Whether you’re looking to buy a brand new leather jacket or a used one, it’s best to know what you should look out for and how to spot a high-quality leather jacket and one that is worth your money.
To ensure you get the best value for your money, we want to teach you how to spot a good leather jacket, the types of leather, how much they could cost, and what to expect from used leather jackets.
How much does a real leather jacket cost?
A real leather jacket made from natural leathers could cost anywhere from $150 on the lower end and could cost upwards of $3000 for really high-end jackets. You may find cheaper leather jackets from thrift stores or vintage stores, but the condition and quality may vary.
Types of leather
“Genuine leather” does not refer to the authenticity of the leather, but it is referring to the quality of the leather, as in the layer it belongs to.
There are 4 main leather qualities: Full-grain, Top-grain, Genuine, and Suede. We will explain each quality below.
Full-grain leather is the uppermost layer with the most compact fibers known as the grain, making it the most durable and stiff. It is the outermost layer with the smoothest texture. Since the outermost layer is exposed to the elements and can have wounds, cuts, and scratches, it is quite difficult to achieve a perfect surface, thus making large pieces of perfect full-grain leather quite expensive.
Top-grain leather is the layer underneath the full-grain, it may also overlap with full-grain, but it does not include the outermost layer. Below the grain layer is the corium junction and the corium. Leather is considered top-grain up until the upper corium when the fibers start to get looser.
Genuine and suede leather
Below the corium junction is where the genuine and suede leathers are taken from. The corium layer has loose fibers, making it quite soft and pliable. It is also quite cheap as this layer is quite thick and abundant.
Since this layer is much deeper, wounds and imperfections on the surface usually do not penetrate up until this layer, thus making it more abundant and cheap. This does not mean that these leathers are of poor quality however, you can get an excellent product with any of these leather qualities.
How much should you spend on a leather jacket?
How much you should shell out on a leather jacket depends solely on your budget. We want to help you make the right choices when it comes to buying a leather jacket, so we have listed down what to look out for when buying a leather jacket at different price ranges.
We highly suggest going to leather specialists or brands that focus on leather goods such as Independence Brothers or The Jacket Maker. Mass-produced leather items from brands that are incredibly expensive are usually of low quality and you’re paying more for the brand than for the craftsmanship that goes into it.
$200 and below
In this budget range, the most common types of leather jackets you will find are lower-quality leather like genuine or suede. The construction of these jackets can be quite good, but you might need to dig a bit deeper and read many reviews to make sure you’re buying a reputable product. You may be able to find lambskin leather jackets, but they’re most likely going to be genuine leather.
There are many good options in this price range for faux or synthetic leather. Faux leather is also known as vegan leather and is much cheaper than natural leather, thus leaving more budget for the quality construction of the jacket.
Faux leather doesn’t necessarily mean bad, it has some advantages over real leather like being more durable, not needing as much maintenance, and are more waterproof. However, the synthetic material is not as breathable so it may cause discomfort.
In this price range, it might be better to get a high-quality faux leather jacket or do thorough research on used leather jackets and try to get a good find. We have included a guide below on what to look for when buying used leather jackets.
Going up to this budget range gives you a few options when it comes to beginner leather jackets. You might not find full-grain or top-grain options much here, but you can find a few good genuine and suede leather options.
If you want a higher quality leather, you might want to try cheaper animal hides like pigskin, cowhide, goatskin, and sheepskin. These hides are much cheaper as they come from more common animals, so it is more attainable to get a top-grain or even full-grain leather jacket with this budget. They are also quite durable and moderately soft.
You may also be able to get a decent custom leather jacket from your local leather worker. You can request cheaper hides and get a custom-fit leather jacket for around $300. You may also buy a premade leather jacket with great quality from the same shop for around this price range as well.
This price range is the sweet spot for all sorts of leather jackets, you can find high-quality leather jackets from softer hides. This is also the range you should be aiming for when buying a leather motorcycle jacket.
In this range, you can find soft and supple full-grain lambskin leather jackets, to very durable full-grain cowhide coats. Motorcyclists will also find this range to have the bare minimum road protection gear while having durable bovine leather that can be great for extreme weather conditions.
Your local leather shops might have some great premade options with expensive hides and high-quality leather. Getting a custom leather jacket at this price range gives you quite a lot of choices for features, hides, and leather qualities.
