by Sarah Makhluf
Sarah is a freelance content writer from Boston, MA. She loves traveling, fashion, and the beach.
Cafe racer jackets, which share their name with the lightweight, minimalistic motorcycles optimized for high speed are not only useful for those who ride, but they have made their mark in fashion history as a piece that has stood the test of time. Leather jackets are masculine, to begin with, and the cafe racer takes it to another level. They are the ultimate “cool guy” jackets, they go with everything and can pack a punch when it comes to styling an outfit. Cafe racer jackets are simple and snug fitting, with a short banded collar, you won’t want any extra fabric flying around when you’re going 80mph on your bike right? The cafe racer is by far one of the most popular styles, right up there with the double rider and bomber jackets, the cafe racer remains the edgiest of the three and has a unique history behind it.
The rich history of the cafe racer gives it even more of the “bad boy” vibe we all know and love when it comes to leather jackets. The mainstream style we know today was born in England in the 1960s. Soldiers returning home after WWII would race motorbikes between pubs and cafes to let loose and have a bit of fun. Sometimes exceeding over 90 MPH, the need for a minimalistic racing jacket was put in place. The racers needed a protective leather jacket without any bells and whistles so they could race more efficiently. That’s when the cafe racer jacket came into play. The jackets were made from heavy horsehide at first and came with a strong main zipper to give a bit of extra protection to the speed demons racing on the motorbikes. In 1956 Schott Brothers made their own version of the cafe racer, they called it a “Leather Racing Shirt,” and at the time it was only $28.95! Today, while people may not be wearing them to race as often, cafe racers are still designed to be a no frill, functional leather jacket with a refined look.
Leather quality comes into play when choosing the right jacket. Cafe racer jackets should have a snug fit and feel like a second skin. While they do sit close to the body a certain amount of stretch is needed for comfort, so be sure you can still move your shoulders and arms with ease. Take your body measurements beforehand to ensure a great fit if you are buying online. If the jacket feels tight when you first put it on, don’t be discouraged yet, most leather jackets tend to stretch out over time. Check out the list below of the most common types of leather qualities.
Full-grain - Full-grain is the best leather money can buy. It’s smooth, soft, has little to no flaws, and feels luxurious. It’s the most desired leather grain, but it also comes with the highest price tag. Full-grain leather is durable and should last for years to come because the top of the grain has not been sanded down, making it extra long-lasting.
Top-grain - Top grain is the most commonly used and is the second highest leather quality. While it may come in second, a lot of people prefer it to full grain due to its high durability and resistance to staining.
Genuine leather - Genuine leather is usually made from the leftovers of the more expensive leather grains. A common misconception is that the term genuine leather is a statement about the authenticity of the pice and while yes the item is made from real leather that does not indicate the best of quality.
Corrected grain - This type of leather has been corrected in some way. Alterations to the leather could include sanding it down to remove any flaws, and then to get the look of the more pricey leathers; a grain pattern is sometimes embossed on it. This is the cheapest of all the typed of leather grains on the market.
Not all cafe racer leather jackets are created equal. When deciding on a style take into consideration that some have a more classic look and some may focus more on detailing.
Classic - The classic cafe racer is unique in its simplicity. Usually coming in black or brown the jackets may or may not have pockets. These colors are also much dressier than the more eclectic ones such as blue or red, so you may get more wear out of them.
Detailed - If you like exploring with color, or maybe you want something a little more unique, I would check out a detailed cafe racer. It may include stripes with contrasting colors, patches, or stitch work on the shoulders or elbows. The style is associated with racing, after all, so finding a brightly colored or more detailed one won’t hard to come by.
The collar - Cafe racer jackets are made with a small snap collar, and sometimes with no collar at all. This feature goes back to the coats racing roots where it’s an issue to have a collar flopping in the wind.
The pockets - Some have two zippered chest pockets or two straight pockets along the midriff of the jacket, and sometimes they don’t have any. The pockets are always cut thin, and usually, have a zipper to avoid any unnecessary wind getting into the jacket during rides.
The zipper - Cafe racer jackets are usually made with a high-quality zipper, the last thing a racer needs is his zipper getting lose while on a ride!
No frills - The cafe racer is the sleekest out of all the types of leather jackets, they don’t have any extra buttons or snaps to weight them down.
