Five Great Things That Come With A Leather Jacket
I wear sport coats most days of the week, but for the last two years or so, I’ve been breaking it up a bit with leather jackets. In that time, I’ve found leather jackets to have some nice advantages over tailored clothing. 
Shirts
Paul Newman looks great above in his button-up shirt, but for me, a leather jacket really calls for a t-shirt. The good news is that t-shirts can be had for not too much money. Jesse sells Alternative Apparel ones every summer at a wholesale price. They’re soft, finely knitted, and somewhat stretchy. I wear Hanes Beefy Tees myself, which are more stout. I’ve also heard good things about Uniqlo’s t-shirts, although I’ve never tried them.
All of these can be had for less than ten bucks a piece, which means you can get a whole week’s worth for less than the price of a good dress shirt.
Pants
Similarly, jeans can be had for much less than wool trousers. Unbranded and our advertiser Gustin get regularly recommended in the denim community, and they sell raw, selvedge denim options for about $85 a pair. APC New Standards retail for $185, but can sometimes be found on sale. 
The upside to jeans isn’t just their price, however. It’s the material. Denim is an exceptionally tough fabric and can take a lot of abuse. Some guys wear their jeans every day for two years before retiring them. Do that to a pair of grey flannel trousers and they’ll disintegrate in a few months.
Shoes
Shoes are a bit more tricky. With a heavy horsehide or cowhide jacket, you might need something like a chunky boot. With a lighter lambskin or goatskin jacket, however, you can wear canvas sneakers. I often wear this jacket, for example, with white Chuck Taylor high tops, which I bought for $50. There’s no good dress shoe that retails for $50.
Fit
There are few things that can smarten you up more than a sport coat or suit, but they are admittedly difficult to fit. This might be because of their construction: the shoulder pads, wadding, canvassing, haircloth, etc. Add to that the stylistic details (width of the lapel, shape of the quarters, pitch of the arm, height of the gorge, etc.), and you can see how complicated a tailored jacket can get.
On the other hand, leather jackets (and everything that goes with them) have a lot more wiggle room. It’s OK if your jacket doesn’t look like it was perfectly tailored and if your jeans aren’t hemmed to a perfect shivering break. In fact, they shouldn’t look like that anyway. 
Care
Finally, it’s nice to not have to iron a shirt before you go out, worry about whether a dry cleaner will ruin your jacket, or care if some food drips onto your clothes. Everything above – the t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and jacket – is meant to be worn and beat up. Some items (such as the jeans and sneakers) look better after they’ve been worn in. Others (such as the t-shirt) are cheap enough to easily replace.
Granted, the leather jacket itself can be pretty expensive. You’re either going to spend a lot of money for a new one, or a lot of time searching for something used. On the upside, once you find one you like, there are five great things that come with it. 

Five Great Things That Come With A Leather Jacket

I wear sport coats most days of the week, but for the last two years or so, I’ve been breaking it up a bit with leather jackets. In that time, I’ve found leather jackets to have some nice advantages over tailored clothing. 

Shirts

Paul Newman looks great above in his button-up shirt, but for me, a leather jacket really calls for a t-shirt. The good news is that t-shirts can be had for not too much money. Jesse sells Alternative Apparel ones every summer at a wholesale price. They’re soft, finely knitted, and somewhat stretchy. I wear Hanes Beefy Tees myself, which are more stout. I’ve also heard good things about Uniqlo’s t-shirts, although I’ve never tried them.

All of these can be had for less than ten bucks a piece, which means you can get a whole week’s worth for less than the price of a good dress shirt.

Pants

Similarly, jeans can be had for much less than wool trousers. Unbranded and our advertiser Gustin get regularly recommended in the denim community, and they sell raw, selvedge denim options for about $85 a pair. APC New Standards retail for $185, but can sometimes be found on sale. 

The upside to jeans isn’t just their price, however. It’s the material. Denim is an exceptionally tough fabric and can take a lot of abuse. Some guys wear their jeans every day for two years before retiring them. Do that to a pair of grey flannel trousers and they’ll disintegrate in a few months.

Shoes

Shoes are a bit more tricky. With a heavy horsehide or cowhide jacket, you might need something like a chunky boot. With a lighter lambskin or goatskin jacket, however, you can wear canvas sneakers. I often wear this jacket, for example, with white Chuck Taylor high tops, which I bought for $50. There’s no good dress shoe that retails for $50.

