PHOTOS | KATE DISHER-QUILL
So you’re looking for a leather jacket to ride your motorcycle in. But let’s be honest, it doesn’t just need to be safe, it needs to look goooood. And totally, uniquely, and completely different from all the other jackets out there. After all moto fashion is important!
One of the easiest ways to find a jacket that represents your individual style is to go vintage. That virtually guarantees that you’re not going to turn up to a ride in the same jacket as anyone else.
The main places to find your dream jacket are online, at vintage/second hand stores or the markets. Sometimes the search for The One is almost as fun as actually finding it (well, almost!). Just like meeting your perfect partner, you’ll need to be open and ready as you never know when the perfect jacket might turn up, and you need to be prepared to try a few on until you do!
I have personally had great jacket hunting success at the Surry Hills Markets in Sydney, Australia, Portobello Road Markets in London and the Rosebowl Flea Markets in Los Angeles – but in my opinion nothing beats ETSY for amazing vintage treasures.
The three most regular styles of vintage leather jacket you will encounter are the Double Rider aka the Brando, The Moto aka Café Racer and the Bomber (doesn’t have an aka, but think Maverick from Top Gun). Here are their characteristics broken down:
The Brando is exactly what you’re visualising – tough, sexy, cool. It's Marlon Brando personified in a garment. It usually has an asymmetrical zipper and lots of snap lapels and unnecessary but badass looking zippers and other bits n bobs. When you think ‘leather motorcycle jacket’, usually it’s the Double Rider that comes to mind, and the fashion catwalks roll out a version of these almost every Autumn/Winter (think Acne, Balenciaga, Saint Laurent etc).
The Moto is much slimmer, sleeker and more modern. A bit 60s-ish. It doesn’t have any of the flaps and buttons, and generally has a small snap collar. It’s a classy style that could almost be a replacement for a blazer at work. A variation of the Moto is the Racer Moto, which has reinforced elbows and shoulders for extra protection.
The Bomber was originally made for military pilots so has a fair bit of movement while providing toasty warmth. The fur/ faux fur collar and extra bulk make it a great winter jacket, and when coupled with aviators you have a seriously cool look going on.
Leather is incredible material to ride in because it is strong and durable, lasts decades and often looks better the more it is worn. When buying a leather jacket for use while riding your motorcycle, it’s best to focus on Buffalo, Cowhide and Bison, as these are heavier, stiffer leather types and are used for protection and functionality. And they’ll practically last forever.
Keep Lamb, Goat and Calf skin for fashion jackets, as these types of leather are light and soft, great for going out in but not for safety.
Often this information can be found on the little tag located on the inside of the jacket, or the website/store owner will be able to tell you.
Fit wise, work out if you plan to wear your jacket with layers underneath it or not. For just a tshirt underneath, a good fit should hug your shoulders, not slouch off them. For winter riding, you might want to go a size up so you can wear extra layers underneath (if you have reptilian blood like I do, you may need space for a few jumpers underneath to ward off the biting cold). Many riders opt to have a more fitted summer jacket and a more roomy winter one.
A major point to note is that there are many more ‘men’s’ jackets available in vintage, but don’t let that deter you – they can make a great winter or oversized option.
The arms should not be too tight or too long/short and you also want to make sure you have the ability to move in it.
If you’re buying in person, make sure you check the jacket thoroughly. Examine the lining, making sure it’s intact, and ensure that all the zippers and pockets are functioning. A YKK zipper is a sign the jacket has been made with quality in mind. Small scuffs can often be fixed with leather conditioner and add to the character of the jacket. However if there are major issues with it – broken zippers, tears, poor fit etc, it might be best to let it go, as having a leather jacket repaired can be a very costly exercise.
If you're buying online, make sure that you're buying from a reputable source, check their feedback and comments from other buyers. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions and ask for additional images if need be. Online shopping can be great as it provides the option to buy from overseas, where many great vintage jackets can be found.
Before wearing it for the first time, make sure you treat it with a stain and water protector. You can buy this online or even from shoe shops. If it has a bit of an odour, give it a spray with fabreeze. Store your jacket in a dry place, on a hanger.
Erica is everyone’s support crew and personal cheerleading squad. A lover of all things moto and vintage, she is a red-lipped founder of the Throttle Dolls, splitting her time between her custom Sportster and her convertible BMW ‘Brenda’. As a regular IVV contributor, Erica shines a light on Petrolette road style, and standing on your own two feet when it comes to selecting vehicles, mechanics and gear.