I have waited years to write a review for this jacket. It was something I always wanted to get around to reviewing, but it always seemed too special for some reason. So many people have called it my signature piece, so how can I review it? Well, I have to review it now, because I did the unthinkable and sold it. This was due to sizing issues, but I did not replace it with the same jacket. Let’s take a look at this jacket and why I loved it so much, but why I am moving on from it.
To discuss the jacket itself, I first have to talk about how I got it. I first met David Himel at the first Inspiration LA event that I attended several years ago. Dave is tall, loud, brash, and incredibly charming all at the same time. When I went to his booth, I had already been aware of his jackets for quite a while and one of my goals of going to Inspiration was to get a custom jacket from him. At the time, I was most interested in the Kensington cafe racer model, but while I was at Dave’s booth, I saw a Wolverine Grizzly jacket on the wall and decided to try it on for fun. I thought it would look completely ridiculous, but I actually thought it looked fairly good on me. After mulling it over for a short period of time, I placed my order with Dave and roughly a month or so later, I had the jacket.
At the time, this jacket fit amazingly well. I gave Dave measurements to hit with the jacket and asked him to slim the arms down a little bit and he and his small team nailed everything. Custom sizing does not always work out, but it certainly did in this case. The cut of the jacket is quite boxy, but not blousy. What I mean by that is that the body and especially the waist and opening of the jacket are fairly wide relative to the chest and shoulders, but do not curve out and go straight down, unlike some A2 and A1 jackets with knit ribs that look very wide and loose. This gave the jacket a flattering appearance on me that I really enjoyed. Keep in mind that this is not just because of the custom measurements, but also because of the design and cut of the jacket. A custom measured leather jacket that is not cut well for your body may not even fit as well as an off the rack jacket that has a good cut for you in my personal experience.
The measurements of the jacket are as follows:
Not only did the jacket fit me as well as I could have hoped, but the materials were also top notch. The liner is a gorgeous 100% cotton flannel material called Stewart tartan. This is a fairly thin flannel material, which was not ideal for my Southern California weather, but was certainly better than a thicker flannel or wool. I picked it because it looked great and I never regretted that decision. What also helps is that the sleeves are lined with 100% cotton drill, which is better for warm weather than flannel. My only issue is that the sleeve lining is black and I wish it was blue or olive given that the jacket is brown and not black.
Over the years of ownership, the liner has frayed and torn at the bottom of the jacket, but this is not surprising at all and liners do not last as long as jackets and are easily replaceable. Overall, the liners are not as heavy duty as those on my Freewheelers jackets, but they also work better for my climate. The zipper is a Japanese reproduction of a 1930s Talon and while reproduction zippers like this are not the easiest to use, I do prefer them for their aesthetic. Despite them not being perfect, I have not had any issues with this zipper.
With this being a hair on hide grizzly jacket, the hair on hide quality matters greatly. Himel Bros. uses rug quality cowhides that go through a very specific process to keep the hair on them. Lustrous is the best word to describe how the hair on hide looked on this jacket. I also did not have much of an issue with hair falling out of the jacket other than one or two hairs here and there over the years, though the right front panel did have less hair where the stitching was than the other panel. The dark brown color offers a nice contrast with the medium brown leather, but if I did it again, I would do a lighter brown or off white hair on hide instead. The buttons are new old stock 1930’s buttons, sewn on with 1940s Reece 101 buttonhole machines, another pair of great vintage details working together.
To me, the standout material on this jacket is the leather itself. Shinki is my favorite tannery in the world. Their vegetable tanned horsehide leather takes an extremely long time to make. According to Himel Bros, it takes nearly one year for Shinki horsehide to be finished, far longer than Horween’s shell cordovan even takes at 6 months. This does not automatically make it the best leather in the world, but I will say that it is my personal favorite. This example is a beautiful mid brown color done with a light pigment finish then a coating of oil and wax. Himel Bros. calls this the “medium brown oil tanned wax finish.” According to the website, the wax provides a glossy top coat that will lessen and dull down with wear, which it did on my jacket.