Fit

There are few things that can smarten you up more than a sport coat or suit, but they are admittedly difficult to fit. This might be because of their construction: the shoulder pads, wadding, canvassing, haircloth, etc. Add to that the stylistic details (width of the lapel, shape of the quarters, pitch of the arm, height of the gorge, etc.), and you can see how complicated a tailored jacket can get.

On the other hand, leather jackets (and everything that goes with them) have a lot more wiggle room. It’s OK if your jacket doesn’t look like it was perfectly tailored and if your jeans aren’t hemmed to a perfect shivering break. In fact, they shouldn’t look like that anyway. 

Care

Finally, it’s nice to not have to iron a shirt before you go out, worry about whether a dry cleaner will ruin your jacket, or care if some food drips onto your clothes. Everything above – the t-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and jacket – is meant to be worn and beat up. Some items (such as the jeans and sneakers) look better after they’ve been worn in. Others (such as the t-shirt) are cheap enough to easily replace.

Granted, the leather jacket itself can be pretty expensive. You’re either going to spend a lot of money for a new one, or a lot of time searching for something used. On the upside, once you find one you like, there are five great things that come with it. 

Storing Heavy Leather Jackets

In the past year or so, I’ve come to appreciate the value of good hangers. Suit jackets and sport coats have complex constructions, and improper hangers can warp and shift some of the material that goes into the shoulders (thus ruining not only your jacket’s silhouette, but also how it fits). I say that not because our advertiser The Hanger Project sells fancy hangers, but because a well-respected English tailor confirmed this for me two years ago, and Jeffery at Tutto Fatto a Mano said the same thing (Jeffery’s a tailor, a professional pattern maker for a large suit manufacturer, and one of the more fair-minded guys I know when it comes to clothing). 

How you store leather jackets is just as important. As I’ve mentioned, most leather jackets are made from lambskin, goatskin, horsehide, or cowhide. Generally speaking, the first two will be lighter in weight than the second two. Of course, you can thin any leather down to whatever thickness you wish, so it’s possible to have a lightweight horsehide jacket, but it’s rare. Most cowhide and horsehide jackets are quite heavy.

If you have such a jacket, storing it on a thin hanger can also ruin the shoulders. The weight of the leather will pull the garment down, and over the course of years, can stretch out and crack the shoulder line. Thus, some leather jacket enthusiasts recommend using hangers with wide moulded shoulders. I really like The Hanger Project’s, again not because they’re our advertiser, but simply because their hangers are nicely made and come in a width that perfectly fits my jackets. In fact, I’m buying a dozen more from them next month. The only downside is that they’re expensive and a bit wide at 2.5”. The extra width gives more support, but it also takes up more room in your closet. You can get slightly more affordable hangers through Wooden Hangers USA, and slightly thinner hangers at Butler Luxury

Better yet, the other solution is to not hang your jacket up at all. If you have the room, you can lay your jacket down and just store it somewhere. This will ensure that nothing will get stretched out. 

For vintage shoppers, it’s good to pay attention to the shoulders when buying heavy leather jackets. Some of these have been sitting on the racks for years, jam-packed into tight spaces. If the shoulder is damaged and cracked, it can be difficult to repair, and thus might be wise to pass on. 

(Photos via Mr. Moo)

Our former contributor Kiyoshi shows you how a simple casual style is done. You can replace the shirt with a t-shirt if you like, or the sneakers with boots. You can throw a flannel baseball cap up top. You can vary this a number of ways, but it’s a wonderful template, and you will always look suitably excellent.
thesilentist:

Warm winter weekends — Brown naked cowhide leather bomber, blue OCBD, raw denim, tennis shoes and aviators. 

Our former contributor Kiyoshi shows you how a simple casual style is done. You can replace the shirt with a t-shirt if you like, or the sneakers with boots. You can throw a flannel baseball cap up top. You can vary this a number of ways, but it’s a wonderful template, and you will always look suitably excellent.

thesilentist:

Warm winter weekends — Brown naked cowhide leather bomber, blue OCBD, raw denim, tennis shoes and aviators. 