$1000 and above
This is typically where you can find very high-quality and expensive hides. Like full-grain lambskin coats that are extremely soft and comfortable. There are also incredibly expensive exotic leather options like crocodile skin, snakeskin, and the like.
You will have many options here, however, we want to warn you against buying from popular fashion brands that mass produce their goods as their prices are often inflated by their brand and the construction of their goods are quite poor.
It is best to give your money to dedicated leathercraft workers who are passionate about their work. They will charge a high price and it might take a while to get your leather jacket finished, especially if you’re buying a custom-made jacket instead of a premade one, but it is only because they are masters in their craft and the artist overlooks each detail.
How can you tell real leather from faux leather?
When looking at off-the-rack leather jacket options, you might want to know whether what you’re looking at is real leather or not. Here are a few ways you can figure out the difference.
Natural leather smells, well, natural. Real leather smells a bit like the forest, characterized by a woody, earthy smell. On the contrary, it is quite easy to tell if the leather is not natural leather because it smells quite distinctly of plastic.
This might be a little difficult to do at the store, but if they allow you to, put a small drop of water on the surface of the leather. Give it a few seconds and it should absorb into the leather. If it does not absorb into the leather, then it is most likely faux leather.
The patterns on synthetic leather are often made with a press, thus the patterns may repeat or are too even. Look at the item from afar and see if you can identify any obvious repeating patterns that repeat in sections of squares or even shapes. Natural leathers have more variations and inconsistencies in their patterns.
When you bend and squeeze real leather, you may notice that it stretches out and its color thins out. Faux leather is made of plastic and does not stretch as much, nor does it change color when bent or stretched.
Don’t miss our other in-depth article about how to identify real leather jacket.
How long does leather last?
Leather items can last years, even decades with the right amount of care and storage. If your leather item is used heavily, under extreme conditions, then it might be able to last you about 5-10 years.
However, if you wear your leather jacket in regular conditions, maintain it regularly, store it properly, and avoid any extreme activities with it, then it could last you upwards of 20 years. There have been cases of leather jackets lasting up to 50 years even.
You might have to get your jacket relined and restitched as you approach the 10-year mark. The leather can be preserved, but the fabric lining can break down sooner.
Used leather jackets
It is quite common to find leather jackets under $300, there are plenty of options online even. However, we advise you to check out used leather jackets in person so you can see the condition of the jacket yourself.
What to look out for
When looking at a used leather jacket, your first instinct should be to check the tags. These will tell you all sorts of important information like the type of leather, the maker or brand, when it was made, and the like. It’s okay if you don’t know any of what the tag says, have your phone at the ready to search them up and look at reviews and further information about it. Cross-referencing can help you bargain a fair price for your find.
If you can find the leather maker and look up reviews and the quality of their work, those are the best ones to look out for. Avoid fashion brands and mass-produced brands as those don’t last very long.
Just like buying a car, finding defects can allow you to bargain and get an even better deal on your item. Point out hidden defects like stitching falling apart, tears in the lining, discoloration, and other similar problems. You may even be able to bring the price down to $100 depending on how well you can negotiate.
Leather jackets are a good investment piece of clothing as they are not something you need to buy over and over on a regular basis. Spending $500+ on a good leather jacket that can last you 20 years is great value as you’d only have to be spending on leather care products, and those are definitely cheaper than buying new pieces of clothing.
As this is a purchase that you’ll have to stick with for years, it’s best to look for one that you see yourself using for years and can survive that length of time as well. We hope this guide has taught you how to find the perfect jacket for you.
What is the most durable leather?
Full-grain leather is the most durable quality of leather as the fibers are tightly packed together and the outermost layer is what the animal uses to protect itself from the elements. As to the animal that makes the most durable leather, there is no definite answer as it depends on the tanning process used on the leather and the thickness used on the item.
Is a real leather jacket worth it?
Definitely, if you buy a leather jacket for $1000 from a very reputable leather craftsman, it could last you over 20 years. That $1000 would only be $50 a year, or $0.14 a day if you make it last 20 years. Cheaper and lower quality clothing that needs to be replaced more often costs way more in the long run.
Which is the best brand for leather jackets?
It’s best to stay away from popular brands if they are mass-producing their products. You’re better off approaching your local leather worker and getting a custom, premade, or made-to-measure jacket from there. Unless the brand specializes in handmade leather goods, stay away from big brands. Big brands can sell expensive jackets but they may not be high-quality jackets.