The leather jacket is one of the most potent garments in menswear. It’s a powerful weapon if you know how to use it, but has the potential to look truly terrible if styled poorly. Get it right and you’re Marlon Brando. Get it wrong and you’re a mid-life crisis personified.

Half the battle is wearing it with confidence. Nothing looks more contrived than a guy in a leather jacket who seems unsure of himself. In order to really nail that devil-may-care, rockstar air that goes hand in hand with this piece of outerwear, you need to approach it with conviction. And that’s a hell of a lot easier if you actually know it looks good in the first place.

The trick? Having a number of go-to, foolproof looks up your sleeve that you know always work. That way, you can throw your leather jacket on without any uncertainty and wholeheartedly embrace that characteristic rebellious swagger. From all-black everything to smart-casual, here we take a look at five key ways to wear a leather jacket that work every time.

Dress Up

At its core, the leather jacket is a piece of casual clothing. However, you can still elevate it by mixing and matching with dressier, smart-casual pieces. Doing this allows you to increase your leather jacket’s versatility and gives you a great alternative option for occasions like dates and nights out.

For best results, stick to dark colours and if you are going to add some contrast then do it via whatever you’re wearing under the jacket. Speaking of which, choosing this second layer carefully is an easy way to smarten up the look. Instead of a T-shirt, for example, try wearing a fine-gauge roll neck or an OCBD and notice how it instantly creates a more polished look.

Pants should be dark and form-fitting. A black jean will work nicely, as will chinos, or even a smart jogger. And where footwear is concerned, stick to smart-casual staples like leather loafers or luxe leather sneakers.

Black Out

If in doubt, all-black-everything is always a good way to go. This simple yet striking look is easy for anyone to nail and offers maximum cool points for minimal effort. It’s also a great way to pay homage to the leather jacket’s rebellious, rock ‘n’ roll roots.

Getting it right is very simple, but there are still a few things to bear in mind and certain pitfalls to avoid. First off, get the fit right. We’d advise channelling your inner rockstar and opting for slim, flattering cuts which always look great in black. That said, avoid anything with the word ‘skinny’ attached to it unless you want to look like a teenage indie fan from 2005.

Again, stick to black for the footwear and avoid sneakers in favour of boots or shoes. A classic black leather Chelsea boot is a great choice that further plays on the leather jacket’s rock-music heritage and looks the part with black denim or even black dress pants.

On Your Bike

The leather jacket was born and raised on two wheels and an engine and this heritage can serve as a great starting point for creating looks around it. The trick is to be able to draw on the biker aesthetic without going full cosplay, which can be trickier than it sounds when playing with such an attention-commanding garment.

The type of jacket you opt for will dictate how it should be styled – a traditional belted motorcycle jacket is completely different from a classic biker jacket, for example – but generally, it’s all about boots and jeans.

For slim-fitting jackets, pair with a slim, low-profile boot, like a Chelsea. Whereas, for more substantial jackets, it’s best to go for something with a bit more heft, like an engineer boot or a commando-sole work boot. The denim should be either slim or straight and will work best in classic colours like black, stonewash or just a simple raw finish. Layer up with a shirt or some knitwear and you’re good to go.

Take Flight

 

The aviator jacket is great for incorporating a bit of leather into your winter wardrobe. It was originally designed to keep pilots warm at high altitudes, but it can do much the same thing for you around town at the weekend. It features a slightly cropped fit, a large shearling collar and, sometimes, a belted waist.

All in all, it’s a pretty magnificent-looking piece of outerwear and should be styled accordingly. That means keeping the rest of the outfit modest and stripped-back, allowing the jacket to take centre stage. Think subtle, neutral or earthy colours. No prints or patterns and minimal visible branding.

Keep textures simple too. There’s already a lot going on with the smooth leather and fleece collar, and you don’t want anything else stealing attention away from that. Footwear-wise, shoes, boots and sneakers are all fine, but again, make sure they’re nice and simple.

Create A Contrast

Another great way to allow a leather jacket to really shine is to use contrasting colours or shades to your advantage. This can be done by choosing backdrop garments in a colour that will make the jacket pop when worn against them. Think darks against lights and vice versa.

The whole backdrop doesn’t necessarily need to be the exact same colour. You can mix and match to an extent. The important thing is that the jacket stands out and that the use of colour helps to highlight this. A contrast between top and bottom works too – think white jeans and a black biker jacket, for example.

The key is to keep the colour palette restrained. Remember, the whole point is to let the jacket sing, but if it’s competing with bright, retina-burning pinks and yellows, it’s going to get lost among the noise. Stick to muted, earthy and neutral shades instead.