Q & Answer: Can Leather Jackets be Altered?
Jeff asks: I’ve been trying to find a leather jacket, but all the ones I’ve come across are too big in the body. Do you know if these can be altered like a sport coat, and if so, is it generally considered a safe process?
Yes, but it depends. Like with suit jackets and sport coats, you should try to make sure your leather jacket fits you well across the shoulders and chest, and that the armholes are high enough. It’s not that these parts can’t be altered; it’s that the alteration can be expensive and risky. Things such as bringing in the body and shortening the sleeves, however, are much easier. 
That said, a lot depends on the specific leather jacket you have. Details such as ribbing, zippers, and pockets can get in the way of certain alterations. If the jacket has a very unique lining or insulation system, or if the panels were cut in a strange way, these can cause other complications. Whether it’s possible to get something done really depends on the jacket at hand. 
Whatever you do, make sure you go to someone who has a lot of experience working with leather jackets. One of the problems with these alterations is that you sometimes need special machinery. Cowhide and horsehide, as mentioned yesterday, are very, very thick, so you need special equipment to sew through them. And if a tailor ever messes up, undoing a seam can reveal some ugly holes, so mistakes are costly. To find someone good, you might want to call places that sell really nice jackets - be that a fashion boutique or a place that specializes in motorcycle leathers - and see if they have any recommendations. There are also some good recommendations in StyleForum’s archives. 
If in the end, should your leather jacket get ruined, take comfort in knowing your can chop off the sleeves and turn your jacket into a leather vest, then ride around town with it shirtless. The body might still not fit well, but I’m pretty sure nobody will say anything to your face. 

Q & Answer: Can Leather Jackets be Altered?

Jeff asks: I’ve been trying to find a leather jacket, but all the ones I’ve come across are too big in the body. Do you know if these can be altered like a sport coat, and if so, is it generally considered a safe process?

Yes, but it depends. Like with suit jackets and sport coats, you should try to make sure your leather jacket fits you well across the shoulders and chest, and that the armholes are high enough. It’s not that these parts can’t be altered; it’s that the alteration can be expensive and risky. Things such as bringing in the body and shortening the sleeves, however, are much easier. 

That said, a lot depends on the specific leather jacket you have. Details such as ribbing, zippers, and pockets can get in the way of certain alterations. If the jacket has a very unique lining or insulation system, or if the panels were cut in a strange way, these can cause other complications. Whether it’s possible to get something done really depends on the jacket at hand. 

Whatever you do, make sure you go to someone who has a lot of experience working with leather jackets. One of the problems with these alterations is that you sometimes need special machinery. Cowhide and horsehide, as mentioned yesterday, are very, very thick, so you need special equipment to sew through them. And if a tailor ever messes up, undoing a seam can reveal some ugly holes, so mistakes are costly. To find someone good, you might want to call places that sell really nice jackets - be that a fashion boutique or a place that specializes in motorcycle leathers - and see if they have any recommendations. There are also some good recommendations in StyleForum’s archives. 

If in the end, should your leather jacket get ruined, take comfort in knowing your can chop off the sleeves and turn your jacket into a leather vest, then ride around town with it shirtless. The body might still not fit well, but I’m pretty sure nobody will say anything to your face. 

Getting a Good Leather Jacket
Once you become interested in clothes, it’s not hard to buy more than you need. In the past two years or so, I’ve acquired eight leather jackets. Most get worn on some semi-regular basis (OK, semi-semi-regular), but none get broken out as much as this leather A-2 you see above. In fact, I could get rid of all my other casual jackets and be satisfied with wearing just this one. 
When shopping for a leather jacket, I’ve found it’s good to pay attention to a few factors:
Materials: Most leather jackets are made from lambskin, goatskin, cowhide, or horsehide. Generally speaking, the first two will be lighter and thinner than the second two. Lambskin is exceptionally soft, pliable, and comfortable to wear, but it’s also most prone to tearing. Goatskin is a bit tougher and more pebbled in its texture. Neither, however, is as tough as cowhide or horsehide, which might require a circular saw to break open. The tradeoff is that cowhide and horsehide are very stiff and heavy, though that might suit certain styles more. It all depends on what you want out your garment and how you want it to look. Want something to wear to an overheated wine bar? Lambskin is a great material. Want something to fight a bear in? Cowhide and horsehide are good bets.
Insulation: Like with all garments, leather jackets are often made with seasons in mind. Spring/ summer pieces often have thin, breathable linings, or on rare occasions, they may come without any lining at all. Fall/ winter jackets, on the other hand, are often quilted or insulated. If you live in a temperate climate, like me, it may be good to err on the spring/ summer side, as you can always layer with a piece of knitwear. My A-2 pictured above, for example, has unique, open-weave cotton lining, and for cold days, I just pair it with a grey sweatshirt. 
Style and color: I hesitate to recommend a style or color, as that gets into such subjective territory. You should just get what you like best. That said, I find myself wearing mid- to darkish browns most, and tans least. And from the few leather jacket threads I follow on various clothing forums, it seems that many men get a lot of use out of their A-2s. Whether that style suits you, of course, is a personal call.
It may be important, however, to think of leather jackets not just in terms of their most basic styles (e.g. A-1s, A-2s, motos, etc.), but also their sensibility. An A-1 from a luxury fashion house, for example, will look very different than one from a vintage reproduction company. Just compare this Ralph Lauren Purple Label piece to something similar from Good Wear Leather to see what I mean. It’s not just a difference in materials (a “luxury” piece will often be made from a fine lambskin, while a tougher, “authentic” version will be made from goatskin or horsehide), but also a difference in the cut and detailing. When shopping for a jacket, pay attention to these differences, and think about what kind of clothes you’ll be wearing your new jacket with. Maybe you want something from a very avant garde designer, or luxury Italian label, or a workwear company. That choice alone should narrow the field considerably. 

