As the top tailoring shop in two counties, Alter Creations has several areas of expertise, including but not limited to bridal, menswear, sportswear, and leather, among many others. We recently spotted an article by former leather designer Peter Nguyen of The Essential Man and decided to combine his tips with our experience. The cool post below is the result so we hope you learn lots and as always don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions!
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FIRST UP: POPULAR JACKET STYLES
While you can technically make any jacket style into a leather jacket simply by making it in leather, there are roughly five types of jackets you’ll most likely run into and want to consider when it comes to picking up your staple jacket.
The Schott Perfecto (aka “Double Rider Jacket”)
This is the classic jacket most visualize when they think of a leather jacket. FYI: “Perfecto” is actually a trademarked term, and the generic term for this jacket design is called a “rider” or “double rider” jacket (the latter of which is more accurate, considering it’s double-breasted). Variations will have two zippers instead of one.
The Racer Jacket
This jacket is simple and versatile, making it very easy to wear. It features a center front zipper jacket, traditionally with a band collar, with very minimal design details. Most racer jacket pockets are zippered.
The A2 Flight (or simply “Flight” or “Bomber”) Jacket
This jacket’s design was originally for military pilots. (Note its center front zipper, which is often covered by a placket for added protection against the wind.) Signature details include ribbed cuffs and hems, along with two large front flap pockets.
“Traditionally insulated to keep pilots warm at high altitudes, A2s are usually cropped at the hips to make it easy to wear when sitting. Some will often have fur collars, which is a detail from the newer G1 model.”
The MA1 Bomber (or simply also “Bomber”)
Similar to the A2 bomber, the MA1 is originally both a military design and made in nylon.
Some distinct features to separate it from the A2: Check out the lack of a flap on the pockets; they’re just slit pockets. Also, it has a ribbed collar and a zipper pocket on the left sleeve.
This is one of the most popular casual jacket styles for men, and is often adopted in leather, though more sleeker than the puffy military version of the jacket.
The Fencing Jacket
This jacket is noticeable narrower than the other styles, so it makes sense that it was adapted from the jackets fencers wear. Its zippers are placed extremely asymmetrically (and sometimes even feature a strong S curve design).
This style is generally favored by higher-end avant garde labels, like Rick Owens, Carol Christian Poell and Julius.
JACKET PRICES: A $500 Jacket vs. A $2,000 Jacket: How Is A $500 Jacket Different from One that Costs $2,000?
Have you ever seen two seemingly similar leather jackets side by side with significantly distinct price tags and wondered, “WHY are these priced so differently?” Leather designers and tailors will tell you that it basically comes down to the quality of the leather:
Cheaper jackets will use leather that is corrected. Animals that have a lot of scarring, branding or knicks from how they are raised. These skins will be sanded down and sometimes faux leather grains will be pressed into it, as well as extra spraying of dyes and treatments to make them more uniform.
Because of these top coatings, corrected leathers will have an overly smooth, plastic feel, versus the soft, oily, uneven textured nature of uncorrected skins.
Cheaper jackets will also feature lower-quality top stitching (or none altogether); lower-grade synthetic linings; larger and lower armholes to accommodate more body types; lighter zippers (usually from YKK); and will overall be simpler in design.
On the other hand, pricier jackets traditionally feature thicker, sturdier Gütterman thread in their topstitching; two different linings (a higher quality synthetic, warmer cottons, sometimes insulated and quilted for the body… and another silk or silk-like one for the sleeves); higher set armholes for better movement; stronger, smoother zippers (like from RiRi)–even two-way main zippers; and overall more interesting elements, including elaborate pockets and inner pockets.
Now that we’ve discussed the nitty-gritty or what goes into the construction of a leather jacket, here’s a summary of tips on WHAT to look for when you’re shopping for a leather jacket–or any other piece of clothing made with leather:
1. AVOID overcorrected, plastic leather
Feel the leather by scrunching and squeezing the sleeve it in your hand. Rub your fingers on it. Is it soft, grainy, a little oily feeling? It’s probably good leather. If it feels slick, smooth or “plasticy,” you might have an over-treated and corrected leather.
2. LOOK FOR interesting details
Check the zipper, the lining, the stitching. If you see a RiRi zipper, or heavy duty, smooth zipping custom branded zipper, then you’re also most likely dealing with good leather. The zipper is usually the first thing to go when trying to make a design cheaper.
Check the lining. Are there two separate linings for the body and sleeve? If yes, it’s most likely a nicer jacket as it’s cheaper to just you one type of lining. AND if the silk or synthetic silk liningis smooth, this is a better sign of quality.
3. FIT IS KING
The jacket should feel snug, comfortable, like a glove. “A good leather jacket will bend and mold with you.” And as you’d do with fittings for alterations, make sure you’d wear what you’d normally wear with a leather jacket when you go shopping for one.
4. Consider color, if you really want to
Black and brown leather jackets are more acceptable if you’re looking for a jacket to wear almost every day. If your daily leather jacket is red, it’s hard for people not to think, “Didn’t you just wear that yesterday?”
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: SIZING!
You found the jacket you wanted. It’s perfect, beautiful, and detailed… but will it fit? Here are some quick tips (for men) for figuring out what your size is and whether the jacket you have in mind is that size, courtesy of our experience and our friends at Venson:
You need FIVE measurements
- Height: Measured in stockinged feet
- Waist: Measured at navel level- NOT down where you wear your jeans
- Chest: Measured at the fullest part of the chest with the tape held high under the arms. The arms should be at the sides while this measurement is taken… so this means that someone else needs to do this unless you’re a licensed contortionist.
- Neck to Belt Line: Measured from the front of the neck at chest/neck breastbone notch to the top of the pant’s belt line.
- Nape of Neck to Wrist: Measured from the position where the vertebrae protrudes at the back of the neck around a bent elbow to the wrist bone.
- (Check out this page for more on knowing how to measure yourself OR having someone measure you)
Sizing Table #1
Once you have determined the recommended jacket size from that Table #1 check that size by referring to Table #2, below, for more detailed information about the fit.
So, following the chart above, if your measurements are these:
- Chest: 42″
- Waist 36″
- Neck to belt line: 18″
- Height: 70″
- Nape to wrist: 34″
… Your recommended leather jacket size is 42.
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Whew, how’s THAT for leather jacket tips? As always, we hope you’ve found them useful, and please don’t hesitate to let us know if you ever have any other questions. Don’t forget we’re the #1 alterations shop in two counties, so our experience is unparalleled. Call us at (435) 658-4432 for more.