Leather Jackets Are Fucking Cool (Especially When They’re Vintage)

IMG_2696

It’s pretty crazy to think that I’ve never discussed leather jackets in depth on the blog despite: their connection to vintage casual attire, the fact that wearing one is inherently cool, or that they seemingly go with almost every look you could be into.

A leather jacket really is the ultimate piece of casual Americana and they’re awesome, especially when they’re vintage.  Honestly, this article has been a long time coming, so you better enjoy it.

Listen to the Podcast Episode here!

Introduction

Leather jackets are just so fucking cool.  I mean, they’re worn by every cool person you can think of, from punks and motorcyclists to pilots, smugglers, and Captains; who hasn’t looked at a picture of Dr. Henry Jones Jr. and thought “damn, I wish that were me”.  I mean, sure soft shouldered sportcoats and chore coats are great, but nothing really beats the rugged charm of a leather jacket.

It’s definitely a tandem effort, between the material/design and simply the vibe of the people that wore them, which really was everyone.  At it’s core, a leather jacket is made from an animal’s hide, which inherently has a “masculine” draw thanks to that violent/hunting connotation.  Apart from that, it’s just a tough material (though soft/luxurious leathers exist) that was meant to be hard wearing, which is why it was made for workwear, militaria, and casual attire.  And when you look at those old photographs, the guys in them just look so damn cool; it’s hard not to when you put on a leather jacket.

In the 1920s, belted mid-length coats were cool, but more “modern”ones did exist!

I honestly think that the best ones are vintage, mainly due to the details and materials that really aren’t available today.  The type of hide is a big one: the heavy steerhide, the soft goatskin, or the feeling of a good suede is rare and largely out of reach for most mainstream modern entries, but a good leather jacket is more than that.  Details like D-pockets, wide collars, or even a cropped body for high waisted trousers are something not easily found.  Contrary to general popular belief, there was more than just A-2 flight jackets and biker jackets; each maker (and decade for that matter) had their own vision for what a leather jacket should look like. Plus, back in the day, they were made to last which is why buying vintage ones is almost the same value as getting one made today.  Hell you could argue that they have character built right into the hide!

Trying to save time hunting and getting a modern one like Real McCoys or custom Himel Brothers, you’re still going to spend an arm and a leg; trying to find good ones from the mall is a moo point (it’s a cow’s opinion).  That’s no detriment to those makers, as leather jacket making is an art and one that is well worth the money, though many of us don’t have that luxury.

It’s just simple fact that vintage leather jackets are inherently cool (though I understand that modern may be better for some of you). In any case, we all know that details matter within menswear and when you have your mind set on something, you’ll never settle for anything less!  And hopefully this blog post will help sell you on idea of a vintage leather jacket or a leather jacket in general.

Movie stars and celebs in leather jackets certainly help push the narrative that these garments are cool. And rightly so.

If you want more of a historical take on leather jackets (instead of my rambling stories and opinions), check out Spencer Stewart’s pieces on the Fedora Lounge here and here. He’s been a vintage seller for years and has a wealth of knowledge.  And while you’re at it, check out Dave Himel (of Himel Bros) and his old website.  Most of my knowledge of leather jackets comes from reading both of those back in the day!

Me and Leather Jackets

That cat on the right is hella cool and he knows it.

Unlike many other guys who have probably lusted after the Schott Perfecto (or perhaps more recently the SLP ones) by seeing pictures on Instagram or perusing r/MaleFashionAdvice, my desire came from experiencing pure vintage.  As you know, I went through a phase early in my journey where I was in period accurate clothing as much as I could.  This eventually lead me to investing heavily in sportshirts (which I still wear to this day) and a bit of the Gabardine short jacket, but leather jackets always seemed intriguing. They were just so damn cool!

It was mainly because other people in the SoCal vintage community love post-war casual wear, so wearing leather jackets with your sportshirt and wide leg jeans was common and intriguing to me; it certainly was better than wearing whatever the fuck I thought was being dressed down in 2014. They looked so natural and slouchy and yet rugged!

Facebook groups and Tumblr posts (and much later, an amazing Leather Jacket Archivebook by Lightning Magazine) were the way I got into seeing the different styles of leather jackets.  All the Cossacks, A-1s, A-2s, cycling jackets, and more got me horny for the leather jacket.  Most of the guys in the vintage scene  had A-2s or G-1s for that true post-war GI dad look, but a few of the hardcore collectors brought some crazy shit out for me to marvel at. Seeing all the details in special models like cossacks, 1920’s A-1s, Grizzlies, or even crazy European ones (leather jackets aren’t just an American thing!) blew my mind.

Jackets back then had quilted lining made of silk or rayon that made them insulated and feel nice.  It’s similar to a jacket’s lining in that regard.

It was nice looking at all the vintage guys wear prized pieces and seeing different scans and photographs of true vintage people shared on social media, but the real push for me to starting getting them was seeing leather being worn by Japanese collectors and the boys over at Bryceland’s. There’s just something special about bringing a classic garment (or modern ones inspired by true vintage) worn through a modern lens.  All of it finally erupted once Spencer and I started going to Inspiration LA, which is basically a vintage denim/leather heaven.

