A while ago I wrote an FWA article about my previous leather jacket, a Simmons Bilt Cossack style jacket by Alexander Leathers of Selkirk, Scotland, it was a thing of beauty, a true life time piece, but alas it became apparent that it was not for me. The problem I found with the Simmons Bilt in the end was that it required effort to wear, its distinctive style and short body length meant that I really had to think about what to wear with it, and when to wear it and as a result I virtually never took it out of my wardrobe. The best thing to do with it was to move it on to an owner who would truly appreciate it, and so it now resides in Portugal with a man who is very happy with it, but this left me with a wardrobe void for a leather jacket so once again I turned to Giles Padmore of Iron Heart to see if he could help me put together my ideal jacket.
Previous to owning the Simmons Bilt I had owned two leather jackets which I really enjoyed, a vintage Schott Police issue jacket in very heavy steer hide, and a café racer from Brooks of Detroit in a much lighter leather. Both jackets were extremely good but both also had things which annoyed me and resulted in me moving them on, the Schott had a collar which I didn’t care for and epaulets on the shoulders which are not my thing either, the Brooks was too light and also had an oversized collar, my perfect jacket would have to lose these features but keep the length and heft of the Schott with the style of the Brooks. I began to compile a list of features and found that the word which kept repeating in my mind was “simple”, the jacket had to be as plain as possible with no unnecessary pockets, no fancy stitch adornments, no contrast stitching, I even wanted the hardware and zippers to be muted against a black background.
What I asked for, what Giles tweaked and what Alexander made is (in my opinion), a wonderful exercise in less is more, a jacket where not a feature is spare or superfluous, everything is where it should be and it is all required to present a café racer of effortless beauty. The jacket is made from Horween steer hide, and is therefore substantial and heavy, it is lined with twill for multi season use with pockets lined with corduroy for comfort, it is slightly longer than most jackets of this style with the body extending an inch past the end of the zipper and is fastened with brass, Iron Heart branded, heavy duty YKK zippers.
There is so much I love about this design, it is classic and can be worn with just about anything but obviously looks best with just a tee shirt and jeans. It is super comfortable and easy to wear, despite the weight, mainly due to the fact that in essence it is nothing more than a plain zip fronted jacket which just happens to be made from one of the world’s greatest leathers. What I love most about it however is its total and utter subtlety, every last detail is there to be downplayed whilst retaining its obvious quality and refinement, which is a strange word to associate with a super tough leather motorcycle style jacket but appropriate in these circumstance I think.
In around nine months with the Simmons Bilt I probably wore it about five times, the ALxIH Café Racer has been with me for 4 days and I have worn it every single day, a trend I can see continuing. The secret to that is that I can feel it willing me to break it in, to wear it, to soften the leather and to mould it to me and make it mine because I know that when I do it could quite possibly be the greatest item of clothing I have ever owned, but the element of the unknown is whether it beats me before I beat it, it’s going to be great finding out.