Leather Jackets Beyond the Schott Perfecto
Despite the fact that the Schott Perfecto is …well, just about perfect (read our history of the Perfecto). There are plenty of other leather jacket options floating around. We certainly have no beef with the Perfecto, nor with Schott, but we thought we’d do you all a favor by laying out some of the best jackets in that style currently on the market.
The Perfecto is so inextricably tied to the world of leather outerwear that like it or not, that iconic rider’s silhouette is probably the first thing that comes to mind when read the words “leather jacket.”
What is a Perfecto?
What makes a Perfecto so special? Well, thanks for asking, I’ll tell you. A Perfecto can be identified by a couple of details, mainly a preponderance of zippers, epaulets, and oftentimes, a belt. These jackets usually fit short, anything past the waist and they would bunch and get in the way of their primary purpose – riding a motorcycle. They can be zipped up all the way, but look so much better partially or all the way open, which exaggerates the asymmetrical design of the jacket. What, at first, seems like too many details, makes for almost endless customization and experimentation. You can wear ’em tiny like the Ramones or slightly oversized like Brando – you can cut off the belt or you can zip that thing all the way up to the collar.
Schott’s Perfecto is truly the O.G., but dozens of brands have stepped up to produce jackets that rival and sometimes surpass the Schott Perfecto – either by staying true to this classic design, or getting creative with other silhouettes and designs.
Read on if you want to learn more about the best of the best, or just drop $800 at Schott NYC to get the aforementioned classic.
We’ll start with the biker models, some with those quintessentially Perfecto-y details and others without.
Fine Creek Leon
Our first Schott alternative is a such a loving homage to the original Perfecto jackets that it puts even Schott to shame. Fine Creek Leathers, if you haven’t heard yet, is probably the hottest new brand in our niche and their construction and detailing is out of this world. The leather of this jacket starts looking kind of flat, the hardware seems chunky and boring if solid. But all of that changes with a couple of wears.
Made from a heavy, vegetable-tanned horsehide, which is then given an aniline finish, the jacket looks black, but will slowly wear in to its natural lighter colored core. Better yet, each jacket is made from one hide, which is a rarity in the leather jacket world. Paradoxically, most brands use a ton of different hides to make jackets with a more uniform grain, while taking leather from one hide will yield a more uneven overall look. Fine Creek also lopped off the epaulets and belt, because many vintage pieces from the 40s and 50s also had those homemade alterations.
The beauty of this jacket is that its quality is hidden under the hood and has to be coaxed out with wear. It doesn’t scream “Tom of Holland” like some motorcycle jackets, nor is it conspicuously shiny. And best of all, it takes good, old-fashioned hard wear to achieve its full potential. Its chunky hardware might seem inelegant at first, but it guarantees your zippers won’t blow out a couple years into your gorgeous jacket’s life.
Available for $1,950 at Self Edge.
Flat Head Delraiser
No list of leather jackets is complete without the legendary D-pocket jackets, named for the trademark pocket on the wearer’s right side. For our list, we chose Flat Head‘s Delraiser jacket, the horsehide jacket made once-yearly for Self Edge. Cut from horsehide tanned in the world-renowned Shinki Tannery, the Delraiser is another jacket with an aniline finish over a veg-tanned base. Much like the Leon from Fine Creek, the jacket will have far more depth and nuance than a flat black leather as you break it in.
Like all Flat Head garments, special care is taken with the hardware, which in this case is also made in Japan. The vivid brass details of the zips and snaps on this jacket definitely stand out – as does the leather, which has a rather shiny finish at first. These pieces will all blend in with wear, but one thing about the jacket that’s perfect from the start is the cut. Short, boxy, quintessentially 1950s.
The D-pocket brings a lot of what we love about the Perfecto to the table; those essential asymmetrical details with just enough variation to make it stand out from the many inferior Perfecto imitators running around.
Available for $2,250 at Self Edge.