Short length, generous ribbing, and zippers/pockets! A very European style that is unique and rare to find.

I was pretty much sold on the idea of obtaining vintage leather jackets. Mall brands or high-end designer ones didn’t have the cut (vintage proportions are important  as I wear high waisted trousers) or nearly all the details I wanted.  They were basic.  And obviously artisan brands like Eastman Leather, Himel, or Real McCoys, despite having the details I wanted, were just unattainable in price.  Like most things in my life, it seemed like it was going to be a pipe dream.

A chore coat-esque workwear variant.  Cool, but not exactly wearable for most styles.

Even so, I knew I was going to get a leather jacket someday.  If I was being completely honest, I wanted two or three of them, because I was soon enamored with how the different colors and details conveyed a different style! I knew leather isn’t exactly practical for LA, where the weather was seldom colder than 60 degrees, but it was one of those things I just had to have because of how awesome it was!

It didn’t help that I came into it with the pickiest taste in the world, which honestly was another excuse for not shelling out the money (but that’s a good thing too) . For example, I knew I wanted some with a long collar, so that meant that racer-style ones were out of the question.

Because of my preferences and the fact that these (even vintage) were going to be a big investment (especially since it will last nearly a lifetime), I knew I wasn’t going to let it go the way of my shoe journey.  I wasn’t going to waste my money and go through a few different iterations and trials in order to find the one I wanted.

So goooood.

The fact remains that the leather jacket is simply badass and versatile for a variety of different styles: a denim jacket can be a bit hippy; a chore coat is a bit workwear; a shortjacket doesn’t have the right heft.  A leather jacket however has all of these qualities, which was one of the reasons I wanted it. The other half of the desire was simply for the aesthetics. I mean who doesn’t want that waist-level jacket with a wide collar, fun zips, deets, and a well-worn patina? Vintage was where its at.

Slowly, I was able to get [nearly] every vintage leather jacket I wanted. It was a few years of being picky (like I am with tailoring with ties) and simply copping when the time is right. and now I’m able to write this lengthy blog post about them!  I have a few weird preferences over styles and what vibes they create, so hopefully learning about my thought process proves useful to you guys.  Think of this as the leather jacket equivalent of my fedora article!

Perfect proportions and fit on this leather jacket.  It should’t go too far past the natural waist!

Brown Single Breasted Zip

IMG_9463

A-2 style on the left with a plain SB in suede on the right.

I think that he brown single breasted jacket is probably the best one to get, more so if you’re into the classic/vintage side of menswear.  The one that comes to mind most is the A-2 or G-1 styles, because that’s what WWII guys wore most often; regular sportswear makers would bring non-military ones to catalogs for civvies to wear.  Whatever the case, it’s a the quintessential leather jacket in menswear.

Like a brown fedora (or better yet, a brown checked sportcoat), it seems to make everything look so casual with nods to rustic vibes mainly due to the inherent character of brown leather.  It’s a natural compliment for jeans (for a casual vibe) or chinos (to lean into the milsurp look), but I rather like it when it’s worn with tailoring.  Guys back in the day wore them with all the above, so however you wear the brown jacket, the connotations to vintage style are obvious. I’m pretty sure the modern dressers here are very aware of that, and lean into it!

IMG_7835

Doug in a reproduction A-2 with a heavy turtleneck and HBT work trousers.  The body is a bit long for my taste though.

Of course the vibe of the outfit isn’t solely dependent on how you style it, but also the inherent details of the jacket.  Each one has a different look to it! I’m sure there are plenty of names if want to get specific (like french cycling jackets), but the aesthetics are what matters.

Most single breasted brown leather jackets are fairly minimal, consisting of a collar, a zip front, and side pockets.  In most cases, if you opt for a vintage military one, you’ll get flapped side pockets (some with handwarmers as well); others may also have a chest zip pocket.  I personally prefer the “western” or plain civilian ones, since they’re a bit more plain and don’t have the overt military connotations. Makes it just a bit easier to style them broadly!

Material also matters, as you have the choice to find them (or commission them) in steer, horse, or cowhide; suede is also nice if you want something a bit more luxe and soft.  Think of it as the effect of calfskin vs. suede in footwear; one is the “standard” while the other is casual.   In that same comparison to footwear, I also prefer my leather jackets dark shades of brown (just like how a dark navy is best), but I’m starting to come to favor lighter ones, just to be a little bit different or to lean into the 1970’s vibes.

As you’ll soon see below, the brown SB leather jacket is damn good for almost everything, limited only by the exact outfit you want to do.  A navy turtleneck? Good for it.  An OCBD with a tie? Fuck yeah.  With white sneakers? Absolutely! Not only is it my preferred one to wear lately, but it’s probably the best one to start out with, since you can wear it with everything.  Everything. 

Obviously not everything here is vintage, but hopefully you get the idea on how to love style a brown leather jacket.

