Men had been wrapping themselves in animal skins for centuries before World War I fighter aces devised the leather jacket as a way to combat freezing temperatures at high altitude. Over the years, the pilot's necessity became a mark of rebellion for bikers and a statement piece for ascendant rock stars.
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These days, a leather jacket is no longer a specific signifier, which means that every man can have one and wear it every day – it is, after all, one of the most versatile pieces of outerwear available. Throw it over a T-shirt and or dress it up with a tie. The options are myriad and it's hard not to look slick.
Still, with countless menswear companies making hundreds of different models in a variety of cuts, actually buying a leather jacket can be quite complicated. But it doesn't have to be. Follow these steps to find a jacket that will fit your torso and your personality.
Check out: Fox Deluxe Caliber Jacket.
The Fox Deluxe Caliber is unapologetically a motorcycle jacket, which means it isn't adorned with unnecessary straps but is cut loose enough in the chest and tight enough at the waist to complement a collared shirt. In fact, a tie looks entirely reasonable sticking out of the collar's ribbed interior, a softer detail juxtaposed against a subtle-but-macho neck tab. The shoulders – loose enough not to inhibit movement – are subtly quilted and topped with low-profile epaulets. A spacious front pocket fits a cell phone, and stash pockets on the sleeves fit that lighter, iPod, or pocketknife.
And the jacket is soft. The New Zealand lamb leather gives way quickly (and smells more like an old glove than a new car). Over time, the arms may crinkle, but sturdy construction ensures that the chest and back will wear evenly – which is fortunate because this is a coat designed to be worn. Neither punk nor glitzy, the Caliber is better suited to Air Force runways than fashion parties. The practical leather jacket lives on. [$650; shop.foxhead.com]