How To Find The Perfect Moto Jacket For You

Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Update: This post was originally published on August 17, 2015.
A classic motorcycle jacket is the ultimate fashion-girl staple. But shopping for something you might wear almost every day isn't easy. First, it's got to fit just right — close enough that it's flattering, but flexible enough to move freely and layer a sweater underneath when necessary. The last thing you want is a moto jacket that's too big in the shoulders or too long in the sleeves.
Then there's the big decision of what color or style best suits your wardrobe — is it a vintage, classic black moto, or a buttery new leather jacket in an unexpected hue? If you're spending a pretty penny on real leather, you'd better hope it's everything you wished for and more. So with fall rapidly approaching, we called up some of our experts to guide you through finding the perfect moto jacket, whether it's leather, vegan, or vintage. Read on to see their tips and shop our picks.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Nothing beats the supple feel and luxe look of an authentic leather moto jacket. While real leather isn't cheap, investing in it is a great way to ensure high quality and longevity. "There's something really special about the way a leather jacket wears over time," explains Lyndsey Butler, owner of fashion-favorite brand VEDA. "It's something you can have in your closet forever, whereas a vegan one might be more trendy and won't quite wear in the same way."
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When you're buying an authentic leather moto, you want to make sure the fit is absolutely flawless, and this might take a bit of time and footwork. "There are little things you can do to fix things like too-long sleeves, but if the shoulders are too wide or it's a little too long or just not perfect for you, you're probably not going to wear it," says Butler. "So it's important to spend the time going and trying on a bunch of different ones until you find the one that's perfect for you."

Veda Jayne Jacket, $990, available at Veda.
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Finding the perfect fit also has to do with which length suits your body best."For petite or shorter girls, a more cropped style is more flattering," says Butler. And, the sleeve length is also important. "A shorter, bracelet length sleeve style is also nice, because when your sleeves are too long, it tends to make things look too big or not your size," she explains. But if you're super tall with long limbs, you'll want to find the longest sleeves possible. You can always take a sleeve up, but you can't really add more to it.

So where should these lengths hit on the body? "Cropped motos should hit right at the waist or a little below, kind of lining up with your waistband if it's a mid-rise pant," Butler says. "Longer silhouettes hit closer to the high hip. It's unflattering to hit at the middle of the butt since that tends to be our widest point, so go a few inches above or below that." Keep these markers in mind when trying on moto jackets, because while some aspects can be easily tailored, others cannot.

The Arrivals VÄDER II LMTD All-Season Moto Jacket, $685, available at The Arrivals.
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If you don't tend to wear mid- or high-waisted jeans, opt for a full-length or longline version. "Longer silhouettes work on petite and tall women alike, and also those who may not want to show their midriff," Butler explains. This more affordable version from Zara is right on target as a fall staple.

& Other Stories Leather Biker Jacket, $495, available at & Other Stories.
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When it comes to colored leather jackets, keep the cost-per-wear factor in mind. If the color ends up being a little too out-there to wear on a regular basis, you might not be getting your money's worth. "If you're buying a colored moto, hopefully it's a color you really love," says Butler. "It's not that having a colored moto seems too crazy — you can even wear them to work at most places these days — it's just about making sure it's a color you feel you'll wear a lot." For example, this deep wine can act as a neutral in the fall and winter, not to mention it has a great shrunken fit.

Acne Studios Merlyn Wild Berry Purple, $1,800, available at Acne Studios.
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Lighter-colored moto jackets can make a chic statement, but keep in mind that you'll likely see more of the imperfections over time. "You can spot clean with a rag and a little bit of water, but go to a professional if it's more intense," Butler says. When investing in real leather, caring for it is super important to make sure it lasts as long as it should. Most leather is pretty durable, but darker colors don't show as much wear and tear.

Also keep in mind the weight of the jacket. While lighter-weight leathers lend themselves to a slimmer fit that's more like a second skin, a heavier jacket — which Butler says is trendier right now — is more suitable for interesting hardware, belts, buckles, and studs. But regardless, you want the leather to feel malleable and soft to the

IRO Ashville Moto Jacket, $1,200, available at Shopbop.
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If you want a leather jacket but don't want the common tough moto look, choose a trendier option. This bomber leather bomber jacket with a sherpa collar is a unique pick.

Reformation Stone Jacket, $348, available at Reformation.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Vegan Leather
Before you jump on the extensive search for a real leather moto jacket, consider the benefits of faux leather. Not only is it more affordable, but there are also functional and environmental reasons to consider buying vegan.
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"Vegan leather is more attainable and durable than leather. The quality of this fabric has improved dramatically over the years — it now looks exactly like the real thing and is easier to maintain. Even high-end luxury brands are using it," says Jane Mangan, VP/GMM Merchandising at Nasty Gal. So, if you want the look of an authentic moto jacket without the price tag, and minus the animal-rights concerns, vegan leather is for you.

The fit is also a major factor when it comes to shopping for a vegan leather moto jacket. Especially if you're petite, consider giving a cropped variation a try. Mangan says, "The jacket should fit perfectly in the arms and shoulders, and should hit around the waist. The cropped style is our favorite!" And as a petite 5'1" author, I couldn't agree more. This classic black one could be a staple in anyone's wardrobe, no matter your style. "Everyone should have at least one," says Mangan.

