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When you're finally ready to invest in a quality leather jacket, there are many questions to ask yourself. Do you prefer genuine leather or faux? (There are plenty of well-crafted, vegan options that will bring just as much edge to your outfits.) Is it essential you buy classic black, or do you prefer a vibrant pop of color? While a quick browse on your favorite retailer sites can get you some answers, consider this your quick sheet.
We're breaking down the various details of a standard design, all of which come together to achieve a certain look. While the triangle panels and thick buckle belt achieve a moto style, you can score a leather bomber coat too — one that features elastic at the waist and way fewer embellishments or panels.
After you learn the basics and decide if a defined cuff and pockets are a necessity, it's time to shop. The jackets below are a few of our favorites available now, but they range in price based on the materials used to create the leather, its resulting thickness, and whether it's real or vegan.
While real cowhide leather provides structure, it takes a while to wear in and may at first appear stiff. Meanwhile, calf skin is a fabric that offers a bit more slouch. Then you've got lamb and goat, which achieve a butter-soft touch, and finally buffalo or bison, the most functional yet costly choice — though these will last for a lifetime.
Read on to explore the anatomy of a leather jacket, and once you find one you like, don't forget to zero in on its detailed description or go to the store to try it on. You definitely won't regret making such a sensible, well-considered purchase.
- Collar: The collar of your jacket rests right around your neck and often features a fastener on each side, though some leather coats are collarless with just a button snap at the front.
- Fasteners: These are the metal studs you'll find at the points of your collar or lapel, which is a bit further down. While many of them are just for show, they play up the hardware on the rest of your coat and make it look perfectly polished.
- Lapels: These triangle-shaped slices of fabric sometimes connect with the collar, and their crisp shape is what brings edge to a moto-style jacket. Usually, the zipper runs along the edge of one panel so when you close your coat, a square shape is created.
- Pockets: If you're a fan of pockets, search for a jacket with plenty. Many leather coats feature diagonal pockets on one side, a go-to spot for storing extra cash, cards, or even your phone. Some side pockets snap closed with a button, while others complement the single zipper running down the center of your design.
- Lining: The lining of your coat is the material that runs along the inside. Whether it's cotton, a quilted nylon, or even suede, a lining might help to make your design feel — or look! — more luxe when you're wearing it.
- Waist Buckle: A waist buckle runs along the lower edge of your jacket and you can use it to create more of a cinched fit. There are plenty of jackets that feature one or two buckles on each side to add extra edge. For a rugged, undone look, leave yours opened.
- Zipper: When it comes to a leather jacket, you might find more than one zipper. Whether there's one on the back of each sleeve or it acts as closure to any of your pockets, the more hardware you've got going on, the flashier statement you'll make. Of course, a single zipper runs down the center of your coat, cinching the panels together when it's pulled up.
- Cuffs: Some cuffs are folded and obvious, while others you can create yourself by folding up or unzipping the hem of your sleeve. On classic bombers, your cuffs are usually made from an elastic jersey, and the resulting look is totally sporty.
- Shoulder Epaulettes (optional): These are little details added to the top of each shoulder to create a square shape. Depending how ornamental they are, they might work to give off military vibes. Usually, you'll find epaulettes that are simply buttoned flaps.
- Shearling (optional): Shearling either functions as the lining to your entire coat, keeping you warm, or it sits pretty along the collar. It's usually meant to be visible, bringing soft, fuzzy texture to your look.
- Panels (optional): Panels are contrasting swatches of fabric that might be the same color but vary in texture. Your jacket might have soft panels on the interior of the sleeve, or it might feature ribbed leather panels down the sides or in place of an epaulette at the shoulder.