How To Wear A Leather Jacket (And Look Great)

It's not just for 50s screen icons and grizzled bikers - if you do things right...

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Considered by many to be the arrogant fool's jacket of choice, it is true that leather often falls into the wrong hands.

Men who really, really like Top Gear for example ("Clarkson is a genius!"), the square-toed shoe, blue jean and checked shirt brigade. The kind of guys who refer to their wives as, "The Missus" and are one Christmas bonus away from a silver convertible with cream seats and the immovable musk of Sunday blues. Those sorts of men.

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But forget those men! Do it right, and a leather jacket can be the counterculture classic it's meant to be, the secret weapon of your A/W wardrobe that makes others stop and say, "F*ck. He's actually pulling it off..."

We're going to show you how to be that guy.

Know your style and fit

Marlon Brando in the Schott Perfecto that started it all

While the most famous of all leather jacket styles is the classic 'biker' (Marlon Brando's); typified by a cropped fit, wide lapels that attach to the jacket with poppers and a cross-body zip, there are a few other options to consider. Including the cafe racer (a cropped fit with a straight zip, no collar and little embellishment), the leather bomber (A bomber jacket... but leather) and the Mach Daddy of them all: the shearling coat (think Tom Hardy).

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Whatever style you land on, fit is vital. Cafe racers and bombers best suit a close, slim shape, while bikers and shearling can benefit equally from a slim or a slightly oversized fit, depending on what season it is and how you want to style it.

Most importantly, you should be able to fit at least a sweatshirt underneath as a layer, while also avoiding anything that drops below your belt line... unless it's a shearling overcoat, in which case, we doubt you need our help anyway.

Beware of brown

Johnny Depp kindly showing you everything to avoid when wearing a leather jacket
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The first thing to consider when stepping into this cow hide minefield is the colour of your jacket. Don't get us wrong, there are plenty of beautiful pieces out there in shades other than black, but they should be treated with caution. A leather jacket is going to draw attention no matter what, but are you prepared for the head turns (the wrong kind), when your jacket's the same colour as a Werther's Original?

Unless you can afford to shell out on high quality suede, shearling or the very best leather (in which case dark brown is great), we'd suggest sticking to black.

If you're on a budget then buy vintage

Mr. Depp during more stylish times

One of the biggest mistakes that guys make when it comes to buying their first leather jacket is to try and skimp, either by choosing something made out of cheap, shiny leather; or - far worse - a jacket that's made from synthetic fabrics... the dreaded 'Pleather'.

By its very nature leather is expensive, so if you can't afford that Saint Laurent grail piece just yet (us neither) then it's best to pay a visit to as many vintage shops as you can. It may sound a bit w*nky, but you'd be amazed by the amount of quality jackets gathering dust right now in cluttered second-hand stores.

There's also the added benefit of them being broken in for you already, which is nice.

It's about more than just the jacket...

This is very good

Ok, this is a big one, because even the best-fitting and most beautiful leather jacket can be undone by a poorly thought out pair of jeans or some dodgy shoes (no tan brogues, please).

You should treat the jacket as the central and most important element of your whole outfit; every other piece should compliment, rather than distract from it.

In this case monochrome is your best bet. Slim jeans, which means black leather boots - or thick-soled derbies - and as low-key a t-shirt or shirt as possible. A pop of colour or pattern is fine, but the best leather jacket looks are usually the most simple.

And please, no plaid shirts or stonewashed jeans.

How to dress it up

Easy, right?

A power move that's probably more befitting a Hollywood cocktail party (sparkling waters all round?) than a work do, the dressed-up leather jacket is a look that's hard to pull off. But it can be done.

Maintaining the 'less is more' philosophy that we've already discussed, your more formal look can be achieved by swapping black jeans for pleated wool trousers; boots for patent leather derbies and your white or black t-shirt for a crisp white dress shirt with all the buttons done up (see Dave Franco above).

The methods and jacket remain the same, you're just upgrading the pieces around it.

Oh, we almost forgot. Never, ever wear a tie with one. They don't mix well.

Don't get cocky

Even 007 can't get away with a leather blazer
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Ok, so you've mastered the leather biker, bomber and racing jacket, but that doesn't mean you should let your new-found love of leather spread into other shapes and styles of outerwear.

A blazer is a blazer and should not be made of leather. A trench coat is a trench coat and should not be made out of leather. Not unless your name's Neo, or you're desperate to be put on some sort of list.

Finally, some inspiration

From left: Acne Studios, Nate Leather Biker Jacket,£1,400 at mrporter.com; Sandro, Suede Bomber Jacket, £630 at sandro-paris.com; Saint Laurent, Shearling Bomber Jacket, £3,680 at mrporter.com

From left: Saint Laurent, Slim-Fit Printed Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt, £220 at mrporter.com; Gucci, Slim-Fit Tiger-Appliquéd Cotton-Poplin Shirt, £390 at mrporter.com; Sunspel, Slim-Fit Cotton-Jersey T-Shirt, £65 at mrporter.com

From left: Cmmn Swdn, Stan Slim-Fit Cropped Wool Drawstring Trousers, £190 at mrporter.com; Nudie Jeans, Lean Dean Slim-Fit Organic Stretch-Denim Jeans, £110 at mrporter.com; AMI, Slim-Fit Stretch-Cotton Corduroy Trousers, £195 at mrporter.com

From left: Common Projects, Cross-Grain Leather Chelsea Boots, £380 at mrporter.com; Dr Martens, 1460 Smooth Leather Boots, £130 at drmartens.com; Tricker's, Robert Pebble-Grain Leather Derby Shoes, £395 at mrporter.com