Nasty Gal Interstellar Vegan Leather Studded Moto Jacket, $120, available at Nasty Gal.
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"The quality of vegan leather fabrics has improved to the point where it is very difficult to determine if it's real leather or not. So if it looks real and costs a fraction of the price, why not buy it?" says Will Redgate, vice president of the label [BLANKNYC]. He's got a point.

[BLANKNYC] Jacket, $178 $133.50, available at [BLANKNYC].
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When it comes to vegan leather, the look and feel of the material matters most, because you want it to look more expensive than it is. "Look for a heavyweight fabric that has a soft, leather-like hand feel. Sleeves should always be lined so that you can easily slip your arms through," explains Mangan. The last thing you want is a faux leather jacket that's stiff, uncomfortable, or cheap-looking.

Obey Billie Vegan Leather Jacket, $120, available at Lulus.
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Faux leather jackets also come in just as many style variations as authentic moto jackets, if not more. This coated style from is a bit more cropped and boxy — great for layering with sweaters and skinny jeans or trousers. From experimenting with the shape to trying fun colors, patterns, trim, or details, find the one that best suits your wardrobe. "Vegan jackets are versatile, so they appeal to a wide range of personal styles. It all depends on what you pair it with that determines your look," says Redgate.

Do keep in mind, though, that both authentic and faux leather jackets aren't the easiest to clean. Redgate explains, "You can’t wash or dry clean vegan jackets — they can only be wiped with a damp cloth. So be careful with red wine when you wear it."

Zara Leather Effect Jacket, $69.90, available at Zara.
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Illustrated by Mary Galloway.
Vintage motorcycle jackets are another fun and often cost-effective alternative to a new leather jacket. Because they're often both high quality and one-of-a-kind, you won't regret scoring the perfect vintage moto. "You can get a good vintage moto jacket for about a third of the price of a new one," says Stacy Iannacone, owner of Ritual Vintage in New York. "Any moto jacket with a label is going to run you in the thousands, and I would bet is made in China. Like with most vintage, you are going to get better quality leather, zippers, and much nicer linings."

Buying vintage is also environmentally friendly. "You're not giving into consumer America tactics. You're recycling and ultimately bringing new life to a piece that will last longer than a modern, mass-produced product," says Veronica Norris of NYC's Amarcord Vintage. "Plus, everything new is inspired by the past in some way, so why not cop an original?" We like the way she thinks.
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Fit and quality are likely most important when looking for a vintage moto jacket, and you really just have to feel it out. "I think you know when its right — you will feel the magic," says Iannacone. "I like the shoulders to fit properly and not be drooping but I also think it's
good to consider leaving enough room to put a layer underneath."

Since sizing can be wonky when dealing with vintage, it's important to try on and get a feel for the jacket's shape and material. This jacket is a safe bet because the site indicates its condition. You can also see on the model that it's cropped and a bit oversized in the sleeve.

You also have to know what details or flaws to look for when shopping for a vintage moto. "You want to make sure it's not dry or going to start cracking. Some older jackets are sewn with cotton thread and this can deteriorate over time, causing seams to 'pop,' so make sure your new friend is sturdy," advises Iannacone.

Don't forget to check the condition of the leather. "Leather is forgiving — it does change shape and stretch out usually, but when dealing with moto jackets that are 30-plus years old, that rule goes right out the window," Norris says. "If the leather is somewhat stiff, it may be stuck in its ways and it may not loosen or stretch. So make sure the fit feels proper or you will likely end up with a busted seam or tear that cannot be repaired." No one wants that!

Vintage Leather Motorcycle Jacket, $79.99, available at Ebay.
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When it comes to shopping for a vintage moto jacket, have fun with it and marvel at all of the unique options available. "Beyond fit, I would look for something that has some character and patina to it. I love finding a jacket with a pin or stud or some modification from the previous owner," says Iannacone. Whether it's remnants of owners past or just a standout, all-over print like this one, find a vintage jacket that won't look like everyone else's on the street.

Also keep in mind that vintage motos can be authentic leather or vegan leather. "If you're a vegetarian or vegan (or not and just love animals), faux leather jackets are amazing if you want to get the look without the controversy," says Norris.

But due to the origin of the moto style — dating back to the early 1900s and gaining popularity from the '40s to the '70s — vegan leather may be more difficult to find. "If you're looking for a truly old, rare moto jacket it will be next to impossible to find in anything other than leather, since they were originally designed for protection while riding," remarks Norris. "It wasn't until later on that it was seen as fashion, thus creating more 'inexpensive,' accessible alternatives such as faux leather."

Humanity Revival Rose Leather Detail Vintage Moto Jacket, $109.25, available at Etsy.
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The way a vintage moto jacket should fit all depends on the look you're trying to achieve. "The right kind of girl looks great with an oversized 'boyfriend' fit," Norris explains. "Traditionally, it should fall somewhere between your natural waist and hip. Things were shorter and wider back in the day, so most vintage moto jackets you'll find will have more of a cropped fit or will fall closer to the high of your hip." This designer vintage moto, while not the cheapest, has that boxy feel but is still sleek and flattering.

Stacy Iannacone also suggests letting your favorite local vintage shops know that you're on the hunt for one, so they can keep you on their mailing lists and clue you in whenever they buy new stock.

Versace Vintage Belted Leather Jacket, $991.70, available at Farfetch.
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Mango Leather Biker Jacket, $229 $199.99, available at Mango.

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