Coats & Jackets

Three ways to wear a leather jacket

Three ways to wear a leather jacket

For most of their history, leather jackets were purely practical. Pilots wore them to stay warm, back in the days when cockpits weren’t covered. Cowboys liked them because they were rainproof and long-lasting. Motorcyclists appreciated how they absorbed the impact of tarmac. Then James Dean appeared onscreen in his Schott Perfecto biker jacket and, almost overnight, the style became synonymous with teen rebellion.

There’s arguably no other item in menswear as infused with cool as a leather jacket. In the hands of Hollywood costume designers, they’re shorthand for ruggedness, danger and a fast-and-loose approach to rules. From Indiana Jones to the Terminator, the leather jacket is a second skin for cinema’s bad boys. But it’s also not a costume; any guy can – and should – have one in regular rotation.

“They’re not just for film and rock stars,” says Thread stylist Freddie Kemp. “There’s such a variety of styles these days that really, they’re for everyone.” They’re also much more versatile than you might expect. “You can wear a leather jacket with more than just jeans and a t-shirt, so long as the jacket itself is good quality. Real leather is a must, though – fake versions look it and get tatty over time. The proper stuff just gets better the more you wear it.”

That ageing is what makes a leather jacket into a personal signature; even though a lot of guys have worn them, no one will ever wear one that’s got the same marks as yours, or that’s moulded to your body in the same way. “We’ve given a few ideas here, but there are plenty more ways to wear one,” says Freddie. “Once you’ve found a few that work for you, you can wear your leather jacket pretty much every day.”

Modern Marlon Brando

Marlon Brando leather jacket

Photographed: H&M Edition biker jacket (£229)Champion hoodie (£95)MVP white t-shirt (£18)MVP washed denim jeans (£55)

A black leather jacket over a crisp white tee looks as good today as it did in The Wild One. But to add some personality, throw in an extra layer. “It makes the look more modern and stops it from being too ‘biker’,” says Freddie. “Wear both unzipped; it gives your outfit great depth and prevents the hoodie from bunching.”

A date with a difference

Date night leather jacket

Photographed: H&M Edition biker jacket (£229)Reiss cashmere rollneck (£195)T.M. Lewin trousers (£79.95)

If you’re not wearing a tie, then a leather jacket works in almost any situation you’d wear an overcoat. Unlike an overcoat, it means you date won’t think you’ve come straight from work. “Make sure the rollneck is made from a thin material, so the jacket can fit quite snug,” says Freddie. “Anything chunky will make you overheat, plus you’ll lose the slick silhouette.”

A weekend that could go anywhere

Weekend leather jacket

Photographed: H&M Edition biker jacket (£229)Selected striped knit (£45)H&M Edition denim shirt (£39.99)Wax London chinos (£90)

A leather jacket, like the men who made it famous, is hard to pin down. It’s neither smart nor casual, which means it can be either. So it’s perfect when you’re not sure quite where you’ll end up. “A simple, well-cut pair of chinos is key,” says Freddie. “They let the leather jacket lead the way. Anything either too skinny or too wide makes the look feel trendy, rather than classic.”