Classic and simple design!

Variations, posted by an enthusiast o n the Fedora Lounge.

IMG_8058

Button front, custom by Himel Bros (worn by Dave himself).

The brown ones on the bottom are so fucking good! The perfect design with ribbing, hand warmer pockets, a wide collar and a chest zip for interest.

1930’s French cycling jacket. Noted for it’s very short and fitted waist!

Sharp, even amongst suits.

Back pleats and side tabs are desirable within vintage ones, and aren’t commonly found on modern versions.

Fun zips/pockets on this Fedora Lounge one.

IMG_0064

A-2 and overalls on Spencer.

It should always be easy to throw on. Love how soft this one is and the subtle details like the slanted pockets, wide collar, or the ring-zip on the breast pocket.

Just like with tailoring, action/belt backs are highly prized on vintage leather jackets.  They also were functional.

Can never go wrong with slim denims and a fedora.

IMG_2819

A-2 with OG-107s.

Funky pocket filled one on our friend Enoch.

Vintage A-2 on Kenji, with an Ascot Chang club shirt, beret, and Ambrosi trousers.

Vintage Grizzly.

Charcoal grey trousers and a denim shirt!

A bit of a dad look, but I love it. The vibrant shirt goes well with the brown leather to create a casual vibe.

A wild move with a suede A-2.  A louche take on a military classic.

Lovely color on this one. Looks light too, which would be perfect for year round wear!

Stoffa flight jacket in suede. Suede is a great way to make something more refined rather than to simply lean into the ruggedness.

A G-1 style jacket.

Like I said, Kenji’s light brown SB is the perfect year round jacket.

IMG_9823

Typical attire with my brown SB leather jacket.

My SB brown leather jacket was one that I took a gamble on since it was listed at only $100 on eBay.  Typically, vintage leather jackets are at least $200, especially if they’re older than the 1950’s.  It made me think that I may have gotten something damaged! At least it looked good in the pictures and the measurements lined up with my own.

When I got it in, I realized that the leather was hella dried out.  I tried wearing it out and I accidentally made a tear! A patch by my tailor and a few coats of conditioning wax later, it was good to go.  And I really mean ait; the leather felt supple and soft, streets ahead of what I originally got from eBay! Pretty soon, I had one of my favorite leather jackets.

IMG_9803

Like I said earlier, I didn’t want to get an A-2 because of the military/Indiana Jones vibes, so this one is perfect! There isn’t a label anywhere to be found, but I’m assuming it’s 1940s or 1950s based on the overall design and styling of the jacket (also small zippers are a good general indicator of age; big zippers are a later thing).

You’ll immediately notice that the collar is wide and the jacket ends right near the natural waist, already making it a winner in my eyes.  I absolutely hate casual jackets that are too long. This isn’t about being a purist, but simply just a preference for my own proportions; again, this preference immediately cancels almost all modern leather jackets.

Despite it having less bells-and-whistles than an A-2, it still has plenty of character! You can see the subtle western themes on the jacket, from the curved yoke on the chest, the cuff detailing, and the yolked pockets. It also has a zip chest pocket on the outside, which is perfect for holding wallet or keys, as there is no inside pocket.  And speaking of the inside, it’s actually blanket lined, which here means a hearty cotton. You can see a bit of the green/yellow peaking out on the top picture, as it has a bit of a permanent press on it which makes the left side pull out.

I honestly didn’t wear it much to begin with (it was just a backup for being a completionist), but I’ve come to love it much more now, especially since I’ve been experimenting a lot more with my casual style.  It’s unfussy and goes with everything! I actually don’t wear it with tailoring much as I like to lean more into vintage casual/workwear vibes when I wear it out.

IMG_7884

Goes with black jeans well!

IMG_6544

IMG_8672

See how well it works with tailoring!

IMG_9047

Easy going, with a crew neck sweatshirt and jeans. That’s what you need from a brown SB leather jacket!

IMG_1262

I actually got this next jacket while I was writing this article; it certainly wasn’t planned!

During my November 2019 trip to the Rose Bowl Flea Market, I came across a rather interesting leather jacket. First off, as you can probably tell, the color was a lot lighter than the ones I’ve been used to, coming across more like a 1970’s jacket (though without all the pleather and ridiculous accents).  The leather was also considerably lighter and softer than anything I had felt before, making it different and triggering the collector within. The front was typical with a point collar, breast zip pocket, and side handwarmers, but it was the back that made it special!

IMG_1272

On the back there was a half belt, pleats, and side adjusters.  The only caveat was that the jacket was longer than I’m used to, going a bit past the natural waist. As you saw above, this wasn’t a big deal as different brands had differing fits and details.  It may be a size too big, but it was a snug fit in the arms and chest that the fit was probably intentional (or I’m just slightly short).

I left it behind and to my surprise, I found it again two months later at the January Rose Bowl Flea.  Unperturbed by the length this time (as I really wanted a lightweight leather jacket to wear in spring-summer), I asked how much the jacket was.  The seller stated it was $100 and I countered with $85, which he actually accepted.  The result was that I had  yet another brown leather jacket that was just different enough to create a different vibe.

