Reader Krysta e-mailed me this request:
I’d LOVE a post on how to choose a leather jacket–they’re so cool, and so varied, and yet so expensive, that I have a hard time committing. What if this AWESOME one I love now looks irritating and dated in two years?
I adore leather everything, but it took me a while to collect my thoughts for this particular question. As is the case with many investment pieces, it’s tough to generalize. Some women will require one set of characteristics, while others may have entirely different needs! But if you’re in the market for a leather jacket yourself, here are some ideas to mull:
Which style suits your climate and lifestyle?
If you live in Mississippi, a Thinsulate-lined leather jacket isn’t the best choice. If you work or live with animals, super-soft and extremely-delicate lambskin will just exasperate you. If you dress casually most days, a highly detailed, formal-feeling style will languish unworn. Think about what you need in addition to what looks pretty, and do a little research about leathers, finishes, linings, and weights.
Which style suits your figure?
Look at your other coats and jackets. Which ones get worn most? Why? How do they work with your body and affect your proportions? Head out to a department store, a Burlington Coat Factory, or a Wilsons and try on as many leather jacket styles as you can find. Most leather jackets are fairly short, but some come in longer lengths. And although most options will be zippered, there are some with buttons, belts, snaps, and other details that can make all the difference. It’s worth tracking down a length and cut that suit you.
Have you checked the thrift store?
Krysta is concerned both about budget and about looking current. Thrifting for a leather jacket will hit point one, but you may be surprised to find that it’s a great way to nail point two as well. A 10-year-old leather jacket that still looks and feels current today is likely to endure beyond next year. Many of the leather jackets available at thrift stores are a bit crunchy and crusty, buy you can strike gold if you’re willing to look long and hard. I thrifted this gray leather moto for $9.99 and it’s in amazing condition.
Have you considered vegan options?
I’m generally a stickler for genuine leather, but the faux options that are on the market these days are amazing. They’re also surprisingly spendy, but the real deal is even spendier. If your budget is tight but you’re hoping to nab a certain look, check stores like Target, H&M, and Urban Outfitters for faux leather jackets in on-trend styles.
Have you checked eBay and Etsy?
As always, buying from eBay isn’t risk-free. But if you check measurements, photos, vendor ratings, and return policy, you should be able to make an informed decision. Etsy is also a great source for vintage and handmade leather jackets at decent prices. If you don’t mind buying used but strike out at the thrift store, both of these are great resources for leather jackets in a huge variety of styles, sizes, and prices. Both also feature vendors who can custom make a jacket to suit your needs and figure.
What color will work best for you?
I’ll be honest: I can’t really recommend leather jackets that aren’t black, cognac brown, or gray. And in reality, I think black is going to be the most versatile for the most women. But if you look dreadful in black or hate it, consider your other color options. An easy way to determine your best choice is to consider your handbags. What colors are they? Do you want to “match” or “go”? Look at your other coats, too. Which colors get the most wear?
Now, in terms of picking a style that won’t date … ugh, such a tough one! Leather jackets do seem to date quicker than many other pieces, and a blazer or scuba style from 10 years ago will look older and less contemporary than the slightly tweaked new versions of those same styles on sale now. It’s down to details, hardware, length, and very subtle styling shifts. In mulling this over, I’m surprised to find that the leather jacket style that seems to endure is the motorcycle style – asymmetric zip, triangular flaps, and all. This doesn’t mean that YOU will want to wear a moto or that it’s the only style worth buying. Just that it doesn’t matter if your moto was made in 1972 or 1992 or 2012, it will look good now and it will look good later.* Aside from motorcycle/asymmetric styles, my opinion is that plainer designs are more likely to work years into the future. Studs, buckles, zippers, and quilting may look fantastic today, but they also may tie that jacket to this point in time. Go for something clean and relatively unadorned.
And although it’s no excuse to buy a metallic bronze moto for $700 today, always remember that if you purchase a jacket that you end up hating three years from now, you can sell it on eBay or consign it. Even dated leather jackets can typically earn back some of their original price!
*There are certainly some exceptions. A few motos from the 80s have big padded shoulders. This feature looks amazing on some women, makes many others want to run for the hills. I’m a hill-runner on that one myself.
Image courtesy Nordstrom. Jacket pictured is vegan!
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