TThere are few pieces of menswear more essential than a high-quality leather jacket.
Simultaneously rugged and refined, the best leather jackets are timeless wardrobe staples that look as good in the 21st century as they did on classic style icons like Steve McQueen, Marlon Brando, James Dean and (the fictional, but no less iconic) Indiana Jones.
But while the right leather jacket can make a man look bad-ass, the wrong one can make him look… well, just plain bad.
Choosing the right jacket means not only finding the right fit, but knowing which of the various styles will work best with your particular look, body type and personal preference.
Of course, there are plenty of options available nowadays (not to mention a wide range of different colors), and it’s not always easy to tell which type of jacket will work best for everyday wear.
Fortunately, we’ve got your (leather-clad) back.
To help you look your best in leather, in this post we’ll break down the best leather jacket styles on the market, and point you to a few of our favorite places to buy high quality jackets that will last the long haul.
The Most Stylish Mens Leather Jacket Styles
Breaking Down the Different Types of Leather Jackets
Leather Biker Jacket
If you were to ask someone to close their eyes and picture a classic leather jacket, chances are this is the style they’d envision.
But what most people don’t know is that there are actually two different styles of leather jackets that fall under the motorcycle/biker umbrella, each of which is worth examining separately.
Double Rider Jackets
This is the traditional biker leather jacket that’s often associated with true bad-asses, like the type of hardcore bikers who ride Harley Davidson hogs and punk rock stars like the Ramones.
(And, on occasion, the Tobias Funke-style “leather daddies” who very much want to imitate them.)
This classic style, also sometimes called a moto jacket, is defined by its front closure, which approximates the style of a double-breasted suit, hence the name.
These asymmetrical jackets move the front zipper over to one side of the body, creating an extra layer of leather in front.
It often comes with shoulder epaulets (those buttoned-down loops you sometimes see on the shoulders), but not always.
One Word of Warning:
While the double rider is definitely a classic jacket, you have to be careful when you style it.
On the one hand, throwing it over a white t-shirt and a good pair of jeans is an unimpeachable and classic look.
On the other hand, this style of jacket is so closely associated with “greaser” characters like the Fonz and the T-Birds from Grease that it can almost look like a Halloween costume if you’re not careful.
To avoid this, I would advise skipping the black jacket that those characters made famous in favor of a brown one, which is a less popular style, but no less bad-ass.
Cafe Racer Jackets
The other style of leather motorcycle jackets is called a cafe racer leather jacket.
When compared to double riders, cafe racers are much more minimalist, with a straight zipper closure and a relatively tight rounded collar, rather than the wide lapels of the double rider.
Cafe racers give off a more sleek and sophisticated look than double riders, which make this a good leather jacket for pairing with fancier clothes like dress pants and dress shoes.
Leather Bomber Jacket / Aviator Jacket
Also sometimes called flight jackets, these are the thick leather jackets styled after the timeless and undeniably bad-ass brown leather flight jackets worn by British and American pilots during both World Wars.
(Though they didn’t really become common among civilians until well after World War II.)
They’re a little bit like a cross between a double rider and a cafe racer biker jacket: they have a single zipper straight up the middle, with a fairly wide collar at the top.
Bomber leather jackets are great because they evoke the sort of roguish devil-may-care attitude we associate with famous fighter pilots (one in particular, as noted below).
A short jacket that hits right at the waist, this is another casual style that pairs great with jeans, boots and the rest of your day-to-day wear.
It’s also a common type of leather coat to pair with shearling (on which more below), which was how pilots kept warm while flying at high altitudes back when their cockpits were uncovered and exposed to the elements.
A Quick Aside:
For evidence of a leather jacket’s staying power, see the stylish-as-hell brown leather jacket Tom Cruise’s Maverick rocked in 1986, and…
…the stylish-as-hell brown leather jacket Tom Cruise’s Maverick rocked in 2022.
One man. One jacket. Five friggin’ decades of
unhinged unabashed bad-assery.
Trench Coats / Dusters
Typical wax or cotton trench coats tend to evoke British gentlemen strolling the cobblestoned streets of London on their way for a cheeky pint at the pub.
Leather trench coats, on the other hand, evoke cowboys strolling the dusty streets of the Wild West on their way for a shot of whiskey at the saloon.
(In fact, they’re called dusters because they helped keep cowboys, Native Americans and other denizens of the west clean… or, as clean as possible when the roads are made of dirt and there’s literally horse sh*t everywhere you turn.)
While dusters still evoke a certain bad-ass feel, they really haven’t been a popular choice since the early 1900s, when roads started getting paved and the need for an ankle-length coat made of top-grain leather was greatly diminished.
Under the right circumstances a good leather trench coat can still look bad-ass, but the key is to dress it up, not down.
If you look like Brad Pitt in Ocean’s 12, you’re on the right track.
If you look more like Mac in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, you’ve made a grave, grave mistake.
Field jackets are traditionally lightweight jackets issued to active-duty soldiers.
During WWI, soldiers were issued loose-fitting wool jackets, but by WWII the wool was replaced by more wind- and water-resistant fabrics, including a cotton/nylon blend.
To my knowledge, the US military has never actually issued a field leather jacket, probably because outfitting every foot soldier with real leather jackets would be prohibitively expensive.
But as long as you’re not a stickler for authenticity, a field jacket made of leather can be a great addition to your casual wear.
The military styling already evokes a classic masculinity, which is both complemented and enhanced by the rugged leather.
Leather blazers are one of the most high-risk, high-reward types of men’s leather jackets.