IMG_1274

It’s a shade that works so well with black.

IMG_2659

IMG_2681

Brown Double Rider

The brown double rider is an interesting one, because it actually was the first jacket to truly intrigue me.  Perhaps its because its brown (like most A-2s or miltary jackets) but it comes in the style of a badass biker.  That’s why it’s so cool to me: it’s equal parts “rustic” and bad boy.

Because of it’s double breasted nature and naturally occurring wide collar/lapels, it’s a special jacket that lends itself to being used by aviators and bikers (hence the name in the advertisement above) since it lets you be as “closed up” as you need to be and protect yourself from the elements when driving your vehicle of choice. And thanks to the brown color, it comes with a much more older, vintage appeal.  Think of something like the Rocketeer or Captain Rogers before he got his official costume.   It’s a little bit different and that’s why I like it.

The styling options are probably about as equal to the single breasted ones but the overlapping nature and extra details probably gives you more of an edge.  A turtleneck or scarf gives it that rider/pilot aesthetic, which is what a few of these inspirations go for.  This detail also makes it perfect to layer up.  Brown is definitely accessible and the most common, so it also works well with tailoring, either through flannel trousers or chinos; a tie is also appropriate.  I unfortunately don’t have many vintage photographs to share, but luckily this style of leather jacket is still popular today that I can share some ideas with you.

Again, it’s the pretty much badass version of the Single Breasted ones but aren’t nearly as punk as the black models.

Grey sweater and chinos are great.

A plain front style with a chest zip and handwarmers, like the single breasted variations.

Double breasted version with buttons are very European and tend to look older. This is probably a German one.

Stoffa jacket.  The wide, propped collar just looks so damn good.

The Armoury’s model, again worn with chinos and a turtleneck to approximate a cyclist look.

IMG_7111

My brown double rider was my first “real” leather jacket (that I enjoyed wearing) and was purchased at the Dapper Day expo of all places!  I found it from a guy who was selling mainly 60s-80s ones and was surprised he had this, which he let me have for something like $150.

It’s probably from the late 1940’s or 1950’s, but the cut and design was everything I wanted from a double rider. It has wide lapels, which are perfectly dramatic and ready to be propped up. The chest zip is angled upwards as a take on the traditional details and it has side handwarmer pockets that are able to be zipped closed.  However, it retains some biker details like the flapped coin pocket, bi-swing back, and bottom belt; the latter is a good detail to ensure that things stay in place when driving.  It’s certainly a great jacket and the lack of epaulets helps it be a bit more versatile and again, not as overly milsurp (despite it not being a military jacket).

You can’t see it here, but it has gorgeous lightly quilted rayon lining, while the bottom of the hem has a strip of suede.  It really is a testament to all the details (and care) they used to put into work/sportswear!  The leather is softer than my western single breasted jacket but yet not as soft as the light brown one, making this generally a good three season jacket.  I’ts definitely not in perfect condition, but it’s damn good for the price and age.

IMG_1261

The overall design is definitely bolder than the others, so it may not be considered as versatile, but I always think that a double rider will have a special place in a leather jacket collection.  Since this one is a lot more “closed up” than the others, I like to pair it with more tailored looks, akin to how a DB is “more formal” than an SB sportcoat. Wearing it with a tie gives a bit of that dieselpunk/aviator aesthetic, which I quite enjoy.

It was still the first real leather jacket I had, but admittedly, I don’t wear wear it as often now.  It’s more of a jacket you wear as a statement piece rather than a go-to you can always throw on.  But that’s what makes the brown double rider special!  Everytime I wear it, I feel a bit closer to the cycling European look where as my single breasted one is more suited for a straight forward military or western wear look.

IMG_2425

IMG_0410

IMG_0464

IMG_0414

IMG_0415

Black Double Rider

Oh boy here it is.  The Black Double Rider.  To me, this is the ultimate leather jacket because it’s literally the embodiment of badassery.  In essence, it’s combining the cool offbeat aviation/biker aesthetic of the brown with the edgyness of the color black, which we’ve already discussed is super cool to wear in menswear.

Contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t always a symbol of punk or rock & roll culture.  It was simply done as a regular jacket available to civilians, both young and old, as an alternative to the brown leather jacket; it was even available in the same hides like pony/horse or cow.  This might be conjecture, but I feel that it was never quite as popular as brown, considering brown is a safe color to wear as outerwear and has ties to it’s military roots.  Maybe that latter half is why it eventually was co-opted by youths and rebel culture.  Or perhaps they simply wanted a black leather jacket to match their engineer boots (which were also commonly black).

The one thing to note about the black biker/double rider is that makers eventually lent themselves to other interesting designs as times went on.  Adding in detachable fur collars, Star studs on the epaulets, drawstrings/fringes, or a red quilted or buffalo check lining was a popular way to give the black biker it’s own unique identity, but perhaps the most famous known detail is the “D-pocket”.

