Now that we have talked about why leather jackets are awesome here: https://almostvintagestyle.com/2018/09/14/what-makes-leather-jackets-so-special/ and what to actually look for in a great one here: https://almostvintagestyle.com/2018/09/21/what-to-look-for-in-a-high-end-leather-jacket/ , it’s time to talk about what brands you should be looking at when buying a leather jacket. If you’re expecting any designer labels, or anything you would see on a runway or in a mall, then you’ll be disappointed. If not being outsourced, those jackets are made to drape like textile fabrics and be fashionable. The jackets on this list are meant to be beautiful as well as tough and with timeless style.
This list is based on a combination of the criteria mentioned in the previous article: design, fit/customization, leather, construction, and price. All of these brands are very high in terms of quality and each jacket should last you a lifetime if taken care of properly. If you love or are interested in leather jackets, you will find something you love on this list.
10. Tenjin Works. This Japanese brand is not very well known outside of certain circles, but one look at their jackets will have you scratching your head as to why. Not only are their designs very well thought out and nicely varied (they even have a fully leather peacoat!), but their stitch work is very neat and precise as well. They use a very beautiful looking Japanese vegetable tanned cowhide for their jackets. The natural version of this leather has been proven to age incredibly beautifully and if that isn’t your jam, they have an impressive amount of colors to choose from, including light blue, red, olive green, and more!
Image via The Fedora Lounge
An example of the natural leather after aging – image via Tenjin Works
Tenjin Works leather peacoat – Image via Tenjin Works
As with many Japanese companies, the biggest issue with them is the fact that the website is in Japanese and there do not seem to be many, if any retailers outside of Japan. However, it is still possible to order from them through email or by visiting their shop in Tokyo. What makes this worth it is not only the jackets themselves, but the prices as well. With this level of design, quality, and leather, the fact that most of their jackets are around $1,400 is a relative bargain. See their website here: http://www.tenjinworks.com/index.php and the Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/tenjinworks_official/?hl=en
9. Eastman. Gary Eastman is well known in the world of flight jackets. He is incredibly knowledgeable and makes one of the most impressive ranges of reproduction flight jackets in the world. In fact, I am fairly certain that the range of flight jackets that Eastman has extends further than any other, having not only British and American flight jackets, but also German jackets as well. He and his team use excellent leathers, including vegetable tanned horsehide from Italy. In addition to the flight jackets, the company also makes some very nice motorcycle oriented jackets in their ELMC line.
Image via Eastman Leather
The downsides of Eastman are the fact that the jackets are not extensively customizable like some are on the list and that in terms of construction, leather, and reproduction accuracy, they come second to another maker on this list (though the wait time is significantly lower with Eastman). With prices starting around $1,150, they are well priced for how excellent they are. If you want one of the best reproduction flight jackets around, check out their website here: or purchase on their website here: https://www.eastmanleather.com/ or from Standard and Strange here: https://standardandstrange.com/pages/search-results?sort_by=creation_date&category_id=56421679195&category_url=%2Fcollections%2Feastman-leather-clothing&page_num=2 . However, if you want the most well respected and sought after reproduction flight jackets ever made, you’ll have to wait until further down this list.
8. Thedi Leathers. Coming out of Greece is another relatively underrated leather jacket brand. The owner, Theodoros, has been in the clothing industry for decades and it shows. The vast majority of Thedi’s designs are biker jackets, but there are quite a lot of them. In fact, Thedi has some of the most unique jacket designs available right now with a strong selection of vegetable tanned leathers including horsehide, cowhide, and buffalo. To top it off, these jackets are well priced, especially for the very high quality of the work. A Thedi jacket is usually around $1,000 – $1,200. They can be contacted directly for an order or through Thurston Bros. in the USA. Check out their website here: http://thedileatherscompany.blogspot.com/ and their Instagram here: https://www.instagram.com/thedileathers/?hl=en as well as their Thurston Bros. page here: https://www.thurston-bros.com/collections/thedi-leathers .
