James Dean has a lot to answer for and Marlon Brando’s hardly without blame. Thanks to films like Rebel Without a Cause and The Wild One, has there ever been a garment more closely associated with youth and freedom than the leather jacket?
As the ultimate symbol of the open road, with its connotations of leaving your troubles behind and heading for the horizon, the item that once singled you out as a bit of a hellraiser is now more likely to be a sign of a mid-life crisis. There’s nothing more cringeworthy than leather so new it still squeaks on someone who’s old enough to know better.
This season, however, leather has been taken for a different spin – while the classic biker and its shearling brethren the aviator still abound, longer lines and super-supple skins give them a modern makeover. Whichever style you opt for, there are a few basic points to consider in order to avoid looking like a rebel without a clue.
First and foremost is the style of jacket you adopt – and there are subtle variations on each to make things nice and confusing. There are two styles of biker jackets from which to choose – first is an asymmetric zip-fronted model design based on the original Schott Perfecto, first created in 1928 and worn by Brando in The Wild One. Tinkering with this classic has been kept to a minimum by most brands, although modern versions tend to come without any OTT unnecessary zips and hardware.
In pictures: Jackets for Men
In pictures: Jackets for Men
1/8 Dior Homme
2/8 Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci
Givenchy by Riccardo Tisci
3/8 Neil Barrett
4/8 James Long
Biker jacket 3120, topman.com
Bomber jacket £395, whistles.com
Flight jacket £89.99, zara.com
Leather-sleeved bomber £695, apc.fr
Alternatively, a motocross-style jacket with a central zip and short funnel neck is a sportier model. Here you should avoid any logo patches or slogans – unless you are actually a racer and they bear the name of your proud sponsor.
A shearling aviator style is basically a classic biker jacket on steroids – perfect for providing the warmth necessary for pilots whose cockpits were exposed to the elements, perhaps less useful if you’re commuting to and from the office on overloaded, overheated public transport.
Bomber jackets have been back in the spotlight for a few seasons, and a leather version will surely prove a canny investment. The key here is to ensure that the fit is broad on the shoulders but not too bulky – after all, even the Michelin man seems to have slimmed down in recent years.
A riskier purchase is a longer-line leather coat, which is not for the fashion-shy. There are plenty of examples of how – and how not – to wear the style to be found in the movies. Seventies-style Shaft is good, Morpheus from the Matrix Trilogy, not so much – unless you spend your weekends in full Goth garb in Whitby or competing in Dungeons and Dragons tournaments. Choosing brown over black leather brings the necessary loucheness and a pleasingly retro touch, and supple rather than stiff leather is of paramount importance. Generally this style of coat will look best when unlined and worn undone to avoid any flasher connotations, so if there’s the slightest nip in the air, be sure to layer up with a cosy knit underneath – a roll-neck will add nicely to the Seventies vibe.
If you’re feeling less than brave but still want to buy into the trend, leather detailing remains a strong look. A leather panel or contrast sleeves will add a sense of maturity and machismo to more juvenile styles like duffle coats and bomber jackets. And a slim-cut blazer or tuxedo jacket with a discreet leather trim on the lapel is a great evening-wear option.Reuse content