Beckham strikes a pose. Photograph from
Style Necessary Style

Is the leather jacket the midlife crisis of menswear?

The right fit and the right attitude can make a difference, sure, but this icon of cool may not be for everyone
Monchet Olives | Oct 11 2018

The leather jacket, like the blue blazer, is the quintessential armor of every man.  It was borne from utility. Seeing service during the war as flight bomber jackets, it was eventually appropriated by the motorcycling culture that came post-war. Wearing a leather jacket (the genuine kind) in the tropics takes an ample amount of derring-do. It can be punishing. But for the racer set, it is the ultimate kind of protection. Once upon a time, I had a café racer jacket, when I went through my Vespa midlife period. It was one of those slim-fit ones that someone like David Beckham would use. I skidded down those winding roads heading to Calatagan and it kept me unscathed—my ego not included.

Brad Pitt in Fight Club. IMDB

The leather jacket can trick you into thinking you’re someone else, like Brad Pitt in Fight Club, or David Beckham in any damn place he chooses to grace, or James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause—remember that motor racer number with a white tee and jeans, accessorized with a 365 Porsche Roadster? Nothing spells iconic bad boy more than that.

James Dean. @thejamesdeangallery on Instagram

Acquiring a leather jacket isn’t simple. The designer ones like those of Moncler and Balmain can set you back 4,000 euros. I prefer keeping to the tried and classic brands. The fast fashion retailers have a lot of leather-looking stuff, but it’s always best to the buy the real thing within your budget. And if you’re into thrift shopping, second-hand stores can spring a few gems.

Second thing to consider: what fits your body type. A popular style called the “Perfecto” by the classic New York brand Schott has large, spread lapels and a flared collar, and is gussied up with snaps and zippers. It has that don’t-mess-with-me appeal which says you’re used to hanging with a rowdy crew. It is also very sharp-looking. It cinches at the waist so unless you’re fit or don’t mind wearing a double Spanx, find another option.  

@schottnyc on Instagram

My personal favorite is the sleek, snug and streamlined café racer, a favorite among the motocross set. It hugs your body, has a bold zipper, and a snap at the collar. It is the dressiest of leather jackets. I remember the late Eugenio Lopez Jr sporting a black Brioni racer with grey slacks, and it looked so smart. Colors vary: Ralph Lauren issues a version in leather or suede during the cooler seasons.

The bomber jacket, with its World War II roots, hasn’t changed very much. Of all the styles, it’s the most forgiving, and practical. Made in various forms of leather and suede, it cinches at the waist with a bit of ribbing. It was a favorite uniform during the Estrada administration (Erap wore it a lot). The pitfall of this look, however, is that it can balloon around your midsection. To look more streamlined, the fabric should be close to the body, and if you can, consider wearing an under sweater like a nice cotton or cashmere pullover on top of your basic T.

Daniel Craig wears a suede cafe racer leather jacket in the movie Spectre. @IMDB

There are two other styles for jackets that I am partial to, and which you may consider as alternatives: the safari jacket in suede, which is tied around the waist, and the Barbour waxed jacket in the beaufort or bedale styles. They cover more of you and can be flattering even for round bodies. Unlike the moto racer or bomber that spell attitude with an A, these styles are more country gent propriety.

But the big question really is, should you get a leather jacket? I am iffy, to be honest. I think you need to make sure you have the right suit jacket and maybe trench coat first for when you travel. But if you want to spruce up the holiday look and have the extra dough, go for it—no one can stop you.

Getting a leather jacket that fits right can be elusive, but keep in mind to avoid looking like a sausage roll in a meat casing. The right body type is key but let’s face it: the leather jacket isn’t for everyone. It can exude classic 50’s icon as readily as Russian hitman. Please keep away from the full-length duster coats ala Matrix, unless you have the guts to own it like Jeric Raval at the last ABS-CBN ball. Leather is said to be the sweet spot of fabrics, work it correctly and it can be elegant; wear it like a slob and it will be a disaster. If you have to wear it, wear it like a man; it’s the least you can do for the boy inside you who always dreamed of wearing it.