Technology may make shopping faster, if not immediate, but finding the right digs can be as difficult as ever. Even if you avoid in-store mark up to find a better price online, how do you know whether the quality matches the cost? We talked to a few experts about what you should be looking for when spending on a winter wardrobe staple: the leather motorcycle jacket.
Moto jackets are pretty simple in form (zippers on black leather at its base), so materials come first and foremost when looking for a quality piece. "You can touch soft, buttery lambskin leather and just tell from how supple it is that it's high quality," says Jeff Johnson, co-founder of The Arrivals. "Or, you can have a hard, crunchy leather that almost feels like cardboard. That'll eventually crack."
What you trade off in price you're going to trade off in quality. While a more affordable jacket might seem like the better financial get in the short term, once the leather cracks you'll spend more either repairing it or replacing it over the life of a better made (albeit pricier) option. While these sort of details may be hard to spot online, go with a trusted brand you've have some experience with and never be afraid to return it if you're not satisfied.
Quality of the leather isn't everything. While East Dane fashion director Wayne Gross also points to having sturdier zippers (it should have a bit of heft to it and "run smoothly on the track"), how the leather is handled is important, too. If the leather seems to have a roll to it, if the collar ripples, or if the seams around the zipper don't lay flat, Johnson says it likely indicates a lack of production quality. "Leather stretches," Gross says. "If you put too much tension on it when you're sewing, it'll leave a waviness."
Typically, more expensive jackets feature more detailing, Gross adds. While the detailing is more of an aesthetic choice, signs of poor production quality doesn't bode well for the longevity of your piece. Loose threads and ripped seams may not be far off.
"It's an investment piece, so you need to have that in mind when you go looking for one," Gross advises. "A good one should last you about 20 years. There'll be moments where it's in style and you'll wear it three to five years. Then you put it away and if you keep your sizing consistent, you can bring it back."
For the sweet spot of quality and price, look for a coat in the $800 to $1,500 range if you're buying from a traditional retailer. And while that may sound like a lot, if the piece lasts you that 20 years, it breaks down to about $50 annually. Some labels, like The Arrivals, can offer lower pricing with direct-to-consumer models that negate a lot of the industry's overhead costs. Johnson himself says he could never pull the trigger on a big leather motorcycle jacket purchase. His first was the one he designed.
Check out these three options you can buy now:
Schott 50s Perfecto Leather Biker Jacket, [$850, mrporter.com]
The Arrivals Preston Structured Leather Biker Jacket, [$645. thearrivals.com]
The Kooples Sport Leather Jacket, [$1,100; eastdane.com]