Getting a Good Leather Jacket

Once you become interested in clothes, it’s not hard to buy more than you need. In the past two years or so, I’ve acquired eight leather jackets. Most get worn on some semi-regular basis (OK, semi-semi-regular), but none get broken out as much as this leather A-2 you see above. In fact, I could get rid of all my other casual jackets and be satisfied with wearing just this one. 

When shopping for a leather jacket, I’ve found it’s good to pay attention to a few factors:

Materials: Most leather jackets are made from lambskin, goatskin, cowhide, or horsehide. Generally speaking, the first two will be lighter and thinner than the second two. Lambskin is exceptionally soft, pliable, and comfortable to wear, but it’s also most prone to tearing. Goatskin is a bit tougher and more pebbled in its texture. Neither, however, is as tough as cowhide or horsehide, which might require a circular saw to break open. The tradeoff is that cowhide and horsehide are very stiff and heavy, though that might suit certain styles more. It all depends on what you want out your garment and how you want it to look. Want something to wear to an overheated wine bar? Lambskin is a great material. Want something to fight a bear in? Cowhide and horsehide are good bets.

Insulation: Like with all garments, leather jackets are often made with seasons in mind. Spring/ summer pieces often have thin, breathable linings, or on rare occasions, they may come without any lining at all. Fall/ winter jackets, on the other hand, are often quilted or insulated. If you live in a temperate climate, like me, it may be good to err on the spring/ summer side, as you can always layer with a piece of knitwear. My A-2 pictured above, for example, has unique, open-weave cotton lining, and for cold days, I just pair it with a grey sweatshirt. 

Style and color: I hesitate to recommend a style or color, as that gets into such subjective territory. You should just get what you like best. That said, I find myself wearing mid- to darkish browns most, and tans least. And from the few leather jacket threads I follow on various clothing forums, it seems that many men get a lot of use out of their A-2s. Whether that style suits you, of course, is a personal call.

It may be important, however, to think of leather jackets not just in terms of their most basic styles (e.g. A-1s, A-2s, motos, etc.), but also their sensibility. An A-1 from a luxury fashion house, for example, will look very different than one from a vintage reproduction company. Just compare this Ralph Lauren Purple Label piece to something similar from Good Wear Leather to see what I mean. It’s not just a difference in materials (a “luxury” piece will often be made from a fine lambskin, while a tougher, “authentic” version will be made from goatskin or horsehide), but also a difference in the cut and detailing. When shopping for a jacket, pay attention to these differences, and think about what kind of clothes you’ll be wearing your new jacket with. Maybe you want something from a very avant garde designer, or luxury Italian label, or a workwear company. That choice alone should narrow the field considerably. 

