Why the classic leather jacket still works

If you're on the hunt for something to shut out the gathering chill as winter draws ever closer, consider investing in one of the most classic items a man can have in his wardrobe: the leather jacket.

Ever since Marlon Brando sneered his way into legend as the original anti-hero Johnny Strabler, the leather jacket has become the cloak of choice for social dissidents, rebels and rock stars. It can also, according to one overblown source, be one of the most life-fulfilling decisions you'll make.

The appeal, however, isn't simply about a cool aesthetic. By some sort of coincidence the leather jacket alsos happen to be great at keeping you warm and only improves in appearance and fit the more you wear it. Worn well, it can add an undeniable edginess to any outfit. Done wrong, you could end up looking less Brando in The Wild One and more Neo in The Matrix.

So what style of jacket should you choose to get that rock star look for winter?

Despite the fact that designers regularly release a variety of re-interpretations, there are essentially two main designs that will guarantee sartorial success for men on the make. Either one will not only carry you through the colder seasons and give you Fonzie-level street cred, but could also be the start of a very long relationship.

The Biker

This is 'the' leather jacket and the one made famous by James Dean, The Ramones, The Sex Pistols and the aforementioned Brando, whose style of choice was the Schott's Perfecto. The Biker jacket is the perfect option if you're on the slimmer end of the spectrum, as it adds shape to the shoulders and a slight illusion of bulk (which may also be why it was such a favourite of the infamously underfed punk scene).

Two great contemporary designs are the Jonny Jacket by Nudie, available at General Pants, or this great option from Lagerfeld, available at David Jones or this more streamlined motocross jacket from Hugo Boss.

The Bomber

Although most of us may recognise this jacket for its role in the 1980s classic Top Gun, the Bomber remains one of the most comfortable jacket choices for men. A lot of modern designs have also added the additional feature of a hood, in either jersey or leather. Based on the jackets worn by pilots during WW2 and originally designed using sheepskin, bombers are generally made to be roomier around the chest and the shoulders so are perfect for men with a bulkier physique. However, there are plenty of options out there that can cater to all body types such as this great option from UK-based website, ASOS. Or, should you have the cash to make the investment, this Italian-made full grain sheepskin bomber from Paul Smith, available at Mr Porter, might set you back a penny but will last so long as to become a family heirloom.

If the classics are a little safe for you then there are numerous updated versions available on the market. Designers have frequently repurposed and re-invented the classic leather jacket – some successfully, some not so much.


One excellent option comes from Melbourne-based label Claude Maus which has released a heavy-duty puffer jacket filled with duck down and with a detachable carbon-coated cotton lining. Weighty and warmer than a bonfire, this is a great choice for anyone planning to step out on a freezing mid-winter weekend away.

For a more unstructured and streamlined look, Australian label Chronicles of Never has released this updated version of the field coat. Already butter-soft and without the need for wearing in like most other styles, it's a great choice for anyone who prefers a less-traditional look to their wardrobe.

And now a few last words of advice – when it comes to the getting the right fit, don't be scared to try one size smaller. Snug is a good term to describe how a leather jacket is meant to feel, but obviously not at the expense of comfort. Secondly, condition often and don't forget to waterproof. This will not only prolong the life of your jacket but will also keep it in peak condition for a lot longer.

Does your winter wardrobe include a leather jacket? What style, and how long have you owned it?