Images via Thedi Leathers
7. Rainbow Country. The origins of Rainbow Country are quite interesting, yet slightly vague. All that really matters is that they are essentially a budget-friendlier version of Freewheelers. At first, this may sound like a bad thing, but once you see Freewheeler’s position on this list, it will make more sense. This is another relatively unknown brand that deserves far more attention than it has. The stitch quality is superlative. In fact, it is some of the very best available on a leather jacket. The designs are classic and tasteful, ranging from A2 models to café racers, to half belts and car coats. Like Freewheelers jackets, they are made with vegetable tanned Shinki horsehide which is regarded by many (myself included) as the best jacket leather in the world.
Images via Mushmans
All of this adds up to an impressive overall package which gets even more impressive when these jackets only cost around $1,400 – $1,600. They are more expensive than the first two brands listed, but given the fact that they use the most expensive jacket leather around while the other two do not, it makes the pricing far more impressive, especially given the insanely high quality of finishing and construction. Ease of access is the biggest issue with this brand, but they can be found on Mushmans website here: http://shop.mushmans.com/?mode=grp&gid=183194&sort=n Emailing Mushmans to order is quite easy and can be done with this email address: email@example.com .
6. The Flat Head. Everything that The Flat Head makes, they make to the highest standard, and they make almost everything. Unsurprisingly, they have an excellent line of leather jackets that focuses on biker styles with a couple of cross zips, a café racer, a half belt, and a deerskin shirt. If you want something different, check out their excellent varsity jackets. While the leather is a special, slightly stiffer and thicker Shinki that is exclusive to The Flat Head and the stitch quality is some of the best around, the jackets only come in black right now. Additionally, sizing can be difficult, especially if you aren’t a human manifestation of the letter ‘V.’ The price is also quite high, being around $2,200 per jacket. However, if you fit into them and can afford them, they are absolutely worth it. Check out Flat Head jackets here: https://rivetandhide.com/shop/brands/the-flat-head.html?categories=267 and here: https://www.selfedge.com/jackets-vests?manufacturer_id=27&filter=27
Image via Ben Braun
5. Aero. Based out of Scotland, Aero probably has the least clean looking construction out of every brand on this list. However, they are still incredibly well made and far above the level of brands such as Schott and Vanson. In addition, Aero themselves state that they sacrifice a little bit in terms of perfect stitching for a more durable and easier to repair jacket, so perhaps stitching isn’t everything. Also, my list is about the best of the best, not the most obvious which is why Schott didn’t make it. Aero makes it on this list because their construction has been the standard for many years. They are this high on the list because of their options available.
Image via Aero Leather
They have an excellent selection of hides that includes the famous Horween Chromexcel steerhide and Front Quarter horsehide as well as the gorgeous vegetable tanned Vicenza horsehide leather from Italy. Their jackets are extensively customizable from the choice of leather, to the stitching color, to the measurements of the jacket. They even have an impressive selection of linings ranging from cotton drills to Lochcarron tartan, Harris Tweed, alpaca, and even shearling. Most importantly, however, they have an incredible selection of well-designed jackets to choose from. Aero has over 50 different models of jacket to choose from for men and 4 different women’s models. They even make leather jackets for kids!
Image via Aero Leather
All of this adds up to Aero being a go-to for high quality leather jackets. Even with this much choice and customization, their prices are relatively low, being around $1,100-$1,400 depending on the model and leather chosen. You can order from their website here: http://www.aeroleatherclothing.com/ or from Thurston Bros. in America here: https://www.thurston-bros.com/collections/aero-leather-clothing-of-scotland
4. Good Wear. To some, Good Wear is the greatest leather jacket maker of all time and in some ways, this is difficult to argue against. John Chapman is a living legend in the leather jacket community. If you want the most accurate reproduction A2 jackets in the world, this is where you come. John is more knowledgeable and fastidious than anyone when it comes to exacting reproductions of the different variations of A2 jacket. His stitch work is incredibly solid, but not perfect, just as the originals were. He uses the most accurate leathers available today, including vegetable tanned goatskin, sheepskin, and Italian horsehide while his main leather is the famed Shinki Hikaku horsehide. Even the measurements are completely custom for his jackets and he offers a couple of beautiful civilian models alongside the flight jackets. The best part is that every single jacket is made by John himself from start to finish, making him a rarity in the leather jacket world.