Conditioning Leather Jackets
Folks who have read our blog for a while are probably familiar with the importance of treating leather shoes to conditioner every once in a while. Leather is a skin and needs to be routinely moisturized, otherwise it can dry out and crack. The same actually goes for almost any leather products, including leather jackets. Only here, you may need a different conditioner. Lexol, for example, is perfectly fine for shoes, but can be too watery for garments. If you apply it to a jacket, it can seep through the shell and stain the lining.
For garments, many leather care experts recommend Pecard. To figure out which of their products you need, you’ll first have to figure out what kind of material you’re working with. Most leather jackets are made from one of four types of skins – goat, lamb, cow, and horse – and each can have their own “treatments.”
Which Leather Conditioner to Buy
Generally speaking, lambskin and goatskin will be relatively lightweight and thin, while cowhide and horsehide will be thick and heavy (lambskin can goatskin can also sometimes be thick, but this isn’t common). Just check the thickness and weight of your piece to figure out the skin; it should be fairly obvious.
To figure out how your leather has been treated, you can place a droplet of water on the surface and let it sit for thirty seconds. If there’s a dark spot when you wipe it away (don’t worry, it’ll eventually disappear), it’s most likely an oil-tanned leather; if there’s no dark spot, it’s probably coated. Similarly, you can gently scratch the surface with your fingernail. If it leaves a mark, it’s oil-tanned; if it doesn’t, it’s coated.
For coated leathers, lambskins, and goatskins, spread a small amount of Pecard’s Fashion Leather Lotion with a lint-free cloth, and give it ten minutes to dry before wearing. For oil-tanned leathers made from cowhide or horsehide, apply a light coat of Weatherproof Dressing and give your jacket twelve to twenty-four hours to absorb the conditioner. Then, buff off any excess with a smooth, lint-free cloth (an old t-shirt will do), and you’re good to go. Their neutral dressing is perhaps most popular among leather jacket enthusiasts, but you can use black and brown to help cover any minor scratches or scuffs, or to help restore color. Just use a sparing amount, and as always, test the conditioner on some inconspicuous spot first, to make sure it’s OK for your specific garment.
Tip for Vintage Shoppers
Note, if you’re out thrifting for a leather jacket, you’ll probably come across a few that look old, neglected, and dry. So long as the leather isn’t cracked, you can sometimes restore these pieces with a few caring treatments of Pecard. This is a great way to pick up something nice that everyone else has passed on.

Conditioning Leather Jackets

Folks who have read our blog for a while are probably familiar with the importance of treating leather shoes to conditioner every once in a while. Leather is a skin and needs to be routinely moisturized, otherwise it can dry out and crack. The same actually goes for almost any leather products, including leather jackets. Only here, you may need a different conditioner. Lexol, for example, is perfectly fine for shoes, but can be too watery for garments. If you apply it to a jacket, it can seep through the shell and stain the lining.

For garments, many leather care experts recommend Pecard. To figure out which of their products you need, you’ll first have to figure out what kind of material you’re working with. Most leather jackets are made from one of four types of skins – goat, lamb, cow, and horse – and each can have their own “treatments.”

Which Leather Conditioner to Buy

Generally speaking, lambskin and goatskin will be relatively lightweight and thin, while cowhide and horsehide will be thick and heavy (lambskin can goatskin can also sometimes be thick, but this isn’t common). Just check the thickness and weight of your piece to figure out the skin; it should be fairly obvious.

To figure out how your leather has been treated, you can place a droplet of water on the surface and let it sit for thirty seconds. If there’s a dark spot when you wipe it away (don’t worry, it’ll eventually disappear), it’s most likely an oil-tanned leather; if there’s no dark spot, it’s probably coated. Similarly, you can gently scratch the surface with your fingernail. If it leaves a mark, it’s oil-tanned; if it doesn’t, it’s coated.

For coated leathers, lambskins, and goatskins, spread a small amount of Pecard’s Fashion Leather Lotion with a lint-free cloth, and give it ten minutes to dry before wearing. For oil-tanned leathers made from cowhide or horsehide, apply a light coat of Weatherproof Dressing and give your jacket twelve to twenty-four hours to absorb the conditioner. Then, buff off any excess with a smooth, lint-free cloth (an old t-shirt will do), and you’re good to go. Their neutral dressing is perhaps most popular among leather jacket enthusiasts, but you can use black and brown to help cover any minor scratches or scuffs, or to help restore color. Just use a sparing amount, and as always, test the conditioner on some inconspicuous spot first, to make sure it’s OK for your specific garment.

Tip for Vintage Shoppers

Note, if you’re out thrifting for a leather jacket, you’ll probably come across a few that look old, neglected, and dry. So long as the leather isn’t cracked, you can sometimes restore these pieces with a few caring treatments of Pecard. This is a great way to pick up something nice that everyone else has passed on.

