The start of the FWA hunt brings me face to face with my greatest clothing regret, because I actually had the very jacket I wanted and I let it go in a fit of madness. The jacket I had was a 1965, NYPD issue Schott 602 Perfecto made from thick and heavy steer hide, with full Talon zippers and in just about perfect condition. It cost me a fortune to buy and import and (if I do say so myself), I looked great in it. Without that moment of madness this part of the hunt would not exist, and this latest piece of gonzo journo would simply be entitled “FWA Number 19 – Schott Perfecto”, but I sold it and so the hunt must begin again.
A leather jacket is, I believe, an essential part of a mans wardrobe. A good leather jacket, in much the same way as a nice watch or quality boots, shows maturity and the owners willingness to invest time in things, it shows that this is a man who can commit himself to something without expecting instant results, and as time moves on the depth of that commitment only intensifies. A leather jacket is a true lifetime piece, but it is also an incredibly difficult item to buy because without trying out a huge variety of styles and cuts it is easy to invest quite a sum of money in something that looks pretty bad on you. In common with spectacles and shoes you really do need to define what “your style” is before throwing a pile of cash at it. This is one of the reasons that this is only part 1 of the leather jacket hunt, because I am far from convinced that I will get this right at the first attempt and my considerations will reflect that. I intend to document the whole process right here at Denim HQ.
To begin the process I think it is important to define what I like and what I believe will suit me. I’ll begin by taking pointers from a couple of older jackets I had which I enjoyed, the Schott and a Brooks café racer style jacket, which was a bit of an oddity as it had a pointed collar rather than the more common mandarin style. The first two points that leap to mind is that I favour waist length jackets as I believe that they give a more defined silhouette to the torso and shoulders, the second point being that in the past I have favoured a proper collar over a mandarin as I have a massive head and the shorter collar tends to accentuate this, making my head look like a light bulb, if I can find a jacket with broad enough shoulders and a reasonably high round collar I might change that this time. Finally, even though I have worn jackets with them in the past, I do not want epaulets, I am not and never intend on being a member of the French Foreign Legion so they seem fairly pointless to me and will ruin the classic, clean lines look that I have in my mind.
So that’s the style and shape now onto colour, always an important consideration when buying leather goods. To state the obvious black is more versatile whereas brown is more adventurous, I associate black jackets with more bikers and rock and rollers, whereas I identify brown jackets with military and a certain famous fictional archaeologist. It comes to a straight decision as to whether I want to be a rocker or Indiana Jones and for now I’m going to defer the decision as I hope that when I see the jacket that I want then the colour will become apparent to me.
Continuing the theme of stating the obvious, one of the most important considerations when seeking a leather jacket is well…..the leather. The high shine a durability of a horsehide jacket is certainly appealing but personally I am not a huge fan of how horse hide ages, I’m talking about in 25 or 30 years here. I think it can have a tendency to look dry and the texture can be ruined too easily when this happens, not all the time I hasten to add but I have seen some really bad examples. My old Schott jacket was made from extremely thick and heavy steer hide, it literally felt like body armour due to the weight and stiffness and I really quite liked that, the only downside was that it was certainly a winter jacket and you could not really layer a thick sweater or flannel under it without moving your top half like you’re Robocop. So what leather is tough and substantial, yet pliable and reasonably soft? Honestly, I don’t know. This will be a research point for me and I’ll talk to some people who know about these kind of things.
Himel Brother Heron Jacket in Horse Hide.
So onto the makers of leather jackets, and here is where I hit a big constraint, money. I love jackets by Himel Brothers and Thedi Leathers, some of the Lost Worlds stuff is appealing and there are other manufacturers of a similar standard who make amazing jackets in classic and original designs, the problem being that if I drop upwards of $2500 on a jacket my wife will divorce me. So what I need is a top line jacket for mid range money, preferably bottom line money would be even better. Believe it or not, this can be done and not just with leather jackets (more on that in an article later this week), but it does lead you into the murky and ambiguous world of second hand vintage clothing where for every bargain there are 10 hipsters selling Chinese made Levis shirts from the early 90’s for $120 a pop, so research will be king if I take this route. The other remaining option is to look closer to home and the twin Scottish manufacturers of Aero and Alexander, once one company and now two. Aero and Alexander both have an excellent reputation for producing timeless jackets from high quality hides, their customer service is reputedly superb and even better than this they both have a samples page where pre made jackets can be bought for up to half price, this is where my search will begin.
Thedi Leathers Cafe Racer