It has been associated with pilots, rebel bikers, rock stars, Nazis, punks and policemen; an incredible cocktail of influences, both good and bad, to live up to, but the leather jacket is one of the most unique items of clothing one can buy. It’s not that there is anything special about leather – we wear leather shoes, belts and some of us have leather luggage. We sit in cars lined with leather and we shake hands after removing leather gloves. Leather is everyday and all year round, it’s not different in itself, it’s just that the leather jacket has a mysterious quality to it. It’s so noticeable in an outfit, that nearly everything else goes unnoticed.
Society’s love affair with the leather jacket swings to and fro; one minute style gurus say ‘Honey, the leather jacket IS autumn/winter!’, and the next they say; ‘Leather outerwear is ancient history!’ It is a garment that, because of these hot and cold approaches, has been treated with much cynicism. Many people concerned for animals now campaign to stop people buying leather jackets as man made materials are now better in terms of aesthetics and practicality, but real leather to some people, feels and smells right. It may be something to do with the reassuring expense of leather, or perhaps the beautiful way in which it ages. Perhaps because we see it as being something which was once part of a living thing, we feel more alive in it.
Such simple sentimentality may revolt those who see leather as a costly luxury unnecessary in the 21st century. However, sales of Stella McCartney’s handbags are a prime example of how a normally naïve public can reject the philosophy of a designer when it does not sit with their own wants and needs. Her non-leather bags still cost a considerable amount of money when one considers that a cheaper and less durable material has been used. People want leather and they will not be fooled by a nepotistic designer’s name and a modern ideology. Some will say that if every designer followed her lead and made non-leather handbags, women will have to buy non-leather, but the simple fact of the matter is that despite her spending habits, the lady-who-shops is no pushover. Quality and materials are extremely important and it is because of this, that I believe, leather is here to stay.
So, for the gentleman who is interested in purchasing a leather jacket, what are the choices? A lot will depend on his age, personality and what he will use the jacket for. Here are some suggestions.
The leather flight jacket
I adore the leather flight jacket. Definitely one of the most theatrical jackets one can buy. I myself own a vintage pilot’s jacket; a lovely cocoa brown colour, good stiff leather and plenty of character. It is one of my favourite garments.
A lot of leather flight jackets are on the market, and they can cost anything from $160 for a high street version to $2000 for a designer version. Don’t be fooled by designer names though, some of the best coats were made many years ago and will last you many years more. You can pick up really good vintage versions for under $150. Zara make the coolest high-street flight jacket; an elasticised fabric waist and pocket details make it look like a real pilot’s jacket and it is excellent value at less than $180.
Younger gentlemen might like to wear their bomber jackets, which look best in brown, with basic vests and t-shirts for a contemporary look that is simplistic but stylish. Older gentlemen (see picture) look youthful and sporty when wearing a bomber, especially with a casual shirt such as a cream one with a button-down collar.
There are many online retailers that sell flight jackets, and many are doubtless of good quality, although a few words of advice; avoid the ‘Top Gun’ collections. They are covered in kitsch badges portraying a fictitious bravery. Gucci collections (pictured) frequently feature bomber jackets, and though they are expensive, they are well made and are the last word in quality pilot’s jackets.
The leather Mac
The leather Mac is an altogether different creation to the flight jacket. Considerably more expensive due to the huge amount of leather used, as rainwear, the leather Mac is impractical as leather does not act consistently well. A black leather Mac conjures up images of metalheads or neo-Nazis, and it is unfortunate perhaps, that it has been maligned because of this. However, leather belted long coats have been re-appearing on the catwalks in the past few years, and not only in the classic and uncontroversial browns; black is back.
The leather Mac is a very comfortable and luxurious coat for winter. Worn with thick knitwear and roll necks for a classic casual look, or worn with a thin black tie for a very modern, almost comic-book-detective effect, it is a particularly individual coat that will last a good while and is bound to serve a man well. Ralph Lauren has featured leather Macs (pictured) in many of his recent collections.