More Military Surplus: Leathers
Last week’s field jacket roundup addressed primarily cotton field jackets, omitting some other massively influential categories of military outerwear—today we’ll look at U.S. military leather jackets. These jackets are sort of the culture to the field jackets’ counterculture; they were and are expensive items designed and manufactured for airmen operating in the demanding conditions of early aircraft, which were short on creature comforts. The primary source of the badass, Brando school of leather jacket is motorcycle culture rather than the military.
A-1
Years in service: 1927-1931
The A-1 flying jacket is the original pilot’s leather jacket. The Army Air Forces spec’d it in olive/brown capeskin (lambskin; lighter weight than many leathers), and finished the jacket with knit woolen fabric at the collar, cuffs, and hem; it buttoned closed and has buttons on both the collar and hem (casually, it’s most often worn collar up, with a couple buttons undone at the neck and hem). The A-1 was only used for a few years before being replaced by the more familiar A-2, and finding vintage versions of the A-1 is virtually impossible; the supply is too low and the demand too great. It was cut a little slimmer than later leathers; although modern versions are flattering on a lot of people, it looks best on the fairly slim. Maybe because it’s not as ubiquitous as subsequent military issue leathers, it seems more refined, and in recent years A-1-inspired jackets in suede, like this one from Temple of Jawnz/John Coppidge have gotten a lot of attention. With no vintage market and no large-volume manufacturer of reproductions, a good A-1 doesn’t come cheap. True-to-spec capeskin repros are available from Eastman Leathers in the UK (pictured is a jacket Eastman made for YMC), and Hickorees just released a beautiful two-tone horsehide version. You can also keep an eye out for similarly styled blouson jackets from Valstar, which at least cost hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

A-2
Years in service: 1931-1940s
The A-2 was the U.S. fighter pilots’ jacket of World War II. Thousands were issued, and there are many, many A-2 jackets out there, both vintage military, vintage civilian use, and new. The jacket’s design eliminates the buttons and knit collar of the A-1 in favor of a shirt-style leather collar and zip closure covered by a storm flap. There are passants on the shoulders and knit trim at the cuffs and hem. Most vintage A-2 jackets are very dark brown, and different contractors made them from different hides, mostly horse or goat. The A-2 is one of few clothing items that can legitimately be called iconic; for many it is the leather jacket. Although the A-2 looks great on most men regardless of age or fitness, a good deal of reproduction or imitation jackets, especially from the 1980s, are cut large and will be baggy on thinner guys, so be wary of tagged sizing on any used/vintage jackets. Old vintage A-2s actually run small. By virtue of its popularity, the A-2 is also so unobjectionable, it can border on boring; but a well-cut A-2 is a great entry point into leather jackets. Pictured is a version from Good Wear, which reproduces jackets down to the details of specific WWII contractors’ specs, which varied a lot. Schott, which made A-2s during WWII, has a solid  version in its Perfecto line (not all Schott A-2s are made to this standard).

G-1
Years in service: 1940s to present day
The G-1 started as the Navy version of the Army A-2, but while the Army version sometimes includes a detachable fur collar, the mouton (sheepskin) collar is standard on the G-1. The G-1 also omits passants and the storm flap and features button-through pockets rather than snap pockets. Particularly since its starring role in Top Gun, The G-1 is one of the most commonly reproduced jackets on the market, so there are many G-1-style jackets out there. Likewise, the jacket has had a long military service history with many contractors, so details can vary some from jacket to jacket. The originals and many current civilian versions use genuine sheepskin for the collar, but many if not most use synthetic fur. Vintage models abound, and new civilian versions are available from Alpha and Schott, with widely varying specs (look at the collar on that Schott). Beware patched, plasticky-leather versions from the immediate post-Maverick-and-Goose era. Personally, I prefer the G-1’s furriness to the A-2’s minimalism, but taste in leather jackets is subjective; many people favor motorcycle-derived leather jackets to these military versions.

Sheepskin jackets
Years in service: 1930s to 1945
Although all of these are indeed flight jackets, most of them were too lightweight for cockpit-wear at the high altitudes, and in fact both the A-1 and A-2 specs refer to them as summer jackets. Heavy, unshorn sheepskin jackets were designed to keep B-17 and fighter pilots warm in unpressurized aircraft flying at altitude over Europe. The B-3 and ANJ-4 were sometimes even worn over A-2s for maximum warmth. These jackets were expensive to make and were phased out in favor of cloth, pile-lined jackets after World War II. Sheepskin jackets are bulkier and a little longer than the lighter weight jackets, and their heavyweight sheepskin will keep someone on the ground warm in almost any climate. Originals verge on impractical; B-3s have for instance just one pocket. The relative luxury of the materials means you still see high-end designer takes on the B-3 and its British equivalent, the dashing Irvin jacket; Burberry recently made exaggerated versions. For less interpretative versions, you’re looking at the usual suspects: Eastman, Schott, and Alpha.
-Pete

More Military Surplus: Leathers

Last week’s field jacket roundup addressed primarily cotton field jackets, omitting some other massively influential categories of military outerwear—today we’ll look at U.S. military leather jackets. These jackets are sort of the culture to the field jackets’ counterculture; they were and are expensive items designed and manufactured for airmen operating in the demanding conditions of early aircraft, which were short on creature comforts. The primary source of the badass, Brando school of leather jacket is motorcycle culture rather than the military.