This detail is plainly seen in the model below, where instead of a left handwarmer pocket, they have D shape stitched around a small button-flap pocket and a chest zip.  It was most likely done so you could reach for important things while riding your bike!  Yes, this detail was found on a few brown double riders, but it’s one distinctive mark that’s commonly seen on black jackets.

A black (or dark brown) by the Armoury, using a jaunty scarf for contrast.

Chase making it look cool with a turtleneck and black jeans.

Due to these cool details and simply the dark color, the Black Double Rider is the most popular and expensive one out of almost all leather jacket models.   I mean, it’s not just collected by vintage menswear nuts but rock stars, motorcyclists, hipsters, and so on. It just happens to look good on everyone since it provides that badass rebel quality.  Not many people make good ones today (pleather jackets can be found on Asos or H&M, but no one wants that), so everyone is constantly on the hunt for good vintage ones.

Buco is probably the most famous maker of the vintage black biker and their prices are often crazy: I’ve seen ones go for over $1k.  The Real McCoys has since been able to reproduce them (as they now own the Buco name), but the prices are still hefty.  Even vintage Harley-Davidson ones are also at the same price (and no, we’re not talking about the dumb modern ones you find in thrift stores).  In general though, the most prized ones are the jackets from the 1930s to the late 1950s (brand name or not), as that’s the best time period where quality and design were in tandem.  After that, you start to get jackets that are a bit too long in the body or use leather that is lighter/softer than the ones before; this is one reason why I don’t like Schott Perfectos (most vintage ones are from the 1960s-1970s) or any Excelled ones.  And even then, those ones go for a lot of money.

However, the money is worth it for a piece that will literally go with everything.  If these inspiration images haven’t shown you already, a black biker is a perfect match for beatnik style, workwear, or a 1940’s dad who happens to be cool (aka with tailoring).   Hell, even if you’re a more modern dresser, there’s a bunch of inspiration to be had during Hedi Slimane’s tenure over at Saint Laurent.  It’s so easily thrown over a chambray sportshirt or a simple tee shirt (both plain, breton striped, or with a fun graphic).  Black jeans, blue jeans, or grey flannel, the black biker goes with it all.

Bucos, from Kenji Cheung’s collection.

Vintage (not mine)

SLP.

Chase again, with chambray, denim, and white socks/loafers.  It really gives a punk edge to ivy classics.

Great with a spearpoint and knit tie!

SLP!

Graphic tees and a western silverbelly fedoraare a good pair for it.

Mixing leathers? Hell yeah.

A good snug fit.  Check out the copper brass instead of the usual silver!

Ethan Newton looks great with a Breton tee and engineer boots. Don’t forget to note the A-2 on Kenji.

1960’s variations.

The Ramones in Schott perfectos. They are longer to accommodate a lower rise and seem to be made from a lighter leather.

A simple look that is so good.

As I am a person who loves having pieces that work with any style I want to do, the black double rider was a must.  Like I said earlier, it just has a different vibe than the brown one: it’s edgier and has the ability to punk-ify anything it’s worn with.  In other words, brown is good to lean into a vintage-inspired aesthetic, but the black represents modernism in an irreverent way.  The only thing holding me back was not just finding one that fit, but one that was within my price range.

Most of the ones I’d seen were over $500 and getting a decent reproduction was gonna be in the thousands! There was no way I was going to find one for cheap at the Rose Bowl or vintage store as either my size would be taken by pickers or the sellers would know what they have and priced it accordingly.

God seemed to intervine and throw me a bone during last year’s Inspiration LA, perhaps as a consolation from being in a harrowing accident that cost me my car.  During the last hour of the trade show, I found a random seller (I feel like I’d seen him before at a different show or flea) that had a 1950’s Hercules black horsehide double rider in my size. It had a few small holes, some of the zippers were missing, and it lacked the belt.  However, the price was $400 (before tax) and that was perfect enough for me.

IMG_0060

I had assumed correctly; this black double rider is legitimately the coolest thing I own. The collar was wide, the length was cropped for high rise trousers, and the body was snug without being uncomfortable; all the other “issues” were no trouble at all and only helped make the price affordable for me!  I especially love the gold buttons and zippers, which help give it an older look instead of the traditional silver that we normally see.  I mean just look at it; it’s so fucking cool. And it really does go with everything.

IMG_0016

Now despite being perfect it cut and dramatic detailing, it’s a true vintage motocycle jacket which makes it tough to wear in certain contexts. By that I meant that the horsehide is thick and the quilted lining makes it feel even thicker, making it difficult to layer with (when compared to my other jackets) or even wear on it’s own in slightly warmer weather.  I can definitely feel it feel snug through the arms (even in a regular button up) and I can seldom get it completely closed. I then realized that most of the other expensive ones I’ve seen at inspiration were definitely lighter, lending them to be more versatile; this is probably why those prices were so much higher compared to mine or ones with thick/rough lining.  My jacket was probably the antithesis of the cheaper 1970s-1980s ones I had come across in thrift stores.

