott’s original Perfecto jacket. It still has all the trappings of the classic including an asymmetrical zip closure, waist belt, plenty of zippers and a diamond-quilted lining. The material is genuine oil-tanned cowhide that’s been hand-cut in America.
Despite its bold looks, this classic biker jacket can be worn with almost any outfit. Wear it casually with black jeans, a band tee and sneakers, rock on a night out with chelsea boots and a button-up or even pair it with street style looks.
2. Saint Laurent Classic Biker Jacket
Fun fact: Yves Saint Laurent was the first designer to suggest an haute couture leather jacket. He proposed it as part of his 1960 collection for Dior, but the brand and its customers did not agree with the choice. Even though it’s a high-end piece, the Saint Laurent biker jacket is still rebellious.
Saint Laurent’s leather biker jacket has become a fixture in the upscale outerwear market. Its success can be attributed to its simplicity. The jacket is very similar to the classic moto jacket of the Fifties, but features a handful of upgrades that place it in high fashion.
The leather is just what you’d expect from a premium brand: buttery and luxurious. The hardware is made of burnished silver and the fit is quite slim for a modern silhouette. Because this jacket is more modern, we recommend wearing it with equally modern outfits such as upscale sweats and sneakers. Of course, you can also wear it with slacks, a tie and a button-up as well.
3. Acne Studios Black Leather Nate Clean Jacket
Another great biker jacket with a classic look is the Acne Studios Nate. It’s in-between Schott and Saint Laurent in terms of price but delivers premium materials and a more modern vibe.
Acne Studios has become an established destination for clothing that bridges the gap between haute couture and streetstyle. This jacket follows suit with a few tweaks of the classic biker jacket. Firstly, the leather is Nappa lambskin, which creates a softer, more relaxed fit and feel. Secondly, Acne has eliminated some of the small details, translating to a more minimal look. The detachable pin-buckle belt is also slightly longer for more drama.
As mentioned, this is a great pick if you lean more towards streetstyle. It looks good with skate shoes, chinos and a beanie, but also works with chelsea boots and jeans.
4. Belstaff Black Leather Reeve Jacket
One of our café racer picks is this Reeve jacket from Belstaff. Belstaff is widely regarded as the coolest British outerwear brand of all time (sorry, Burberry) because they produce some of the best moto-inspired jackets around. You might have seen them in paparazzi pictures of famous cool guys such as Steve McQueen, David Beckham and Brad Pitt.
We like Belstaff’s Reeve jacket because it’s unflinchingly minimal and very versatile. The jacket is made of soft Nappa lambskin and features almost zero details, save for low-profile zippered waist pockets and a leather Belstaff logo patch on the shoulder.
Because café racer jackets are so minimal, they’re very easy to throw on over most outfits. They look especially good with slacks, sneakers and button-ups or layered over a hoodie in the winter.
5. TOM FORD Lambskin Zip-Up Jacket
There are high-end men’s brands… and then there’s Tom Ford. The menswear designer has been around since 2004 (making it quite young by haute couture standards) but easily trumps the competition with his grail-worthy pieces.
This zip-up jacket is quintessential Tom Ford with a sleek, no-nonsense design and top-notch Italian craftsmanship. The fit is technically “relaxed,” but the jacket is so well-designed that it’s more flattering than any slim-fit jacket from a lesser brand. The jacket also features a large zipper, a stiff high-standing collar and a matte finish on the lamb leather.
Although you can wear this jacket casually, it really shines with more dressy attire. Think trim-fit slacks, loafers and a black T-shirt or thin sweater.
6. BOSS leather bomber jacket
Bombers are the original leather jacket designed for war-time pilots. Now they’re a staple in stylish dude’s wardrobes. They’re slightly more casual than a café racer but more toned-down than a classic biker jacket. If you like bombers, we recommend this one from BOSS.
Although BOSS’s lambskin bomber is a piece of designer clothing, it maintains some style notes of old school aviator jackets such as a large chest pocket, a ribbed hem, cuffs and stand-up collar. This ribbing, along with a polyamide lining, makes the jacket warm enough for cold weather.
Because bombers are more casual, they look best with equally casual outfits such as throwback sneakers, a T-shirt and jeans or chinos.
7. Diesel Brown Leather L-Dean Jacket
Suede jackets sometimes get a bad rap because they’re prone to damage from rain. But suede isn’t meant to be functional. It’s a statement-making material that’s equal parts masculine and luxurious.
We like this L-Dean suede jacket from Diesel because it nails the macho, western-inspired look that suede jackets do so well. And with Seventies fashion back in vogue, this jacket really hits the mark. The L-Dean is made of goatskin suede with bold silver-tone studs on the placket closure, chest and pocket flaps. The jacket also has slimming V panels on the front that add to the cowboy vibe.
This jacket is a definitive statement piece that’s best for nights out, parties or events. We suggest rocking it with a button-up and slacks or going full wrangler with dark jeans, boots and a t-shirt.
8. Officine Generale Button-Up Fitted Jacket
Another great suede jacket is this button-up from the French brand Officine Generale. It’s very different than the Diesel jacket above with a more relaxed, urban look.
The jacket showcases a sophisticated city look with a five-button closure, classic collar, soft waist pockets and a chest pocket. The sheepskin material hangs quite casually, but a blazer-inspired design keeps the whole thing flattering. Although the jacket has a viscose lining, it’s quite thin, making it ideal for spring and fall or layering in winter.
In terms of how to wear the jacket, we like it with light trousers, a grown-up sweatshirt and modern sneakers. On a warmer day, you can also rock the jacket with a T-shirt, dark trousers and loafers.
9. Loewe Reversible Leather Jacket
Light leather is a style swerve that any rock star would approve of. It’s a great piece to sport in the warmer months, adding a throwback touch to any outfit. If you’re ready to give light leather a shot, we suggest this understated yet sumptuous jacket from Loewe.
One thing you’ll notice about this jacket (after the eye-catching caramel color) is the cool gingham lining which takes center stage when the jacket is reversed. This duality – sophisticated leather on one side and casual gingham on the other – makes the reversible Loewe jacket great for traveling or quickly switching gears before a night out.
Overall, the jacket is very minimal with waist pockets, a pointed collar and an embossed logo on the chest. It looks great in the spring with light jeans or chinos, a button-up shirt and loafers, or reversed to the gingham side with track pants and sneakers.
10. Schott NYC Slim Fit Leather Jacket
Schott might be known for their moto jackets, but they have a whole collection of great leather jackets that are worth checking out. One of our favorites from the classic brand is this straightforward collared leather jacket. It’s something you might see in a biker bar along with hardcore moto jackets, but transitions seamlessly to more sophisticated settings and outfits.
The cowhide jacket features a sharp spread collar, zip closure and pockets on the chest and waist. Although Schott calls it a slim fit jacket, the fit is more relaxed than most modern jackets with extra room in the chest and body. This is great for layering in the winter, allowing you to stack the jacket over sweaters and hoodies.