A-1

Years in service: 1927-1931

The A-1 flying jacket is the original pilot’s leather jacket. The Army Air Forces spec’d it in olive/brown capeskin (lambskin; lighter weight than many leathers), and finished the jacket with knit woolen fabric at the collar, cuffs, and hem; it buttoned closed and has buttons on both the collar and hem (casually, it’s most often worn collar up, with a couple buttons undone at the neck and hem). The A-1 was only used for a few years before being replaced by the more familiar A-2, and finding vintage versions of the A-1 is virtually impossible; the supply is too low and the demand too great. It was cut a little slimmer than later leathers; although modern versions are flattering on a lot of people, it looks best on the fairly slim. Maybe because it’s not as ubiquitous as subsequent military issue leathers, it seems more refined, and in recent years A-1-inspired jackets in suede, like this one from Temple of Jawnz/John Coppidge have gotten a lot of attention. With no vintage market and no large-volume manufacturer of reproductions, a good A-1 doesn’t come cheap. True-to-spec capeskin repros are available from Eastman Leathers in the UK (pictured is a jacket Eastman made for YMC), and Hickorees just released a beautiful two-tone horsehide version. You can also keep an eye out for similarly styled blouson jackets from Valstar, which at least cost hundreds rather than thousands of dollars.

A-2

Years in service: 1931-1940s

The A-2 was the U.S. fighter pilots’ jacket of World War II. Thousands were issued, and there are many, many A-2 jackets out there, both vintage military, vintage civilian use, and new. The jacket’s design eliminates the buttons and knit collar of the A-1 in favor of a shirt-style leather collar and zip closure covered by a storm flap. There are passants on the shoulders and knit trim at the cuffs and hem. Most vintage A-2 jackets are very dark brown, and different contractors made them from different hides, mostly horse or goat. The A-2 is one of few clothing items that can legitimately be called iconic; for many it is the leather jacket. Although the A-2 looks great on most men regardless of age or fitness, a good deal of reproduction or imitation jackets, especially from the 1980s, are cut large and will be baggy on thinner guys, so be wary of tagged sizing on any used/vintage jackets. Old vintage A-2s actually run small. By virtue of its popularity, the A-2 is also so unobjectionable, it can border on boring; but a well-cut A-2 is a great entry point into leather jackets. Pictured is a version from Good Wear, which reproduces jackets down to the details of specific WWII contractors’ specs, which varied a lot. Schott, which made A-2s during WWII, has a solid version in its Perfecto line (not all Schott A-2s are made to this standard).

G-1

Years in service: 1940s to present day

The G-1 started as the Navy version of the Army A-2, but while the Army version sometimes includes a detachable fur collar, the mouton (sheepskin) collar is standard on the G-1. The G-1 also omits passants and the storm flap and features button-through pockets rather than snap pockets. Particularly since its starring role in Top Gun, The G-1 is one of the most commonly reproduced jackets on the market, so there are many G-1-style jackets out there. Likewise, the jacket has had a long military service history with many contractors, so details can vary some from jacket to jacket. The originals and many current civilian versions use genuine sheepskin for the collar, but many if not most use synthetic fur. Vintage models abound, and new civilian versions are available from Alpha and Schott, with widely varying specs (look at the collar on that Schott). Beware patched, plasticky-leather versions from the immediate post-Maverick-and-Goose era. Personally, I prefer the G-1’s furriness to the A-2’s minimalism, but taste in leather jackets is subjective; many people favor motorcycle-derived leather jackets to these military versions.