Images via Good Wear Leather
All of this perfection comes at a cost, but it’s not the price. At just under $1,600 per jacket, his prices are an absolute bargain for what you are getting. In fact, they are probably the biggest bargain on the list. However, where you pay is in the wait time. John’s wait list is at over two years now from the time the order is placed until the jacket is completed. In fact, there have been some recent issues that have caused an increased wait time with some customers now at the 4 year mark from the time of their initial deposit without a jacket. Therefore, this is probably not a first leather jacket purchase for most people. However, if you are willing to withstand the wait and the risk, there is nothing else out there that is quite like a Good Wear. Take a look at his website here: http://www.goodwearleather.com/pages/index.html and also keep an eye on his sale page here: http://www.goodwearleather.com/pages/sale.html to grab a jacket in your size without having to wait.
3. The Real McCoys. We are at the point where the rankings are essentially arbitrary and almost purely based on my biases due to just how good the top four are. Good Wear, The Real McCoys, and the final two are so good that any of them could be considered the best depending on the exact criteria. Like The Flat Head, The Real McCoys makes a lot more besides jackets, but unlike The Flat Head, they are definitely most famous for their jackets. This powerhouse of a brand makes everything from reproduction flight jackets to civilian car coats and half belts to several different motorcycle jackets. They even purchased the Buco name in order to make actual Buco jackets.
Image via The Real McCoys Nagoya
Nearly all of their glorious jackets are made with Shinki horsehide and many of the finishes are exclusive to the brand. The stitching is second to only one brand, such is the incredible precision of the sewing work. They have excellent linings including a luxurious red silk lining that they use only for limited edition A2s. Something else that makes RMC jackets special is the cuts. They are much easier to fit into than Flat Head jackets, but they are still generally quite trim. They are not customizable, but if you fit into them, they will look amazing on you. The brand just seems to know how to cut leather jackets very well, even when compared to the two brands higher on this list. I have yet to see a McCoys jacket on someone that didn’t look perfect, though this is just my view.
Image via The Real McCoys
With such selection, workmanship, and quality, they finish in third place for me because of the lack of customization and the fact that there is a brand with even higher quality control as every once in blue moon, RMC puts out a less than perfect jacket. Still, they are incredibly beautiful and have their reputation for very good reason. Their website is here: https://www.realmccoys.co.jp/catalog/ and they can be purchased at Standard and Strange in the US here: https://standardandstrange.com/collections/the-real-mccoys and at Superdenim in the UK here: https://www.superdenim.com/uk/brands/the-real-mccoy-s-html-cat-121.html
2. Freewheelers. If you want the absolute highest quality, perfectly made, intricately designed, and impeccably put together jacket ever made, buy a Freewheelers jacket. Their size range is weak, they are currently not customizable and when they are, it is for a massive price premium, size 44 costs extra money, they only do limited runs of their jackets every year, and they are extremely expensive at $2,400-$3,000 per jacket. These issues are all very real, but damn it if they don’t make the most incredibly put together leather jackets I have ever seen and I have seen quite a lot of them.
Image via Rakuten
Unsurprisingly, the leathers used for nearly all of the jackets is Shinki and the brand manages to have quite a few custom colors in this leather exclusively for them. The linings are unbelievably nice, usually extremely high quality flannel and moleskins from their shirting range. What sets this brand apart most, however, are their designs and construction. Their jackets are simply stunning to look at, being more intricately designed than any other brand on this list, though Thedi is sometimes more eccentric. In some cases, it almost looks as though they chose to make the jacket complex just to show off how great of a job they can do, but it works.