This specific hide does not have the most beautiful or intense grain of all my leather jackets I have owned, but it still has the beautiful depth of color and wonderful balance between stiff initial feel and malleability that I love about Shinki. If you do want more grain, Himel Bros. does allow you to request a more grainy hide for your jacket. It is not as heavy as leathers such as Chromexcel used by Aero or Vanson Competition weight cowhide, but it is not light either at 1.2 – 1.3mm or 2.5 – 2.75oz). To me, it is a perfect balance and leads to beautiful aging. Indeed, the arms creased beautifully on this jacket and the leather aged quite gracefully.
Construction on this jacket is excellent. In my experience, the most perfectly made leather jackets come from Japan, but Himel Bros. is one of the best outside of that region. The panels are perfectly cut and the seems are beautifully and expertly joined. There are no extra bulging areas that you can feel with less well made jackets. The stitching is also well executed using 100% cotton thread and a high, consistent stitch count. Stitch holes are nice and small, unlike some makers’ jackets that leave massive stitch holes that in my opinion, do not look aesthetically pleasing at all. Stitching itself is quite neat with no major mistakes, though it is not quite as clean as the top Japanese makers such as The Real McCoys, Rainbow Country, and the gold standard for jacket neatness, Freewheelers. Still, this level of construction and finishing is well above the average of quality leather jacket makers and it is impressive how well Himel Bros. was able to execute such a difficult and complex design such as this and it is even better made than my other Himel jacket that I reviewed HERE.
To this point, I have not truly addressed the elephant in the room. Yes, this is a hair on hide grizzly jacket. Leather jackets are already relatively uncommon, especially jackets made of real leather. Truly high end, heritage quality jackets are even more rare and even among this niche, the grizzly is unique. This style is not for everyone and I completely understand that. To me, the hair on hide style grizzly is not as out there as the melton grizzly, but either way, it is a unique jacket. The Himel Wolverine is my favorite grizzly design I have ever seen, which is why it is the only grizzly I ever owned. It certainly makes a statement, but if you are confident, it will garner many compliments. This was a very divisive jacket when I wore it. People definitely gave me weird looks, but I also received a lot of compliments on it, including people who truly loved it and called it my signature jacket.
It probably was my signature item for many years, but alas, I did eventually end up having to sell it not long ago due to sizing issues. To be clear, this only happened because I began working out quite consistently and the jacket became too tight in the chest, back, and shoulders. It was unfortunate to have to sell it, but it was not comfortable to wear anymore. With that said, it was a wonderful jacket and I loved it the entire time I owned it. Without question, I am sad to have had to let it go.
Himel Bros. jackets are not cheap and this is the most expensive of them all with a regular sale price of $2850. The Wolverine is the most expensive in the lineup, however. The other jackets start at $2,050 and go up from there. Whether this is worth it is up to you, but I personally feel that the customization in terms of leather, lining, hardware, and especially sizing along with the incredible designs and excellent construction make the jackets a wonderful option. Personally, I think Himel Bros. is the best combination of customization and construction quality, especially given that Good Wear is not delivering orders in a timely manner.*
I am not replacing the jacket with another model from Himel Bros. because right now, I have found what I believe to be the best jacket for me – the Freewheelers Mulholland. In fact, I love that jacket so much that I used the funds from this and another sold jacket to buy a second one in a different color. As of now, my leather jacket collection consists entirely of Freewheelers jackets, though that will very possibly change in the future. I may eventually grab another Himel and maybe possible another grizzly, but I am loving my Freewheelers jackets too much now. I have reviewed my Caboose jacket HERE and will review my first Mulholland in the near future. Still, I highly recommend checking out Himel Bros. If you need a custom jacket that is not a military model, I personally believe that there is no better option.
*Good Wear is one of the best leather jacket makers in the world, but is currently having difficulty fulfilling orders in a timely manner, so I cannot recommend them at this time.