Let’s start with the reward side of the equation.
Daniel Craig provided us with a modern take on the leather blazer back in 2017, and (quite rightly) won praise from GQ in the process.
When done well, like in the image above from Fan Jackets, a black leather blazer can look both sophisticated and bad-ass.
But on the risk side, if you make the mistake of thinking that a leather blazer can be worn to formal occasions, you look less like a bad-ass and more like a bad dresser.
The key to making leather blazers work is to wear them not in place of a regular blazer, but in place of another type of leather jacket.
Look again at that photo above. A black bomber, cafe racer or double rider jacket would have all been good options, and all could have looked great on him.
But the blazer gives him a more sophisticated vibe, while still evoking the rebellious spirit inherent in leather.
Oh, and one other thing to keep in mind:
While a higher quality of leather will make any leather jacket look better, it’s especially important when it comes to leather blazers.
Cheaply made or faux leather blazers can (sometimes) look just as rugged as good quality leather, but never as sophisticated.
So if you’re going to attempt the leather blazer look, make sure you’re wearing one made from high quality hide that won’t crack or wrinkle too much over time.
These jackets closely resemble a button-up shirt in terms of their style and construction:
They feature a line of buttons or snaps up the center, and have a collar that closely resembles a shirt collar, but is usually a bit bigger.
Trucker jackets are traditionally made of denim, but opting for one in leather adds a touch of class to a style that typically evokes the hard-working, long-haul ethos truckers are known for.
Faux Leather Jacket
The last few jackets on our list aren’t styles of leather jackets at all.
Instead, they’re options that you can apply to pretty much any of the styles above.
Faux leather jackets remove any ethical concerns you might have about wearing cow or lamb leather, and are usually cheaper and more environmentally friendly as well.
But the downside with faux leather is that it’s often not as soft and supple as real leather, and therefore not as sophisticated.
As alluded to above, it tends to crinkle and crack fairly easily, which definitely detracts from the look.
So if animal ethics are important to you, or you’re on a limited budget, then by all means, go faux.
But if you’re more concerned with aesthetics and don’t mind investing a bit of cash to find the perfect jacket, genuine leather is probably a better bet.
Shearling refers to the fur that’s sometimes added to leather jackets to keep them warm.
It’s often added to jackets with a wide collar, so that the collar can then be flipped up and essentially serve as a built-in scarf.
(This the case with the bomber/flight jackets pictured above.)
But it can also be added to the interior lining of a jacket to give it extra warmth, and is sometimes also present around the cuffs for the same reason.
Remember that bad-ass coat that Tom Hardy’s Bane rocked in The Dark Knight Rises? That was shearling.
Back in WWII, padding leather jackets with a natural material like shearling was basically the only way to keep warm.
But nowadays we have all sorts of synthetic options that are both warmer and lighter weight, so adding a shearling coat to your winter wardrobe is more of a (stylish-ass) status symbol than a practical necessity.
Suede is a type of leather made from the underside of animal hides (rather than the top side), which is why it’s softer than regular leather and has a fuzzy, velvet-like texture.
Suede is another good example of a high-risk, high-reward type of jacket.
The risk is that, unlike regular leather, suede isn’t waterproof. It’s also more delicate and more prone to dirt and staining, so it requires more special care and maintenance.
But the upside is that the velvety texture it provides is rugged, handsome and timeless, which is why so many of the jacket styles above look great in suede.
If you live in a drier climate, like the American Southwest, suede can be a terrific option.
But if you’re in the Northwest or the Northeast, where it rains and/or snows for about half a year, you might want to stay away from suede.
Where To Find The Best Men’s Leather Jackets
(for a reasonable price)
Originally founded in 1899 as Berman Brothers Furs, Wool and Hides (it was bought in 1988, when it changed its name) Wilson’s is one of my favorite places to shop for leather jackets online.
In addition to a wide variety of styles (including pretty much all of the leather jacket types mentioned above), what’s most impressive about this Minneapolis-based outfit is its commitment to quality.
All of their pieces are handcrafted from top-of-the-line genuine leather, making them the perfect choice if you want a jacket that looks great and will last for the long haul.
Founded by Syed Obaid, The Jacket Maker offers luxury-quality jackets at affordable prices.
By cutting out the middle men that often stand between jacket manufacturers and the consumer.
Each of their jackets is custom-made when you order, which means they don’t have to manufacture, store and ship thousands of models that may or may not get sold in stores.
The result is an incredibly high-quality, custom-made jacket for an (almost) unbelievably low price.
Founded in 2016, Angel Jackets is a UK-based company that offers a wide range of high-quality jackets for both men and women.
Their goal is to provide customers with stylish and affordable leather apparel that is both fashionable and practical.
They offer a pretty wide variety of styles, from classic biker jackets to modern bomber jackets.
And like The Jacket Maker, they also have a custom-made service that allows customers to have their jackets tailored to their exact measurements and specifications.
More Resources ↓
More Advice on How to Look Good & Live Well:
- The Definitive Guide to How Your Suit Should Fit
- In-Depth The Jacket Maker Review
- 9 Stylish & Comfortable Dress Shoes That Feel Like Sneakers
- The 35 Most Comfortable, Supportive & Overall Best Underwear Brands for Men
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WearRock a Blue Suit and Brown Shoes
- How to Start a Workout Routine for Men: 7 Easy-to-Implement Steps to Success
- The Ultimate Guide to Professional Clothiers
- In-Depth Wolf and Shepherd Shoes Review
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