A leather jacket is an expensive investment, so it’s a good idea to do a large amount of research before making your selection. But it feels like there is an almost inexhaustible list of styles to choose from, and a wide budget to spend. To find the best leather – and non-leather – biker jacket out there, we asked nine fashion-conscious people, from stylists to editors and curators, to give us their favourites, whether they be a made to measure classic, or an entry-level faux.
A note on buying: Although new leather can feel stiff, part of the beauty of owning a leather jacket is that the more you wear it, the softer and more fitted the leather will become, gradually taking the shape of your body. The stiffer the leather, the longer this will take, and although you could buy vintage to circumnavigate this, it’s satisfying to slip into a jacket that you have worn-in perfectly.
Best overall leather jacket
You will only buy a Lewis Leathers jacket once. Lewis Leathers is Britain’s oldest motorcycle clothing company, and since 1882 has been worn by everyone from Sid Vicious to Chrissie Hynde and Slash. “It fits my shoulders perfectly and then nips in a little bit at the waist. It makes me feel cosy and petite and sexy but also tough – I really can go anywhere in it,” says stylist Flora Huddart who has a vintage number. Lewis are known for their iconic quilted, red cotton-padded lining and are hand built to last out of horse hide or softer sheep leather. This means they are tough enough to wear on a cold night with just a T-shirt underneath.
Made in the UK, you don’t have to head down to their London store to buy a bespoke Lewis Leathers; once you order online they will email you for your measurements – which they show you how to take over a T-shirt. Their Bronx design has been a classic since 1956, but we like the Twin Track Bronx, which has two front zips, ensuring a perfect fit over either a sweater or a tee.
Best (less expensive) leather jacket
Made from buttery-soft sheepskin leather, this jacket from Whistles is slim on the arms and fitted round the middle, meaning it’s flattering to most shapes without being bulky – so you really can wear it with pretty much everything. Aisle 8 PR boss Virginia Norris adds that because of its soft leather, it ages really well, “only becoming softer and softer, with an amazing patina.” The Agnes style is available in black and navy, and there’s a belted option too – the jacket is mid length so should sit on the hips, but is cut to curve in at the small of the back for optimum shape. Lined in viscose, and with chunky zips and fasteners, this jacket is both elegant and edgy.
Classic biker quilting on the shoulder and a slouchier fit give this jacket a “throw it on anywhere, I don’t care” vibe that you can dress up or down. “It’s worth bearing in mind that they get looser as time goes on,” says advertising director Alice Judge Talbot. Made from specially tanned sheep leather, this jacket is soft and supple and has a vintage feel. If you want to try and return, be aware that All Saints only offers a 14-day refund policy, although you can exchange within 28 days. Available in sizes 2–14, this jacket has a regular fit, and because of the way the leather is tanned to look distressed, each one is unique.
Eunice Abe, a fashion influencer whose focus is to restyle clothes she already owns, swears by the Roksanda jacket by Tigha – which is no longer available, but the Alexandra is similar. Made from soft sheep leather, with a cotton lining, the jacket is availble is sizes XS to XL. Eunice has had hers for four years (she originally won it in a giveaway) and it’s kept its shape and still looks brand-new. For her, it’s the only jacket that fits exactly how she wants it to, with the sleeves ending at the top of her wrist and the shoulders fitting exactly so. “I love its sleek design, it looks great with a casual pair of jeans or a dress for a night out. I wear it with everything in my wardrobe.” Perhaps the cutest detail though, is stitched inside the jacket are the words “A True Love Story Never Ends.”
Best High Street faux-leather jacket
Now only fabricated in faux-leather, Zara’s line of leather jackets has something to suit every style; from classic biker to cropped blazer. It’s their Double Faced Biker that gets the vote of editor Ana Kinsella. “People often ask me if it’s Acne, which I think is all you want in a leather jacket,” she says. The jacket is lined with faux-fur, and is made from polyester, meaning it’s suitable for vegans. Although Zara tends to run quite small, the jacket is oversized and loose fitting – and with the aid of their handy “what’s my size” calculator, you can work out just how baggy your normal size will be. And if it’s not right, Zara offers free 30-day returns.
Like Zara, most of Top Shop’s selection is now faux-leather. With simple, clean details, like two unfussy front zip pockets and one front coin pocket, the jacket is available in both petite and regular, with sizes ranging from 4 to 18, and it is designed to fit snug to the body. At £49 and with free delivery (and again, free returns), this jacket is perfect if you’re on a budget or “not sure you’ll wear a jacket to death,” says Flora Huddart. Made out of 100 percent polyester, including its lining, it’s also handily machine washable.
Best luxury faux-leather jacket
Akiko Takashima, a luxury and tech consultant, loves her Skin Free Skin Jacket. Having been leather-free since 2001, Stella McCartney has led where others have followed in the faux-leather department. “It’s fitted but it’s also boxy enough that I can wear a jumper under it or just a T-shirt,” explains Takashima. Cut to fit true size, the jacket is dry clean only – it’s made from alter-nappa, which is fabricated from polyester with a recycled polyester backing. Cruelty-free, with a lowered environmental impact, this mid-weight jacket is luxurious and built to last.
Best plus-size leather jacket
“Getting a lightweight, modern-looking leather jacket in a plus size is somewhat unheard of,” says stylist Jeannie Annan Lewin. Universal Standard’s is neither too heavy nor too light, and is the only jacket on this list with matte black hardware – perfect for dressing up. Designed to fit loosely on the body, the sizes available range from 00 to 28 and there is a measurement guide if you’re unsure. Slightly cropped, and a little boxy round the middle, the leather is unbelievably soft, so you don’t have to break it in. It also provides enough insulation to keep the wind out without getting you too hot, thanks to the polyester lining. As an FYI, Universal Standard is a US site, you may be liable for customs charges if you’re in the UK, and unfortunately, shipping and taxes are nonrefundable if you change your mind.
Best vintage leather jacket
Scotland’s not known for its leather-jacket industry, but Aero Leathers have been making aviator jackets there since the 1930s. “Everything is up to military spec; in terms of longevity, nothing beats this,’ says stylist Sivan Currie. Cut from original patterns, although some are updated, Aero jackets have a limited number of customisable parts – from having your clan tartan used as lining, to choosing a lighter grade of horsehide. Made to be worn and look best when they are beaten up, the brand suggests “just wearing it and don’t be precious with it,” but if you can’t be bothered to break yours in, they offer a ready-worn vintage section online.
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