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Calfskin Leather Jackets - Pros and Cons

June 29, 2020

Calfskin Leather Jackets - Pros and Cons

by Sarah Makhluf

Sarah is a freelance content writer from Boston, MA. She loves traveling, fashion, and the beach.


What is calfskin as a type of leather, and how is it different from the other types of leather? We all know calfskin comes from a cow, of course, but do you know its history? Which famous actor put biker jackets on the map? What makes people want to purchase a calfskin leather jacket instead of lambskin or sheepskin jackets? We're telling you everything you need to know about calfskin leather jackets.

When did first calfskin leather jackets appear on the market?

During the latter half of the 20th century, Hollywood actors were seen donning leather jackets on and off the big screen, shortly giving them an 'iconic status,' and they became more socially acceptable.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Jimmy Stewart wore a cowhide leather jacket in the film Night Passage (1957). American actor Gary Cooper wore a leather jacket in his role as a guerrilla fighter in For Whom the Bell Tolls, the 1943 American war film.

The 'OG' leather jacket, if you will, may not be the first-ever leather jacket to hit the market, but it's arguably the most popular. The Schott Perfecto Motorcycle Leather Jacket was used to shape a character, and give them the coveted 'cool' factor that was so sought after during the 1950s. The best example is Marlon Brando's Johnny Strabler in The Wild One (1953). Another iconic cowhide leather jacket that will forever go down in history is the one The Fonz wore on the TV series Happy Days, which aired in the 1970s & 1980s but showed life in the 1950s & 1960s. Fun Fact: Fonzie's leather jacket he wore on the show is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution!

Calfskin leather jackets

Types of calfskin leather jackets

  • Aniline leather

If you've ever browsed a furniture shop for a new leather sofa, the sales associate probably threw out the term aniline leather before. While we know it can make a great sofa, how will it hold up wearing it on the body? This is one of the purest types of leather, and some of you may know it as Natural Nappa. No matter what you want to call it, the beauty of this leather is that its smooth, soft, and comes with wrinkles and marks that mimic how they would look on the animal's natural skin. Those marks remain because sanding is never used on this type of leather. It's often made from better quality hides with few natural markings, so it's not going to be overwhelming.

The cool thing about aniline leather is that it's a type of leather dyed exclusively with soluble dyes. The final product retains the hide's natural surface, as we mentioned above, with the natural wrinkles and marks. This type of calfskin leather can essentially be dyed with any color, as long as the manufacturer is using the proper dye. If you're one to showcase your personality in bright, vibrant, bold colors, you may want to look further into getting an aniline jacket.

 

  • Semi aniline leather - calfskin jacket

Semi-aniline leather is more rugged than aniline leather, although it's produced through a very similar process. Semi-aniline is usually made from the highest quality leather hides as well with very minimal natural markings. This type of cowhide does have a thin protective top-coat to give it more resistance to wear and staining. The coating makes it look slightly more rugged and provides better protection against natural wear and tear. This light coating also usually contains a small amount of pigment. Some may also come with an anti-wrinkle treatment. It really depends on what final look you're going for, but if you're looking for an ultra-durable cowhide jacket, semi-aniline may just be the perfect jacket for you. Fun Fact: Biker jackets are usually made from aniline leather!

What should you look for in a good calfskin leather jacket?

Calfskin leather jackets are smooth in touch. According to the head of design for heritage outerwear Joslyn Clark, "good quality leather is meant to have no unusual seams." That means there shouldn't be any wonky threads clinging onto the zipper or coming off of the cuffs.

Brands that sell good calfskin leather jackets

Let's take a look at some of the most popular affordable and luxury brands. Should you splurge and buy an expensive jacket, or do you want to save a few bucks and forgo the luxury label?

Belstaff

Belstaff may not only sell leather jackets, but it's pretty safe to say leather jackets and Belstaff are pretty synonymous at this point. The famous retailer's leather jackets are usually made from cowhide. They do offer a couple of options for lambskin leather jackets as well.

The average price ranges from 700 USD 1500 USD for their leather jackets.

 

Allsaints

Allsaints is unique in that it's not considered a luxury brand like Burberry, for example, but it's also a step up from typical retailers like Nordstrom or Macys. Allsaints is the perfect middle ground when it comes to indulgence and affordability.

Their calfskin leather jackets usually ring in at under 500 USD.