Himel Bros Kensington Custom (Cafe Racer)
But not all biker’s jackets are cut with that iconic asymmetrical zip! For those who prefer symmetry and a slightly more euro-chic silhouette, you may be more a fan of the Cafe Racer style of jacket. Who better to represent this style than the exemplary leathers brand, Himel Bros?
Himel Bros named this particular jacket after a famous Jewish market near their headquarters in Toronto. Built to last with horsehide from Shinki, the leather will age similarly to the previous jackets (teacore leather—gotta love it) with lots of nuance over time. The great thing about this particular leather, is that it will never fully lose its black color and there is a layer of oil and wax in the top coat to give the jacket extra shine and durability from the get-go. Ever precise, the jacket has been cut just so, to avoid the sometimes unseemly swing-back gussets that other jackets typically feature. Mobility, durability, and that James Dean-y collar make this another essential rider’s jacket.
Available from $2450 at Himel Bros.
Sure leather jackets have a bad-boy persona, but leather jackets have been worn just about everywhere, even on the campuses of the country’s most esteemed learning institutions. These jackets come in a handful of styles, but the most popular are the button-up, menlo-style and that favorite of jocks everywhere, the varsity jacket!
Mister Freedom Lawrence Jacket
Who said leather jackets had to be black? Or that they had to be all leather?
Mister Freedom recently completed a run of Lawrence Jackets, based on the cut of their campus jacket, a classic menlo-collared, button-up leather jacket, but added up-cycled vintage Kilim rugs for a dash of color on the front panels. The super-light veg-tanned leather will appeal to the impatient among us. Instead of fighting through layers of dye and oils, this jacket will pick up color along the way. Even exposure to sunlight will darken the leather.
Especially if your style is a little more on the vintage, reproduction end of the spectrum, this jacket is a great choice. A large reason we enjoy our hard-wearing pieces is watching them slowly change over time and those changes will be especially evident with such a light-colored leather. We can’t say exactly how long this process will take, but we can say that you’ll end up with a darker, patinated, gorgeous jacket than the one with which you started.
Discerning clothes wearer and multi-hyphenate, Adam Goldberg has been wearing this jacket the past couple times I’ve seen him, so you know it’s a great piece.
Available for $1,599.95 at Mister Freedom.
Golden Bear Varsity Jacket
“Hold up,” you might say, “Aren’t just the sleeves of a varsity jacket leather?”
To which I reply, “Easy buddy, I don’t tell you how to do your job!”
But you’re right. The body of a traditional varsity jacket is wool and only the arms are leather. It’s kind of like a leather jacket with training wheels. You’ll have the opportunity to see how leather patinas and ages without committing to a look that might seem, at first glance, overly ambitious (in the case of rider and flight jackets).
A varsity jacket dodges a lot of the things that can make a typical leather jacket seem daunting; lots of elaborate, shiny hardware and badass energy, but they are really just as evocative. Often bright-colored, my red varsity jacket fetches all kinds of compliments and stares in the bars of L.A. and helps me stand out in a sea of black-leathered wannabes. The snaps are another factor, fasten the jacket at the narrowest part of your torso and it naturally gives you a tailored, slim look that you might prefer to the short and boxy vibes of many other leather jackets.
As with all the other jackets on this list, you’re tapping into some part of the collective consciousness when you wear a varsity, emulating a style that we all know and understand while simultaneously skirting cliché and staying original.
Available for $495 at Golden Bear.
The (Leather) Denim Jackets
We all love a denim jacket; the classic cuts have been refined over the years to fit just perfectly and many makers have opted to reproduce these classics in heavy leathers. Available in all styles, they’re an easier pill to swallow if you’re feeling hesitant about which jacket style is right for you. They’ll blend in with the other pieces of denim outerwear in your closet, but they’ll last even longer and keep you from wearing the dreaded/beloved Canadian Tuxedo.
Iron Heart Split Steer Modified Type III
A lot of people doubt themselves and their ability to pull off a leather jacket. There’s a lot to live up to in a classic rider’s jacket, to be sure, and some folks get all in their heads, fearing they’ll seem like a poser. Although we’re here to assure you these fears are unfounded, your feelings are definitely valid, so maybe you want to try a jacket that comes in a more familiar silhouette.
