The key to any good investment is knowing what you’re spending your money on. When it comes to leather jackets, the hide used to make that particular jacket is the pivotal factor in your purchase. Jackets can be made from all kinds of leathers – anything from plain old cowhide, all the way to kangaroo or yak – but for this article, we’re breaking the most commonly used leathers you’re bound to be faced with on your quest for the perfect jacket.
Steerhide is a bovine leather made from the hide of male cows, known as steers. A readily available leather to most manufacturers, steerhide is consistent in grain and weight throughout the hide, and usually has a subtle gloss-sheen thanks to a combination of natural oils and resins used in the tanning process. Often stiff upon purchase, steerhide will soften up with enough wear, and the initial rigidity only helps it to mold to your body.
A classic leather jacket which utilizes steerhide is the Schott 618 Perfecto Motorcycle Jacket, a piece iconically worn by Marlon Brando in the 1953 film, The Wild One. This archetypal motorcycle jacket features an asymmetrical zip closure, waist belt, and snap buttons throughout. Available at Schott for $740.
Horsehide is a luxury leather often hailed as the all-rounder for its durability and handsome aesthetic. Horses are reared in smaller groups and receive a higher level of care compared to cows, so their skin is generally free of blemishes or damage which allows tanneries to produce a top quality leather that has a super-fine grain and smooth hand.
Horsehide has a high level of natural water repellency which is only bolstered by the tanning process, and its tough composition makes it resistant to stretching or losing its shape. As horses are not farmed agriculturally in most countries, horsehide is more expensive than other leathers.
Japanese repro experts, The Real McCoy’s, use vegetable tanned horsehide on their A2 Leather Jacket, a reproduction of the U.S. Army Air Corps flight jacket first introduced in the later years of World War II. Available at Standard & Strange for $1800.
Lambskin is the softest and thinnest leather out of our selection. The lambs skin is so naturally thin that it makes for an extremely pliable leather with a fine grain, which can be used to make lightweight leather jackets that are supple and comfortable from the get-go. With a natural elasticity, lambskin is durable and tear-resistant, however, it can stretch over time and needs to be stored correctly to negate this potential issue.
Deerskin is amongst the strongest leathers in the world. It requires a complex tanning process which is yields a resilient leather that is breathable and highly insulating with a rich grain. Like lambskin, deerskin has great elasticity, but its thicker composition means it holds its shape well, and can develop handsome creasing and patina with enough wear.
The Himel Bros. Bob MacDonald Varsity Jacket is constructed from deerskin. Based on pre-WWII flight jackets from the 30s, this classic vintage sportswear piece has chunky buttons and a varsity style collar, and its available from Himel Bros. for $1650
Goatskin is a rugged hide that features a coarse, pebble-like grain. It is renowned for its strength, breathability, and water-resistance, as well as its potential to yield a glowing patina. As robust as it may be, goatskin is still remarkably supple and has a minimal break-in time.
Eastman Leather exhibit stunning vegetable-tanned goatskin on their G-1 Jacket, which includes a red rayon lining, woolen cuffs and waistband, and a vintage-style Talon zipper. Available at Eastman Leather for $1050.
Shearling is the skin of a sheared sheep – or other wool-bearing animals – which is then tanned and processed with the wool still left attached to the hide. Not only does this provide a soft and insulative layer – it looks great, too – adding a rugged edge to any leather jacket.
Japanese label, Nine Lives, used luxurious cashmere shearling to construct their El Rodeo jacket. The cashmere wool has been dyed midnight-blue, while the hide has been chrome-tanned for ultimate softness. Available from Nine Lives for $6500.