 

Schott, Saint Laurent, and Acne Studios are a few luxury leather brands that have been popular among leather jacket lovers in the USA and across the globe. Of course, Schott gained the right as the leather jacket king when he introduced the Schott Perfecto. On the other hand, Saint Laurent may not have a place in pop culture history, but they do have a grip in the luxury retail market. The tag alone is enough to make people shell out over 1,000 USD on a Saint Laurent leather jacket. Schott, Saint Laurent, and Acne Studios are undoubtedly considered an "investment piece." But hey, if you want a luxury leather jacket, go for it! There are no rules when it comes to leather jackets, that's one of the many reasons we love them.

Custom made leather jackets

Customize a calfskin Jacket from Independence Brothers

Are the leather jackets off the rack, not piquing your interest? Do you not fit into most standard sizing in stores? Are you in the middle of M and L? You can customize a leather jacket according to your body type. You get full creative freedom over the design, color, lining, and hardware.

Why go custom?

  • You are sick of having to tailor your leather jackets. We get it, you buy a jacket, and the body fits perfectly, but the sleeves are so long they're almost down to your knees. Or maybe the length is perfect, but the shoulders are too tight? Going custom means taking out the guesswork. Our jackets are handmade according to your body measurements.
  • You want a unique color in your size. Often, many brightly colored leather jackets come in smaller sizes (we don't know why), but it's an unfortunate trend. Choose which color, leather type, and jacket style.
  • We work with you. If you're unsure or need a little creative help, we're here to assist. That's the beauty of custom garments; we're solely focused on you!

PHYSICAL - The Admiral Moto

PHYSICAL - The Suede Double Rider

PHYSICAL - The Technical Bomber


Features of a good leather jacket. What to look out for?

First, know what kind of leather the jacket is made from. Not all leather is created equal. Some retailers will use terms like 'bonded leather' to essentially trick consumers into thinking they're getting a better quality item than they actually are. But not on our watch. We're giving our readers the inside scoop so you'll never get duped.

 

Full-grain leather

First, know it is the most prestigious leather type on the market. It's made from the top of an animal's hide and doesn't go through any sanding or staining processes to remove blemishes. A good full-grain cowhide jacket will be smooth to the touch, free of any nicks, and feel slightly stretchy. If you gently tug on the leather and it seems like it's about to crack, steer clear, it's not the best quality.

 

Top grain leather

This is the second-best, right after full-grain. It's made from the upper layer of an animals' hide. Top grain is one of the most popular in the USA. That's likely due to its soft, flexible surface with a price tag that reads a bit lower than full-grain. A good quality top grain leather jacket should feel smooth, have little to no blemishes, and feel comfortable when you first put it on. It shouldn't feel stiff, or like you need to wear it 20 times to break it in.

 

Bonded leather

Yes, bonded leather can be considered calfskin leather, but that's about it. A general rule of thumb, if a leather jacket is labeled 'bonded leather' it's not going to be the best quality. These types of jackets are made with scraps of various leather pieces that are bonded together.

 

The little details to keep an eye out for:

Have you ever bought a garment that was fairly priced, looked great on, and then you washed it and it fell apart? When it comes to quality clothing in general, and especially leather jackets, the minor details pack a big punch.

  1. Make sure the zipper doesn't get stuck or tug too much on the leather. Did you know that ultra high-quality zippers are actually quite pricey? That's why many cheaper brands will use ones that aren't the best to save a buck. Definitely do a quality test on the zipper before you pull out your credit card. It should glide easily without ever snagging or picking up loose threads.
  2. Does the jacket feel good on the body? After all, you're going to be the one wearing it. A leather jacket that looks incredible on the hanger could feel stiff and scratchy once you put it on. Good quality leather jackets should feel like a glove on the first wear.
  3. Do you feel good in the jacket? This is one minor detail that too many people overlook, but it's probably the most important! How do you feel when you put on the jacket? A great leather jacket should make you feel confident, ready to grab the bull by the horns, and save the world. Ok, well, maybe not save the world, but you get where we're going here. Your leather jacket should make you feel good about yourself.
Leather jacket details

Thanks so much for reading. We hope this article gave you a little more insight into the world of leather jackets. Talking about leather jackets and helping educate our readers is a blast for us here at Independence Brothers. We love leather jackets, and we love that you guys love them too! Are you in the market for a new fall 2020 leather jacket, or just browsing learning about the coolest garment ever invented? Either way, we would love to hear your thoughts on this read and anything leather jacket related for that matter! Leave us a comment below or share with friends and family members who love leather as much as we do.

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