Plenty of brands do a version of the classic Type III denim jacket in leather, but the above iteration from Iron Heart is one of my favorites. It comes in a super-heavy and textural split-steer roughout leather that doesn’t have the intimidating shine of your classic leather jacket. Roughout leathers have so much potential to patina and change over time and this is no exception. It will fit like most lengthened Type IIIs and even has a buttery liner and internal snap pockets.
A leather Type III doesn’t jump out in quite the same way (a pro for some, a con for others), but this means you can blend into a crowd without incurring the dreaded question, “Do you ride a motorcycle?” and still look good!
Available for $1,050 at Iron Heart.
RRL Weston Jacket
There are plenty of leather Type III variants running around, but it’s not as common to see a Type II jacket in leather. RRL’s Weston Jacket roughs up the Type II jacket with Italian roughout suede throughout topped a tastefully contrasted calfskin collar. With the expected dual-flap pockets, pleated front, and waist tabs, it’s got all the rest of the details you’d expect with a Type II jacket. Because, why mess with a classic design too much?
Available for £1,435 (~$1,900USD) at Clutch Cafe.
3sixteen x Standard & Strange Type 3s
Our final trucker is a sure-fire hit. A collab between 3sixteen and Standard & Strange, this horsehide jacket is an exact replica of 3s’s extremely popular Type 3s denim jacket. Cut from a Horween horsehide with that must-have veg-tan undertones, the jacket will age like gangbusters.
A great way to support a great brand and retailer, this jacket is also an easy sell, especially if you already know your 3s sizing and want to up the ante with a heavier jacket.
Available for $1,100 at Standard & Strange.
Flight jackets are still cool, but not in quite such a rebellious way as the rider’s styles. A flight jacket is good for a guy who wants something tougher and more evocative, but is really more of a square at heart (I have one). They frequently come in brown leathers, which can be a plus, with all kinds of trims and details that the other styles just don’t have!
Schott A-2 Jacket
Another great leather jacket, probably one of the best, is the A-2. Schott does a great version of this iconic flight jacket that will make you like a hot WWII fighter pilot and won’t make anyone grill you on what kind of bike you have. These stripped down classics make you feel and look great, but never like a poser.
They can be worn snug and high on the hips or rather loose for layering purposes. They look especially good in the more classic brown colorway. But perhaps the best thing about the Schott version is that it isn’t a 100% accurate reproduction of the WWII version. This is a good thing because the older, original versions didn’t have the double entry pockets on the front that are so damn convenient in the modern iteration. Some even come with a detachable fur collar, which is also a damn fine look.
Available for $660 at Schott NYC.
Falcon Garments MA1
Born from men’s style forums and formerly known as Temple of Jawnz, Falcon Garments offers custom, made-to-measure outerwear crafted by leather artisans. The level of detail you get from each piece is something you might expect from brands that charge a great deal more. Though they do offer the entire gamut of outerwear styles including both varsity and motorcycle style jackets, their take on the MA-1 is a sleek rendition of the military classic.
Choose from a variety of leathers, go made-to-measure for a perfect fit, and switch up details like the hardware and gussets for a jacket that’s all your own.
Available from $875 at Falcon Garments.
Let’s say you run cold and need a little extra fleecy goodness to keep you going. Well then, you may be interested in Schott’s take on the B-3 jacket: a WWII garment worn by pilots on high-altitude bombing runs. All-natural sheep’s fur lines this jacket and does an incredible job of keeping you warm, after all, those bombers’ cabins weren’t pressurized, so things got awfully cold when they were up there.
Schott’s edition of the famous jacket is slightly slimmed down and modernized, which is definitely a good thing, because these jackets can get very bulky otherwise. Schott also added hand warmer pockets, which the originals didn’t have so you’ll have something to do with your hands when things get cold or you feel self-conscious.
Available for $1,290 at Schott.