Leather jackets are timeless. So, it can be hard to wear them in your own way. Here’s how to wear a leather jacket and let your personal style shine through.
In all the annals of style history, you would be hard-pressed to come up with a more iconic single item than the leather jacket. From the battlefront to the home front, the fashion elite to the rebels, and transcending time and nationalities, the leather jacket pops up everywhere.
In fact, it’s such a ubiquitous piece that you’d be equally hard-pressed to figure out how to wear a leather jacket while making the look your own.
Fortunately, a good leather jacket can be as versatile as it is timeless. It’s all just a matter of matching the statement that you want to make with the right style.
Leather Jacket Styles
Leather jackets as we know them have been around for more than a hundred years. In that length of time, numerous styles have come about, each of which comes with its own history and carries its own connotations.
You want to make the leather look your own. But in order to do that, you need to pick the right style to start with.
The classic leather jacket is the most understated of the bunch. With minimal frills, the most important thing here is to find one that fits properly as the way it sits on your body is everything.
The classic is the most conservative option, and therefore the most flexible. It is equally at home in the streets as it is in the office. But it’s also the least ambitious and doesn’t have the same potential as other options.
It’s safe and reliable if a bit basic.
The Biker Jacket
The choice of rebels and iconoclasts everywhere, from Marlon Brando in The Wild One to the rough look of the Ramones.
As the name implies, these were the jacket of choice for early motorcycle enthusiasts. Their robust construction is excellent for shielding a rider from the wind, and provide some protection from road rash in the event of a crash. In fact, they’re still popular with riders of both motorcycles and dirt bikes for those very reasons.
But whether you ride or not, they’re still an iconic look, if a bit limited. They make for excellent streetwear but are not the most appropriate in business or formal settings. At best you’ll look ill-dressed, and at worst out-of-touch.
For that reason, they’re best reserved for environments where you can let your hair down and be yourself.
Flight and Bomber Jackets
These could technically be considered distinct styles, but as one came from the other, it felt appropriate to group them together.
Despite leather jackets being associated with motorcycling, they actually trace their existence back to the early days of aviation, though they served much the same purpose. Early airplanes didn’t have enclosed cockpits, so you can imagine the kind of cold and wind that pilots would have had to deal with.
Flight and bomber jackets come in a variety of cuts and styles. Many come with sheer lining, a holdover from when their function was to keep pilots from freezing in their cockpits. For this reason, they make excellent winter wear.
But there is a variety of lighter options that will serve you well throughout the fall and springtime. In any case, this is a classic style that is acceptable to wear in most situations. Depending on what you wear it with, it can be strictly casual or used to add some personality to your office wardrobe.
The Racer Jacket
Though not strictly European, I tend to consider these the overseas cousin of the American biker jacket. After all, they have much the same origin.
Recreational motorcycling really took off in the years after World War II, with young bikers both stateside and abroad finding the need for a jacket that was heavy enough to withstand the elements.
In contrast to the more elaborate biker jacket, though, the racer jacket is comparatively slim an minimalist. It is more fashionable in general and doesn’t carry the same rough and tumble connotations as its cousin.
For that reason, it is a very versatile piece and an excellent choice for someone who wants to make a statement but still look sophisticated at the same time.
How to Wear a Leather Jacket as Part of a Style Statement
When wearing a leather jacket, you really want it to be the core of your outfit. The jacket should do the talking, therefore, the rest of your look should be understated. However, understated doesn’t mean irrelevant.
The most important decision at this stage is if the look you’re going for is having you dress up or dress down. Are you going for a raw iconoclast vibe or is something smart to impress at the office?
With that in mind, you can start making style choices that complement the jacket you’ve chosen. For example, you might pair a biker jacket with dark, distressed denim, a blank shirt, and either high tops or some classic Doc Martens to create a grunge look.
On the other end of the spectrum, you can use a sportier leather jacket to add a little bit of style to your regular business casual. Just do a basic white shirt and tie, some grey slacks, then throw the jacket on top. Get a matching pair of Oxfords to complete a simple but sophisticated look.
Those are just some basic suggestions, but your imagination is really the only limitation here. Just remember to make choices that complement the statement your jacket makes, rather than distract from it.
A Style Essential That’s Not Going Anywhere
Leather jackets as we would recognize them first popped up around the turn of the last century. In that time they have cemented their place as a cornerstone piece in wardrobes around the world. As such, learning how to wear a leather jacket with style and tact is mandatory.
Fortunately, there is a look for practically everyone. From barroom rebel to boardroom smart, the right leather jacket can integrate itself into any environment while setting you apart from the crowd.
And in order to make sure that you stay on the cutting edge, always remember to keep up with 360 for all the latest on style, culture, and living on the edge.