So, have you decided on the cafe racer for your next jacket? With so many options out there I know it can seem overwhelming, but think of it as a good thing, with all the choices you are sure to find the best coat for you, it may just take a bit of shopping. If you are ready to shop, check out the list below of the top retailers to find your perfect jacket.
7 For All Mankind - Nicknamed ‘Seven’ the company was born in LA in 2000 and its roots are premium denim, the brand got a lot of traction when celebs starting sporting their jeans. Today the company has branched out and sells gorgeous leather jackets. They have a good variety of cafe racers to chose from and their high-quality leathers are something to be desired.
Asos - This online based retail giant hails from the UK, but they have been gaining a lot of traction in the states and worldwide in the last decade. They have a huge selection of men’s leather jackets. I know buying online can be tricky, but luckily they have an easy return policy just in case.
Belstaff - The British luxury brand specializes in ready-to-wear, rugged, high-quality leather jackets. They were also the first company to make waterproof motorcycle jackets in 1924. Today, they are still one of the leading retailers for the iconic cafe racer jacket.
Are you still on the hunt for the perfect cafe racer? I have one more trick up my sleeve, have you ever thought about having a leather jacket custom made? The beauty with going custom is that the jacket is guaranteed to fit you like a glove, gives you total creative freedom and the process is much easier than you may think. You can get a custom made leather jacket online from the comfort of your own home.
Independence Brothers - The family-run company specializes in leather jackets, and I mean really specializes, it’s all they sell, so rest assured they know what they are talking about when it comes to leather. All their custom jackets are made to measure and they offer six colors and a choice of lambskin or calfskin.
The beauty of the cafe racer is its versatility. Depending on the color you chose the jacket can be worn for a more dressy occasion or on a day to day basis. The rule of thumb is a black or brown leather jacket is usually seen as the more formal option. That being said, you can wear it for casual looks as well. The best thing about styling leather jackets is having fun with them. You can dress up casual looks or dress down fancier looks with just one piece of clothing.
For those with an eye for color, going with a red, or maroon cafe racer will add a pop to any outfit. Leather jackets are such a classic statement piece on their own and adding a color won’t take away any style; instead, it will add another level to your outfit.
Date - Try pairing a classic sleek black or brown cafe racer with a pair of dark wash jeans and short leather boots. Add a button up or a slim fit sweater under and you’re good to go!
Time with the family - A classic cafe racer pairs great with a pair of jeans, slightly rolled at the bottom with boots or tennis sneakers.
Tip:Let your jacket be the centerpiece of your outfit, you can even wear a plain white T-shirt under it and still look put together.
Out with friends- This is the perfect opportunity to show off your colored or detailed cafe racer. Wear it out to dinner, to the bar, or even just to chill.
A leather jacket on the big screen can create a fanbase of its own. Replicas of famous jackets have been popping up for decades, and many designers look to the stars for style inspiration. Check out the list below for the most iconic cafe racer jackets on film.
Peter Quill, Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
Chris Pratt portrays the space adventurer, Peter Quill in the sci-fi film by Marvel Studios. His red futuristic cafe racer is what stole the show for me. It was functional and looked super cool. What more could you ask for in a leather jacket?
Steve Rogers/Captain America, Captain America: Civil War (2016)
Chris Evans plays Captain America in this classic Marvel film. The rift between Captain America and Iron Man may have been the main focus but what I loved most was his cafe racer. His jacket has become the inspiration for many Halloween costumes.
Wyatt, Easy Rider (1969)
In the classic adventure flick Peter Fonda, who plays Wyatt made his red, white, and blue cafe racer jacket iconic. The starts and striped on the back and blue stripes down the side earned this jacket a place in pop culture history.
Eddy Brock, Venom (2018)
Tom Hardy stars as Venom/Eddie Brock in this sci-fi thriller. What captured my attention was his black leather cafe racer jacket. The sleek design of the jacket was almost as captivating as the film.
Thanks so much for reading, I hope this gave you a bit of guidance, and maybe even taught you a thing or two. Adding a cafe racer leather jacket into your wardrobe is a sure-fire way to amp up your style. I think the way we can express ourselves with clothing is something special; whether you are a classic cool guy, into the punk rock scene, or want to show off your racing stripes, a cafe racer will be a perfect addition. Start browsing online shops or head to your local mall and start shopping! If you enjoyed, please pass along to friend and family. One last thing, check out the links below for tips on how to care for your new jacket.
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