Freewheelers Caboose Half Belt Leather Jacket Review

We are now well into winter and that means that it is jacket weather, my absolute favorite time of the year. What better way to celebrate this than by reviewing a leather jacket? Today, we will be looking at my Caboose jacket in dead leaf brown Shinki vegetable tanned horsehide from Freewheelers. I received this jacket all the way back in early summer of this year and have been wearing it more than any other jacket recently, so I feel comfortable giving a full review of it at this point.

On the surface, this appears to be about as basic of a jacket as they come. It is a half belt sports jacket, probably the most common and straightforward leather jacket design out there in the heritage menswear world while cross zips are more common in the fast fashion world. After a quick glance, however, it becomes quite clear that this is no ordinary half belt jacket. The details here take the basic design and elevate it to the highest of leather jacket heights.

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To start, the leather is absolutely stunning. It is vegetable tanned horsehide that is tanned by Shinki and then finished by Freewheelers themselves. With Freewheelers using their own finishing and coloring on the hides, it allows them to have some truly beautiful colors that are not found on other hides from the Shinki tannery. 

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This specific color is called dead leaf brown and to me it is a slightly darker and more rich, red color than the standard mid brown that I have on my two Himel jackets.  There are areas of quite intense grain and other areas of slightly smoother leather and I enjoy the variation. As a whole, the colors offered on Freewheelers jackets are my favorite of any leather jacket range with this particular jacket being a great example of why I hold this opinion.

While the leather is a true stunner, the first negative aspect about this jacket is that the range of sizes is quite limited. Freewheelers only goes up to a size 44 and that is a very slim 44. I am generally a size 40 and sometimes even a 38, but this jacket is a very trim 42 on me.  The measurements are as follows:

Chest: 21.5”

Shoulders: 19”

Back: 24.5”

Waist: 19”

Arms: 25.5”

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Though slim, this jacket fits me perfectly in every way apart from the arms being about an inch too long. However, this is not too much of an issue because the stiffness of the horsehide has caused the sleeves to crease, therefore shortening the length of the arms slightly. In fact, after only a few months of wear, the jacket sleeves already sit around half an inch further up on my hands/wrists than they did when I first received the jacket.

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Overall, the jacket fits very comfortably. The chest has just enough room and the jacket is quite easy to move in when fully zipped up. Interestingly, the circumference of the sleeves is the biggest issue. They are quite small and with a sweatshirt or flannel underneath, it can feel quite snug. Fortunately, I normally wear it with just a t shirt so this is not a major issue for me personally. While the cut will not work for everyone, it certainly is flattering when it does fit you. This jacket is masterfully cut in my opinion, managing to accentuate my shoulders and cause me to look slightly thinner when wearing it. If you read my Samurai chino review HERE, you will remember that those trousers made me look bigger than I am. This jacket has the exact opposite effect and shows just how much cut matters in a jacket.

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Half belt jackets are as common in the leather jacket world as Porsches are in South Orange County and Beverly Hills. The half belt is the vanilla ice cream of leather jackets and as such, I avoided buying one up until this point. This is no ordinary vanilla ice cream or Porsche, however. Freewheelers’ Caboose jacket is the Porsche 911 997 GT3RS 4.0 of half belt jackets. This is the perfect Porsche with mechanical steering, a manual transmission, insane suspension, and 500hp out of a naturally aspirated flat six engine. If it were vanilla ice cream, this jacket would be the vanilla ice cream made by hipsters in Vermont who raise the cows and treat them better than rich white women treat their Pomeranians. They would use only the finest Madagascar Vanilla and make the ice cream fresh every single day… and they probably add maple syrup to it and somehow it would make it taste even better.

porsche-911-gt3-rs-4-0The glory of the greatest Porsche – Image via Fastest Laps

My point here is that the details make this jacket stand apart from other half belts. First of all, the design is rather more intricate than most half belts. This is actually one of the most intricate and complicated of Freewheelers’ jackets, despite appearing simple at first glance. The front pockets have quite a few stitching embellishments including a line of stitching on the pocket insert. None of this is necessary, but it certainly does look amazing. The back is even more complex and looks absolutely stunning with so many panels and stitch lines. Olive thread contrasts nicely with the leather without being too shouty and the buttons are nicely detailed as well.

