I can still remember my dad’s motorcycle jacket—bomber style, dark brown, the kind that pilots wore during WWII with a “sexy lady” on the back. It was several sizes too big on me (I was about 10 at the time), still when nobody was around I would slip it down from its hanger, put it on and instantly feel cool. Such is the transformative power of the right leather moto jacket. Just ask a Jenner or a Hadid; the ubiquitous biker jacket is permanently in style.
So now that you’ve decided to drop a week’s pay/month’s rent/Kardashian’s weekly spray tan budget on a moto that’s made to last, there are some key considerations to address: Cropped or hip length? Classic or next lev? What about vintage? We spoke to industry experts to bring you the ultimate insider’s guide.
The classic: Fitted
The once utilitarian biker jacket first became a fashion power player in the mid ’50s when bad boy dreamboats James Dean and Marlon Brando started wearing Schott’s “Perfecto” model. Inextricably linked with counter culture, the look was co-opted by angsty female types a couple of decades later (Patti Smith, Joan Jett) and became a gender-neutral punk staple of the ’80s and early ’90s. Today the cool AF factor endures. While Schott still sells a worn-finish women’s Perfecto model ($937), there are plenty of others also worth the spend.
Exaggerated updates (think: oversized sleeves, bright colours, extreme hardware detailing) are likely to get short-term attention. Still, Toronto-based fashion consultant and former buying director at The Room, Nicholas Mellamphy advises that there’s nothing basic about sticking with the basics: “There are certain wardrobe items that don’t need to be recreated because the statement is strong enough. As you move away from the authentic version, you start to lose something.”
One of the most widely adored are Balenciaga’s “Biker” and “Biker Classic” jackets. The Olsen twins were early adopters back in 2010, but they’re still ever-present on celebs like K-Stew and Kendall. The reason? Well, there’s the buttery lambskin leather. And the cut: the cropped, structured styles cinch in to form the figure while on the Classic, epaulettes straighten and frame like it’s their job. The price tag (about $3,675 each) is steep, but with several wears a week and no style expiration date in sight, you’ll have no prob yanking that per-wear cost down into the practical realm.
Cheaper options do exist, like Montreal-designed Mackage, with its “Perfecto” model, which costs about $850. (Good news: when the brand began opening its own stores in 2015 across Canada, volume went up and prices came down by about 20 percent). Similarly, this jacket boasts a waist minimizing silhouette, and a broad, face-framing collar, except this one also has a badass buckled belt along the bottom like Brando’s original.
Another one in this vein and priced somewhere in between is the French label Iro’s “Ashville” biker jacket, which rings in at approximately $1,682. Guaranteed to make you look effing hot, this cropped design is a fave of low-key glam idols like J-Law and Lily Rose Depp, who likes to wear her beige version on airport runs. Bonus: sale-chasers can often luck out with deep discounts on Outnet.com.
The cool kid: Relaxed
Oversized and gender-neutral have been industry “buzz terms” for a few seasons now, a trend that really began when Hedi Slimane took the reigns at Saint Laurent in ’12. Even with new creative director Anthony Vacarello now at the helm, the borrowed from the boys, hip-length and slouchier leather jackets (which ring in a cool $7,263) don’t seem to be going anywhere. The message? Too busy giving zero f-cks to try to look sexy.
“It’s that really modern, super model off-duty look,” says Isabel Dupre, a stylist and former Elle US style director. Along with getting you mistaken for a street style celeb, pros of the contemporary cut include versatility—toss it over track pants or a dress, wear it all winter over bulky sweaters or denim jackets for extra warmth. Cons: depending on your body type (ie. if you’re not tall or not slender), boxy can just mean box.
If the Saint Laurent is out of reach, you could always try Blk Dnm on for size. At about $1,330, its “Leather 8 Jacket” has been spotted on fashionable females from Emma Watson to Karlie Kloss. Bonus: because it hits closer to the hips, your lower back won’t get cold when you bend over.
And while Acne Studios makes the classic style that’s defs an editor fave (if a little on the squarer side), they also make a great longer-in-front version called the “Swift,” priced at approximately $2,650. Made in Sweden, the Acne jacket is the moto of choice for ultimate badass Jessica Jones—even better, they also do a faux leather model for style hunters seeking an animal-free option.
The one of a kind: Vintage
No question there is a romantic aspect to the quest for the perfect vintage leather jacket, and also some practical pros. “You can get that really worked in look, which takes a long time to achieve with new leather,” says Yael Kanter, who runs Toronto’s Vintage Couture. That said—there’s a big difference between worked in and rundown, so be sure to check details like lining and functional zippers and don’t forget the all important sniff test. “With vintage you want to make sure there isn’t BO or smoke or any unappealing scent because if it’s stuck around for that long, it isn’t going anywhere,” says Kanter, also noting that these days “vintage” can mean anything from the Easy Rider-era to last season’s runway models.
High-end vintage stores and consignment shops are a great place to score deals on recent designer treasures. “We get a lot of fashion girls bringing in stuff that is literally new with tags,” says Jigme Love, owner of Mine and Yours boutique in Vancouver. Love says the barely-worn economy has gotten a major boost from social media influencers, who can’t repeat the same look twice. Almost everything in her store is less than a couple of seasons’ old, and savings can be 50—and sometimes closer to 70—percent off (at press time, a Valentino Rockstud moto and a good-as-new Saint Laurent were listed on her site at about half of their original price.)
If a retro look is what your chasing, though, then vintage vintage could be your best bet. Dennis Adamis, at House of Vintage in Toronto says interest in the earlier labels is still going strong: “We tend to sell those jackets as quickly as they come in.” The holy grail of vintage moto shopping is the rare Buco (which even second hand is in the $3,000 range) but there is also loads of demand for the aforementioned Schott Perfecto and the Harley Davidson Cycle Queen fit (both around $300). The OGs get points for durability (they were made for actual bikers), as well as their unique factor: customized studs and jewels. “Originally that type of detailing had a purpose,” Adamis explains (the hardware acted as reflector lights for nighttime biking), “but it also just looks really cool.” Needless to say, so will you.
Click the gallery below to find Classic and Cool Kid moto jackets worthy of investment