The D-pocket is also a bit awkward when you’re used to pocket fisting.

I still try to wear it as much as I can, with those “issues” in mind.  If I had a preference, I definitely prefer wearing it with grey flannels and chinos as a way to make classic tailoring a bit edgy or give it a rock&roll chic (as seen above).  Rayon shirts are perfect for mid weather, as the fun plaids and loose fits help push it too my interpretation of SLP style (or just straight up Bryceland’s cosplay). My purchase of black chelsea boots has only assisted me in creating different looks with the black leather jacket, as prior to that, I only had black loafers or white sneakers to wear (I tend to match my leather jacket to my shoes).

IMG_0473

Black biker on a fair isle sweater vest and collar bar? Yes please.

IMG_0454

I actually try not to wear my double rider with blue jeans too often, as I feel that it leans too far into greaser or Ramones territory.  The same goes for it to be worn with black jeans, but for fear of being too SLP.   Upon reflection, I think the appeal for me and the black double rider was being able to punk-ify classic menswear looks rather than to finally be a “real punk”, though I’m sure that will change in the future as I continue to create more outfits with this beloved piece.

Again, I may wear my brown leather jackets more (since they’re much more easily worn with tailored or vintage casual looks), but my black double rider remains my favorite and coolest piece of clothing that I own.

IMG_8368

SLP ish, but with a beret and flannels.

Slim Levis Sta-prests, chelseas, and a star wars tee (my graphic tee of choice)

IMG_7724

Something a bit different.

IMG_0238

Probably my favorite look with the jacket: turtleneck base layer under a chambray sportshirt with white socks/loafers.  Ivy-punk baby!

IMG_0233

D-pocket.

Going for that 1970’s look with brown cords, chelseas, and my favorite Star Wars tee.

Black Single Breasted Zip

IMG_7920

The Black Single breasted one warranted it’s own section because I find it to have a different vibe than the biker, similar to how a brown SB is different than it’s DB brother.  For me, a black SB represents the minimal, sleeker approach to a black leather jacket.  There is no overlapping closure, no epaulets, no rivets or gratuitous zippers or hardwear, making it a bit easier to wear for people who don’t necessarily want the overt biker/punk vibes.

In essence, it gets a bit more versatile thanks to how “plain” it is! Obviously there area  few stylistic differences, especially between buttons and zips (or plain ones to A-2s) but that’s all a part of the fun.

It has that edgy dad appeal, since it’s simply just the literal black brother of the brown SB jacket.  A bit less Indiana Jones and more motocyclist (but not so Ramones).  Based on the pictures, the Black SB is a lot easier to lean into monochromatic outfits that are focused on minimalism, as the a double rider has a “loud personality'” by comparison.  For example, the above fit with Ethan Newton looks great, but swapping it out for a double rider makes it a bit too costume-y.  The SB just seems more mature (again for that “dad look”), so it’s really up to you for what vibe you want to project.  It’s more of car racer than a cyclist or even more for that emo cowboy vibe, which I’m into.

As someone who likes a lot of different vibes and is pretty diverse with style, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t casually looking (to say the least) for a good black SB jacket. The lust wasn’t as wet as the black biker, but it’s one of those things where if the stars align (aka price and fit are decent), I may grab it.  It’s hard not to be tempted by many of these awesome outfit inspirations.

Patrick of W.W Chan, wearing Himel Brothers.

According to the ad, that Type-1 jacket on the left is made of black leather.  Imagine if you saw it today!

Absolutely perfect inspo.  The black boots and jacket take this 1940s/50s casual fit and make it edgier and cooler to wear.

Can’t go wrong with all black.  Personally, I’m not a fan of the length as it goes way beyond the natural waist.

Hell yeah.

Novelty Models: Cossacks, A-1s, Bombers, Varsities and more

No, I didn’t forget about the ones that didn’t make it into the other categories! Obviously there are much more than A-2s and double riders; if you do cop that Lightning Archive book on vintage leather, you’ll see so many variations thereof, each providing a different vibe. In short, I find that these have a bit more character and interest, so YMMV I’m not going to get into all of the different ones in this post (as I also don’t have much experience with any other than the ones I own), but I’ll highlight some of the major ones!

My favorite one of the bunch is the Cossack, illustrated above.  Unlike the SBs I talked about earlier, it features a button front, flap-patch pockets, and a rounded collar.  It’s an early model of leather jackets, as most I’ve seen were dated to the 1920s or early 1930s.

As a result, wearing it does give you a bit more of a unique vibe.  You can bet your ass that you’ll never see something like this reproduced at J. Crew or Banana Republic. I personally really like it, but they’re extremely difficult to find vintage and modern ones are too rich for my blood (though like any other great leather maker, the price is worth it).

IMG_7972

Cody Wellema in a great modern one, made for him by one of his friends.

Einstein in a Levi’s cossack.

From Mister Freedom.