Image via Freewheelers
At the same time, there is an elegance to the Freewheelers aesthetic. The jackets are nearly overdesigned, but are still classic enough to be beautiful and timeless. Even more impressive is the actual construction. The seams and folds are shockingly well executed and the stitch work redefines how well leather jackets can be stitched. I’ll stop ranting here as I have a review upcoming on my own Freewheelers jacket, but if you want absolute quality over anything else, this is what you buy. Freewheelers’ website is here: http://freewheelers.co.jp/english/index.html and their jackets can be purchased from Genco Clothing here:, https://www.genco-clothing.com/category/23/ Mirror Ball here: http://the-rising.co.jp/?action=item_list&categoryId=10 , and Speedway Sendai here: https://global.rakuten.com/en/search/?sid=speedway-shop&k=freewheelers+leather+collection&f=1&l-id=gs_product_search .
1. Himel Bros. Dave Himel eats, sleeps, and breathes leather jackets. His experience in the clothing industry goes back decades and he had one of, if not the most extensive collection of vintage leather jackets on the planet. No prizes then for guessing that he and his company make some of the best leather jackets in the world. Obviously, the quality is incredible. The stitching is well above that of even revered brands such as Aero, though it does not quite hit the insane levels of robotic precision that Freewheelers does. The way edges are skived, and panels are joined together shows just how well thought out his jackets are and how much care is put into them.
Image via Himel Bros
Materials are also as good as it gets and extremely specific to boot. There are quite a few leathers to choose from, ranging from chrome tanned leathers to vegetable tanned goatskin, Italian vegetable tanned horsehide, and the top of the line Shinki Hikaku vegetable tanned horsehide. The thread is American made 100% cotton which is not only unique in and of itself, but also requires slower, more methodical stitch work. Buttons and liners are a range of incredible NOS finds and high quality Japanese repros and more with beautiful cotton twill, flannel, and wool liners.
Image via Himel Bros.
In addition, Himel jackets can be customized quite extensively. You have choices not only of the leather, stitch color, and liner, but also can have the jacket made to your exact sizing specifications. This is extremely important as the only brands that match Himel in construction quality do not offer custom measurements except for Good Wear, which has a waiting list approaching the half-decade mark. I have personally had two fully custom measured Himel jackets and both were extremely precise in terms of fit which means that if you get your numbers right, you will have a perfect fitting jacket.
Image via Himel Bros.
All of these traits are incredible, but what puts Himel at number one for me is the quality of the design of his jackets. It is not just the depth of the range that impresses, going from car coat, to half belt, to cross zip, to grizzly jacket with ease, it is the fact that all of the designs are just so damn good. They are incredibly elegant, tasteful, and bad ass all at the same time and that’s what truly puts them over the top for me. Average prices range from around $1500 for chrome tanned leather to $2250-$2800 for the Shinki jackets depending on the model.
To be clear, if I was doing this list by construction quality only, the top three would be Freewheelers, Rainbow Country, and The Real McCoy’s in that order. If accuracy were the top priority, then Good Wear would be the winner. My rankings are based on a combination of construction quality, material quality and choice, design quality and variety, and customizability. Also, this is just my list. Other leather jacket enthusiasts will have different lists. If you really want to learn more about leather jackets, I highly suggest going over to the outerwear section of The Fedora Lounge here: https://www.thefedoralounge.com/forums/outerwear.4/ . Many of the members have very different opinions than mine, which is great if you want a more well-rounded knowledge of leather jackets. My list is not law, it is just that- my own list. I can almost guarantee that if you dive into leather jackets as deeply as I have, you will come out with at least a slightly different one on your own.
However, even with a different order, I am very confident about the actual companies that made it this high, though some could argue that Lost Worlds or Fine Creek Leathers deserve spots on here. Those honorable mentions are both quite good and can be found here: http://www.lostworldsinc.com/ and here: https://www.finecreek.jp/ .
I hope you enjoyed reading this list. Perhaps you have learned of some new brands that you were not aware of before or at the very least, got a kick out of seeing what my favorite leather jacket brands are and why. If you have any leather jacket questions, feel free to DM me on Instagram @almostvintagestyle or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be more than happy to help. While I am only sharing my opinion here, I do have a pretty strong amount of experience researching, trying on, and owning leather jackets so unless you are already an enthusiast who only read this article for fun, I can probably help you learn a little more about my favorite piece of clothing.