Aero is a staple of the leather jacket world. In the eyes of many, they are responsible for kickstarting the repro leather jacket craze. For many leather jacket fans, they are the standard by which all other leather jackets are measured. While there is good reason for that in some ways, we have learned that the “standard” is not always the best. Throughout my time as a leather jacket enthusiast, I have mainly favored Japanese-made leather jackets while dabbling in other makers, especially in Himel Bros.
My impression had been that Aero, while excellent, did not offer a product that was quite on the same level as makers such as Freewheelers, The Real McCoys, Flat Head, Himel Bros, and Good Wear. This is not a bad thing especially considering how much less Aero’s jackets cost than those makers. In some cases, they are less than half the price. My view was always that Aero jackets were more than worth the money. The only reason I had not purchased one was because they did not have a leather that I liked.
Aero’s most famous leather is their Horween Chromexcel front quarter horsehide and steerhide. These are combination tanned and quite thick. Honestly, I never thought these leathers looked nice. Even before I disliked CXL on boots, I thought it looked dull and boring on jackets. This is not to say that it is objectively bad, I simply do not like it personally. My first high quality leather jacket was made from Shinki Hikaku horsehide and while the jacket turned out to be a dud, the leather was glorious and I have been hooked ever since on Shinki.
For quite some time, Aero did not have any leather remotely similar to the vegetable tanned Shinki horsehide. A few years back, they introduced Vicenza leather, an Italian vegetable tanned horsehide. One look at this leather told me it was not what I was looking for and handling some Vicenza jackets later on only proved my initial hunches correct. In my opinion, it is not even close to the quality of Shinki horsehide. The grain is quite regular and looks more like cowhide rather than having the larger and irregular grain that is associated with horsehide. It also does not have the depth of color nor does it have the firm temper of Shinki. To me, it felt limp and lifeless. It seemed that while I was interested in many of Aero’s designs and their attractive price point, I was not likely to get a jacket from them.
That all changed when they started making jackets with Badalassi Carlo leather. This is a vegetable tanned cowhide from Italy and it is by far the most beautiful cowhide that I have ever seen in my opinion. From my experience with my cognac Badalassi White Kloud boots, I rate it higher than many horsehide leathers. In fact, Badalassi cowhide is actually my second favorite leather in the world after Shinki horsehide.
Once I realized that I could order an Aero jacket in Badalassi, it was not long before I placed an order. The purchase was brought on by the fact that I had gotten too big for my Real McCoys Red Silk A2 jacket. The issue was that I was still overweight, but had also started weightlifting. The combination of fat that I already had plus muscle that I was adding meant that the jacket was too small and I had to sell it. I wanted to replace it with something similar, yet slightly different so I went with an A-1 jacket in tobacco Badalassi with olive green knits.
In my opinion, the jacket ended up looking quite nice. I think the leather, knit, lining, and thread combo worked extremely well. The materials are overall excellent. The cotton lining is good, the knits are nice and not itchy, though definitely not as high quality as my Real McCoys knits which feel softer and more comfortable. The buttons are also quite beautiful. The real star of the show is the leather. Badalassi leather is absolutely stunning. It has more beautiful grain than many horse hides. In fact, I have handled and tried on a few Aero jackets made with Vicenza leather and the superiority of this leather is undeniable. The grain is less even and more variated. The leather feels more firm and substantial while the depth of color is vastly greater. Describing leather quality is not the easiest, but I will say that Badalassi certainly was confirmed as my second favorite leather after Shinki horsehide with this jacket. I would take a Badalassi jacket over a jacket made of any other leather, including any non-Shinki horsehide. It is that good.
The construction of this jacket is… OK. It is certainly superior to that of any jacket from Schott, but it falls way behind any Japanese leather jacket. Part of this I think is due to the machines and needles that Aero uses. They punch massive, unsightly holes in the jacket. As a matter of fact, the person who made my jacket is Greg who now owns Field Leathers. He specifically said that he uses different needles with his new brand and it really shows. I almost cannot believe that the same person who made this jacket made those jackets he shows on Instagram. They look absolutely stunning.
To be clear, the construction on this jacket is not poor. In most places it is actually quite good. The stitches per inch mostly stay consistent and the stitch lines are usually quite clean and straight. There is one major issue on the bottom lining of the jacket, however. The stitch line goes extremely wonky and this does not look great. Greg told me that he wanted to remake the jacket, but Aero said otherwise. I cannot say whether or not this is true as Greg is now a competitor of his former employer, but given what Greg’s current jackets look like, I believe him. However, you can absolutely feel free to disregard his statement here. What is undeniable is the poor stitch line on this jacket. There are also other flaws such as a stitch that cut through the leather on a seam/fold, some loose material where the button holes were cut, and some other poor stitch lines. Even many die hard Aero fans will admit that their jackets are not perfect.