Up next is the A-1, which was the older brother of the A-2.  It was developed in the mid 1920s and like the Cossack has a bit of an older vibe about it. The overall design is nearly the same. Button closure again is used (zippers were “new”, hence why the other jackets have a modern appeal) allowing for louche or gratuitous unbuttoning, but the A-1 introduces ribbed hems and cuffs which makes them just a bit more interesting, as it provides visual texture.

It seems to have made a comeback in the lexicon of menswear, especially in the form of suede, as makers like Valstar or Craftsman Clothing have popularized.  It has a fun, casual look that removes a lot of the vintage/workwear/western connotations that the previous models have, which is probably why it’s so popular amongst menswear aficionados the world over.  I’m actually not a big fan of it, primarily because it has a standing ribbed collar. If you can’t tell, I prefer a normal point collar (found on all the other jacket models I’ve provided here); some early models and varations of A-1s do have a point collar, but it’s rare to find.

Like most of the brown leather jackets here, it does seem to go with everything.  Some guys I know have it

An A-1/SB jacket combination on Maestro Liverano.  Super cool!

This probably isn’t an A-1, but point collar, button closure, and what seems to be a light leather? Fuck yeah.

Suede A-2 and A-1 on Arnold and Quintin respectively.

Love the lack of full closure that Ethan Newton tends to go for.

IMG_8305

Spencer has a 1960’s A-1 that is perfect for casual, lazy vintage casual looks.

A Valstarino on my friend Will.

IMG_7278

Another Valstar, this time worn by Ian Anderson.

Cossack with a denim workshirt and tie (with a collar bar no less)!

IMG_5242

IMG_8370

Lastly, we have bombers and varsities (which are essentially bombers done with school colors).  The design is fairly simple and lends itself to being fairly popular as outerwear in general circles.  I like to think of it as combining a few elements of all the others: a simple zip design, side hand warmer pockets, ribbed sleeves/cuffs, and a Cossack-like rounded collar (but done in ribbing like an A-1).  It’s simple like a black (or brown) SB, but benefits by being youthful and not as dramatic (most likely due to the lack of a true collar). They’re also pretty light too, as they were meant for casual attire, instead of flying, riding, or workwear like the other ones in this article.

You can find them in cotton (usually labeled bombers or baseball jackets), but I’ve preferred in leather or suede, as thats what vintage ones were mainly made of.  Some even were two tone, combining suede or wool in conjunction with regular skin leather, though thats mainly found on school varsity jackets rather than regular bombers.

It’s a fun, low key jacket that certainly is more appropriate for people (or outfits) that go toward more youthful styles.  Varsity/two-tone jackets pair well with ivy, leaning into the university chic or are a better workaround for vintage-casual without looking too much like a 1940’s dad. It’s also a great way to introduce color in a realm where most suede/leather jackets are only either brown or black; just check out how cool the vintage 1970’s black/blue one is worn by Aram above.   With high school letters, crests, or even hometown embroidery, it’s a different type of character detail that you can use to add to style.  I feel like it would be hella cool to find one from Pasadena!

I also consider plain suede ones  a “poor man’s” A-1 due to their similar detailing (apart from the zip closure), as I’ve found that these are pretty common at the flea markets I’ve attended.

IMG_2924

I only have one suede jacket and it’s a 1950’s bomber that I got from a flea market for like $40.  It’s a pretty decent one for the price, as most of the suede is intact, with only a few odd stains; I especially love the wide ribbing on the hem and cuff, as it makes the jacket appear to be older than it actually is, again making it look like a variation of an A-1.

I do have a few issues with it, one major one being the length.  Because it’s from the 1950’s, it has a longer body, going past my natural waist. This is typically a deal breaker for me, as most of my casual vintage jackets, adhere to that rule.  The jacket is also pretty heavily quilted, making it similar to my black double rider.  It is softer than the steerhide of the biker, but it still results in the jacket feeling slightly bulky and too warm to wear often.

However, I think the biggest reason you don’t see me wear it often is because it’s rather plain.  It lacks the fun details of zip pockets or belt backs and it doesn’t have a long collar you can prop up for dramatic flair.  It also feels a bit too vintage school boy when worn with a shirt and tie! As a result, I always reach for my other jackets most often.  I’m not giving this one up though, as it was cheap and I may come around to it in the future (as I often do).  I break it out every once in a while, but certainly not as much as my brown SB or my biker. 

Now like I said in the beginning, the vintage leather jacket world was more than just A-2s and bikers; makers had some fun too!  Novelty (or “sport) pieces were sold (mainly to youth or young men) as a way to break free from the typical workwear or 1940’s dadcore mold.  Things like Grizzly Jackets (with fur or shearling chest panels) or a variety of two-tone  jackets (with suede, contrasting leather, or even wool panels) were all the rage.

They certainly are rare (being mainly focused in the 1930s to early 1950s time periods) and as a result, true vintage ones fetch high prices. Even modern reproductions are pricey because again, no one really makes these anymore! If you’re bored of the typical bikers or SBs, perhaps you need to graduate to one of these novelty leather jackets.