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Even the linings are incredible. The main body liner is a stunning olive/brown moleskin fabric that is soft to the touch and very warm while the sleeves are lined with a yellow plaid flannel. Additionally, there is a different, textured black cotton material used specifically for the neck lining that is a little more stiff and sturdy, but still comfortable as well. Finally, the pockets are all lined with a light tan, brushed cotton material that is without question the most luxurious pocket lining I have ever felt in any garment. Many jackets are lined with one material throughout, sometimes two, but Freewheelers went all out with four different top of the line fabrics. This may seem silly, but it truly does increase the experience of wearing the jacket.

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Details such as these are nothing if they are not executed well and fortunately, they are. As impressive as the leather, linings, and other details are, the construction is the most outstanding aspect of this jacket. The quality of the construction of this jacket is unmatched by any other jacket I have owned, handled, or seen in my life apart from other Freewheelers jackets of course. Leather jackets are not easy to construct cleanly. This jacket shows that Freewheelers are even above The Real McCoy’s in terms of finishing and stitch work. The panels are fitted with perfect precision and line up exactly. There is nothing bulging out or wonky as all the linings are smoothly attached and nothing is fitted incorrectly.

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What stands out most is the stitch work. I make no secret of the fact that I adore precise stitch work and this jacket has the best that I have seen. The stitching on this jacket is tighter, straighter, denser, and more ornate than any other leather jacket that I have experienced in any way, save for other Freewheelers jackets. The Real McCoy’s is the closest, but they are not quite as consistent and their jackets are not as ornate. This jacket has more stitch work on it than any others that I own, yet it has the least flaws whith total zero. In fairness, the stitching is still not quite as clean as it is on my three best pairs of boots, but this does not surprise me at all. This is still the highest level of jacket stitch quality I have ever seen. Many people may not care about this, but I take a high level of pleasure in knowing just how well my garments are made and I adore seeing them put together with such skill and attention to detail.

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All of these aspects result in this being my most worn jacket this fall and winter so far and I see no reason for that to change. The half belt design makes it wearable in any situation with any outfit while the details and more specific design aspects help it to stand out. The materials and fit make it a breeze to wear and the quality of it always has me reaching for it. I actually sold a watch to buy this jacket and was nervous about the choice, but after six months, I could not be happier with my decision.

All of this brilliance does come with a price; specifically, a 248,000 Japanese Yen price which equates to $2,200 USD at this time. This is the second and final negative aspect of this jacket. I purchased my jacket from Genco Clothing and while the website is not in English, it is quite easy to order through them via email. Additionally, my jacket is a slightly older model so the price was lower. Pieces such as this are past the point of diminishing returns, so I can understand that many may be hesitant to spend so much money. In fairness, it is a very high price and the lack of customization makes that amount of money even greater in my eyes.*If you want a half belt jacket, do need customization, and desire similar finishing and stitch work, I would suggest Himel Bros. If you want a customized half belt jacket and wish to spend less money, but still receive an excellent product, I would suggest Aero.

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With that said, I do think this jacket is worth the price in many ways. It costs just about the same as Himel, The Real McCoys, and The Flat Head jackets when purchased from Japan. More importantly, this jacket is absolutely exceptional in every way. The cut is incredibly well executed, the leather is brilliant, the details overthought and overdone in the best way possible, and the finishing and stitching redefines how I think about leather jacket quality.

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My opinion based on my experience is that Freewheelers makes the best leather jackets in the world along with Good Wear, with Good Wear winning on authenticity, customization, and price, and Freewheelers winning on luxurious details, intricacy of design, and overall stitching and finishing. I did own a Good Wear half belt at one point and I have to admit that I prefer this jacket personally. Additionally, I would be much more likely to recommend Good Wear if the wait time wasn’t around 4 years currently and shrouded in mystery and lack of communication. If you are not looking for a WWII flight jacket and don’t need customization, Freewheelers is the pinnacle. My Himel Wolverine Grizzly is still my signature item, but this Freewheelers Caboose jacket is the one that I am reaching for most now, and I think that says volumes.

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Take a look at the Freewheelers website HERE

Follow them on Instagram HERE

You can buy their products by emailing them directly or buying from websites such as:

Genco

Mirror Ball/The Rising

Speedway Sendai

Top Jimmy

The Wild One

Also, I want to thank my friend @duke_mantee for helping me out with some information about the leather and details of this jacket. Follow him on Instagram HERE

I suggest that you do not buy from European retailers due to the massive price increases. If you have any questions on Freewheelers or how to order their products, please feel free to email me at jrtillbrook@gmail.com or dm me on Instagram @almostvintagestyle

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*Freewheelers does technically offer customization at a significant price increase of 100,000 Japanese Yen, though at certain times, they won’t do it at all.

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