Still, even with this, I would say the jacket is decently well made overall. Leather jackets are notoriously difficult to put together beautifully. This is partly why Freewheelers jackets are so ridiculously drool-worthy. There are no loose threads, broken stitches, or anything like that. It still blows away any Schott that I have handled. My point is that it is not perfect and for the prices that Aero charges, you should not expect that either. In fact, I was actually more than happy with the construction quality of the jacket for this price. Despite my love of perfect stitching and finishing, I had no intention of selling this jacket due to the construction.What caused me to sell the jacket was the fit.
My goodness, the fit of this jacket was absolutely atrocious on me. I think part of the issue is that this pattern should really only be used with softer leathers with more drape such as capeskin and lambskin and Aero may not have slimmed the jacket up to compensate like The Real McCoys did with their horsehide A1 jacket. Maybe they did do that and this jacket just looked wrong on me. Either way, it was an awful fit. This is not just me speaking either. Several other members of The Fedora Lounge (which is ironically the best leather jacket forum in the world) said that this jacket fit me quite poorly as well. Some of these people are fans of Aero as well, so there was no confirmation bias.
What you have to realize when looking at these pictures of me in this jacket is that they were taken about a year ago when I was probably still 30-35lb heavier than I am now and perhaps even heavier in terms of body fat percentage. I had just started losing weight when I got this jacket, but I had probably only gone down from around 200lb to probably 195 or 190-ish. At 5’7” tall, that means I was overweight and probably still obese at that point.* Also, the jacket fit me too tight in the shoulders and a little slim in the chest as well. It just did not feel right. Aero did not miss the measurements, but the jacket just did not feel right.
Please understand, I did not make any modifications to the body width of this jacket. This is stock. I would look like Violet Beauregard in this jacket now or that polar bear kid who can’t move in Banjo-Tooie. Chest-wise, this is still the right jacket for me if I were to buy it again and shoulder-wise, it is still slightly too small. I love me some wide cut trousers and I understand a boxy fit on certain jackets, but this is just ridiculous. Whatever the exact reason for the fit not working, it really did not work.
Again, I want to point out that I do not think that this means that Aeros patterns are all poor. This just clearly did not work out for me. I have seen Aero jackets fit people absolutely wonderfully. They also offer certain levels of customization as well. My point is that the fit of this specific jacket on me was as awkward as Donald Trump walking through San Francisco. Some of this blame has to go on me as well. I should have asked how the body was going to fit overall, not just the chest.
Despite this terrible fit, the jacket did not sour me on Aero… forever. To be perfectly honest, the experience did prevent me from ordering the replacement jacket from Aero. However, I knew I needed time to reflect on the experience which is why I did not write this review immediately. After taking some time to look back, I realize that I was not faultless here either. I still think the people at Aero make a good jacket for the price. In fact, when people ask me what the best affordable leather jackets are, I say Thedi, Field Leathers, and Aero and I still recommend them to people consistently.
With them carrying Badalassi, the great customer service I received during the process, and the overall strong quality of the product, I still may buy another Aero in the future. At this point, it would probably be their Hooch Hauler jacket in Badalassi. That jacket design looks gorgeous. At the end of the day, I can chalk up the fit of this jacket to being a combination of my fault and a pattern that just wasn’t right for me. There have been too many other examples of excellent fitting Aero jackets to make me think all their patterns would fit me this poorly. I am not ignorant enough to think that. However, it did make me appreciate the beauty of Freewheelers’ patterns even more.
If anything, this should be a lesson to me and to everyone that leather jacket measurements go beyond chest, shoulder, length, and arm length measurements. You should look into these things before you pull the trigger on a jacket. It would have saved me a big headache. However, as I said, this experience confirmed to me that Aero makes a solid product, even if it is not perfect. It is not Freewheelers level, but they do not cost Freewheelers prices either. Some Freewheelers jackets now cost over $3,000 new while Aero is still between half and a third of that price given that I paid $1,200 shipped for this jacket. With them having Badalassi now, Aero is a better value than they ever have been and worth a look for many people especially with the wide range of jacket designs that they have.
As always, these are NOT affiliate links. I am here to provide honest reviews, not to be a promoter trying to make money disguised as a reviewer.
*I really don’t know exactly where the tipping point is. I know I was obese before I started losing weight, but I don’t know where the exact lines are drawn.