Cossack-style Grizzly made by Himel Bros.

These two tone jackets are one of my half-Grails, because I love how retro the two colors look.  The fact that these novelty jackets are cut in my favorite SB style takes the cake.

Belted jackets are harder to wear in a modern context (or climate) but still cool.

This one is amazing. Love the stripe on the cuffs and the plaid lining.

Peep the sport style at the bottom.

This two-tone leather/wool work jacket is ballin.

Conclusion

Listen to the Podcast Episode here!

I hope that after 7k words, I’ve expressed well [enough] how cool vintage leather jackets are and that they are perfectly wearable in the modern day.   They’re just filled with so much character and details that aren’t present in most regular brands.  Material is a big one, obviously, as vintage ones are almost always pure-leather and are supple and hardwearing compared to the spongier/cheap feeling ones of the late 1970s or even the ones at the mall.  But more than that, it’s also about the long dramatic collars, D-pockets, thin zippers (a small detail, but important, as I find big zippers distracting), and a snug fit (most modern ones fit so loose).  Almost all of these things require carefully picking a vintage piece.

I have nothing against modern makers (especially those like Himel, Mr. Freedom, Aero, and so on), but there’s just something so charming and alluring about vintage ones.  The fact that many modern ones are just so far out of price range (rightly so, as they are the only ones keeping art alive) is a killer for my friends and I, but on a personal level, they are usually just too long, as I prefer to have ones that end at or near my natural waist, as to get that true vintage aesthetic.  That little even carries over into my searches for true vintage ones!  Plus, there’s the fact that you get to wear something that has lasted for over 60 or so years.  That’s so cool!

The fact remains that a leather jacket (whether new or old) is an investment and that if you’re going to spend that money, you should get exactly what you want. For me that meant it had to be vintage; I mean details definitely matter and you deserve to be picky!  I certainly was and it’s helped bide the time until I found the right leather jacket that was within my price range and fit my preferences!  For example, I think I’m much happier with my vintage black Hercules Biker than I’d ever be with a Schott Perfecto, and it was purchased for around the same price as one normally pays.  It takes patience and a lot of picking at countless flea markets and vintage stores, but it usually works out in the end!

Even if the black biker isn’t for you, there are plenty of other types to look out for in vintage.  Sure Buco and Hercules are some of the big brands that you may come across, but don’t get stuck on those names.  Every leather jacket manufacturer had their own ideas and styles which is why there are so many variations, from the collar length to the placement of pockets. Hell, that’s why the fun “sport” two-tone ones exist! From the A-2 to the weird grizzlies, each one has a distinct style and finding the one with the details that suit your style is all a part of the fun.

And don’t feel like you’re gonna look like Indiana Jones or a greaser cosplay when you wear a leather jacket.  As you can see from everyone here, from Ethan Newton to my pal Spencer, you can wear a leather jacket with anything.  It’s great for flannel trousers and an OCBD to a Star Wars tee and chelsea boots.  Sure, it may evoke some greaser or Ramones vibe, but that’s the appeal; it gives off some inherent rugged vibes, but you still get to dictate the rest of the fit it goes with.  It’s that versatility that made it so appealing and why it triggered a completionist lust to find leather jackets for different fits.  So now I’m able to be a biker or an aviator, all at my own whim.

All I can do is say sorry if it’s triggered the same urge in you.  Maybe soon, you’ll be a leather daddy like me. And mind you, that’s a good thing.

Always a pleasure,

@EthanMWong

10 comments

  1. chuss92 · February 18

    Was pleased to read this article.

    Personally I haven’t managed to find a good leather jacket (and this article makes me cry about this even more), but I really like to look at the vintage German leather jackets with button closures which @wilhelmzeppelin posts on his Instagram.

    Like

  2. Pingback: Leather Jackets are Cool (Especially if They’re Vintage) « Fashion
  3. Evan Everhart · February 20

    Hi Ethan,

    Great article and informative! I love stuff like this, sans the swearing, but that’s just me. I think I might post up some of my vintage leather pieces to the group soon. I have a few…..I still need to post up a comprehensive selection of my Western and vintage workwear to the group. Anyhow, talk later! 🙂

    Like

  4. @wallerswearing · March 4

    Absolutely! Leather jackets are the one purchase (maybe aside from good denim) that will always stay in a wardrobe! I published a post recently about balenciagas SS20 and for sure… leather was in there too! Nice writing style too by the way!

    Like

  5. Pingback: Having Fun With Workshirts & Westerners | STREET x SPREZZA
  6. Pingback: Getting Inspiration from Vintage Ski Attire | STREET x SPREZZA
  7. Pingback: Groovin’ To The Late 1960s-1970s | STREET x SPREZZA
  8. Pingback: The Menswear in Back To The Future (1985) | STREET x SPREZZA
  9. Jacob Tyler · August 20

    Very detailed and informative, Thank you for sharing.

    Like

  10. Pingback: The Menswear in The Untouchables (1987) | STREET x SPREZZA

Comment Away!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s