Sheepskin jackets

Years in service: 1930s to 1945

Although all of these are indeed flight jackets, most of them were too lightweight for cockpit-wear at the high altitudes, and in fact both the A-1 and A-2 specs refer to them as summer jackets. Heavy, unshorn sheepskin jackets were designed to keep B-17 and fighter pilots warm in unpressurized aircraft flying at altitude over Europe. The B-3 and ANJ-4 were sometimes even worn over A-2s for maximum warmth. These jackets were expensive to make and were phased out in favor of cloth, pile-lined jackets after World War II. Sheepskin jackets are bulkier and a little longer than the lighter weight jackets, and their heavyweight sheepskin will keep someone on the ground warm in almost any climate. Originals verge on impractical; B-3s have for instance just one pocket. The relative luxury of the materials means you still see high-end designer takes on the B-3 and its British equivalent, the dashing Irvin jacket; Burberry recently made exaggerated versions. For less interpretative versions, you’re looking at the usual suspects: Eastman, Schott, and Alpha.

-Pete

Packing for a One-Week Trip to the UK
I’m headed to the UK later today to do a few comedy shows. Folks are always emailing for examples on how to pack a decent wardrobe, so I thought I’d share what I’m bringing. All of this fits comfortably a carry-on bag (or on my back), along with socks, underwear, a dopp kit and a couple of soft white t-shirts to sleep in.
I’ll be casually dressed in the UK, and while the weather’s pleasantly warm in London at the moment, it’s still a bit cool and damp at night; in my other destination, Edinburgh, it’s actually a bit cold. I won’t be doing laundry on this trip.
All the pieces above go together and can be switched out for each other or layered, and the shoes are comfortable for walking. Those, along with “fits in luggage” are my main criteria when packing for a trip.
Coats
I’m bringing a leather A-1 jacket and a workwear-ish cotton blazer. The leather’s fine in actual cold, especially layered, and the blazer I can wear whenever it’s not actually hot hot.
Shirts
I brought two t-shirts and five oxfords. I love oxfords for travel because they look great right out of my suitcase - slightly rumpled is their natural state. The t-shirts will be great if there are particularly warm days.
Trousers
I brought two pairs of jeans, though I often bring only one, simply because I had the room. I also brought a pair of khakis for warmer days or days when I want to look a bit more put-together.
Shoes
I ended up bringing two pairs of sneakers on the trip. It’s always a good idea to have backup shoes in case of soaking or blisters or what-have-you, and canvas sneakers aren’t too heavy. If it weren’t summer, I’d likely bring a pair of boots and a pair of sneakers.
Etc.
I grabbed an Ebbets Field Flannels 8-panel cap, which is soft and packs easily, along with a favorite gray sweatshirt (for layering) and a white silk scarf that will keep me warm on the way to my 11PM gig in Edinburgh. Hopefully.

Packing for a One-Week Trip to the UK

I’m headed to the UK later today to do a few comedy shows. Folks are always emailing for examples on how to pack a decent wardrobe, so I thought I’d share what I’m bringing. All of this fits comfortably a carry-on bag (or on my back), along with socks, underwear, a dopp kit and a couple of soft white t-shirts to sleep in.

I’ll be casually dressed in the UK, and while the weather’s pleasantly warm in London at the moment, it’s still a bit cool and damp at night; in my other destination, Edinburgh, it’s actually a bit cold. I won’t be doing laundry on this trip.

All the pieces above go together and can be switched out for each other or layered, and the shoes are comfortable for walking. Those, along with “fits in luggage” are my main criteria when packing for a trip.

Coats

I’m bringing a leather A-1 jacket and a workwear-ish cotton blazer. The leather’s fine in actual cold, especially layered, and the blazer I can wear whenever it’s not actually hot hot.

Shirts

I brought two t-shirts and five oxfords. I love oxfords for travel because they look great right out of my suitcase - slightly rumpled is their natural state. The t-shirts will be great if there are particularly warm days.

Trousers

I brought two pairs of jeans, though I often bring only one, simply because I had the room. I also brought a pair of khakis for warmer days or days when I want to look a bit more put-together.

Shoes

I ended up bringing two pairs of sneakers on the trip. It’s always a good idea to have backup shoes in case of soaking or blisters or what-have-you, and canvas sneakers aren’t too heavy. If it weren’t summer, I’d likely bring a pair of boots and a pair of sneakers.

Etc.

I grabbed an Ebbets Field Flannels 8-panel cap, which is soft and packs easily, along with a favorite gray sweatshirt (for layering) and a white silk scarf that will keep me warm on the way to my 11PM gig in Edinburgh. Hopefully.

WWII War Paint: How Bomber Jacket Art Emboldened Our Boys (Collector’s Weekly)
All I want for Christmas is an A-1 Flight Jacket from Lost Worlds Inc.

All I want for Christmas is an A-1 Flight Jacket from Lost Worlds Inc.