How to wear a horsehide jacket: Armoury x Real McCoy’s

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I’ve never had a horsehide jacket before.

I did have an old, vintage one rom RRL a few years ago, but it was so old and soft that it felt nothing like this, like new horsehide.

To be honest, I’d been rather put off by the styling of horsehide jackets and the way many other people wore them.

The old-fashioned A2 aviator, with its tiny collar, big pockets and round body seemed rather unflattering, even anachronistic: add some combat trousers and a tiny watch cap and it could quickly look like costume.

Which doesn’t mean that all vintage-inspired clothing has this problem. It just has to be subtle in its styling, in my view, and use proportions still seen in at least some modern clothing.

The asymmetric style of my Armoury x Real McCoy’s jacket, shown here, is more in the tradition of motorcycle clothing.

Big bodies and ribbed hems are replaced with a close fit, cinched waist and double-layered front. The functional priority is wind resistance rather than freedom of movement.

Personally, I think these styles are less at risk of looking anachronistic because motorcycle jackets are still seen everywhere - in menswear but also in womenswear.

They’ve been adopted by one rock band after another, and the cuts re-interpreted by everyone from Rick Owens to Stoffa.

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Wednesday, February 28th 2018

The risk of a motorcycle jacket is less anachronism and more trying to be something you’re not.

Wear a black Perfecto with black jeans at age 20, and you risk looking like a try-hard; wear them at age 50 and it can scream mid-life crisis.

I know people who wear that look and wear it well. But just like style icons breaking style rules, they’re very aware of what they’re doing.

This Armoury piece is no Perfecto. It is in brown, not black, and has no dangling belt or other bells and whistles.

Still, it is a big leather jacket, with a big collar.

It is still going to stand out, and I think still risks anachronism with those military-vintage accessories - or indeed with Red Wings, a buffalo-check shirt and a bandana.

It’s just fine, however, with plain knitwear, jeans and boots. Everyday casual menswear, in ideally more casual versions - so jeans, not tailored denim trousers; and round-toed Aldens rather than pointy Corthays.

In the images I'm wearing it with a grey-shetland sweater (Anderson & Sheppard), The Armoury’s Army chinos, and Doek canvas trainers from Trunk.

I’d hesitate to have the chinos any fuller in the leg, however, or give them any other accoutrements like combat pockets or a wallet chain.

Subtlest and easiest is some great denim, like my 18oz NW1 jeans from Blackhorse Lane.

Moving on from style, I have to say I adore how this jacket has worn in.

The things I had been told about horsehide were that it was very stiff and would take a long time to soften up. That I’d have to wear it every day, get it wet repeatedly and so on.

Given how many clothes I own, this worried me. Because let’s face it, nothing is getting worn every day, week after week. Jeans maybe, but not a jacket.

I needn’t have worried though. After four or five wears it softened considerably and now doesn’t feel uncomfortable or restrictive.

Part of the reason is that it has moulded to my body shape: another big attraction of horsehide, and one that I know will appeal to many readers.

It feels like a thick shell, something that has already been conformed to your body and movement.

That’s perhaps most obvious here in the shapes of the pockets (above), which I use heavily and are now slightly bowed outwards, ready and waiting for my hands.

Zip the jacket up all the way, put up the collar, and bury your hands in there, and you really do feel like you’re sheltered from the world.

That does lead me onto a point about leather jackets, though, which is that they are not warm.

Leather is great as a windstopper, but it does not insulate well. And horsehide is great in the rain - which helps it age and crack subtly - but not in the cold.

Unlike wool, leather is cold to the touch (one reason so many have fur collars, as cold leather against your neck is not pleasant on a cold, wet day).

A jacket like this needs wool underneath it, and ideally layers. So I would also size it to be able to fit a decent sweater underneath.

My jacket is a 40, which felt a tiny bit large, but was actually great once I had cinched in the waist.

If you have a body shape roughly like mine, with a waist measurement that is one size down from your shoulder measurement, a style detail like a waist cinch is extremely useful for fit.

Unfortunately The Armoury only have a size 44 left in my colour (mocha) and a 42 in the darker brown, espresso. 

I would recommend the rest of the Real McCoy’s range, though, in particular the Buco J-25 and Disfarmer in Deerskin, both of which I’ve tried. (Though unfortunately they both only come in black.)

Other great makers are Himel Brothers in Canada and Aero Leather in Scotland.

The Armoury also deserves a word for their collaborations in recent years on outerwear, which has not only brought brands like The Real McCoy’s to a sartorial audience, but particularly brought attention to the designs of Kentaro Nakagomi at Coherence.

While some of the Coherence styles aren’t for me, I love the functional attention to detail in every piece.

Where others would be happy to just copy a standard belt or pocket orientation, Nakagomi-san takes it as an opportunity to perfect and modernise - making a button-in liner work perfectly, or changing the angle of a through-pocket so you can actually use it without catching your hand on the different layers.

There are also some styles that I love. I’ve never particularly liked big coats that cinched at the waist, for example, but the Marc model completely changed my mind once I saw it at our pop-up (shown above).

It’s now firmly on my wishlist - for the cut but also for the functional details, like the wrap belt and lapel fastening under the chin. 

Recently The Armoury have also added a shearling coat working with Owen Barry (below) and a suede gilet from Japanese brand Rocky Mountain Featherbed (currently only in Hong Kong).

Photography: Jamie Ferguson @jkf_man, except two pictures above and below, Elliot Hammer

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C.

Hi Simon,

what is a ‘black Perfecto’ if I may ask?

Many thanks

Mike Sakas

Eastman Leathers

Shawn

Hi Simon,

An interesting and insightful article as usual, thanks!

I wonder how would you compare this horsehide jacket with the aviation jacket from Chapal? Also, how has your Chapal jacket aged? I am looking forward to your review on it as well.

Best Regards,
Shawn

Oliver Bailey

http://addict-clothes.com
This guy makes the best biker style leather jackets on the planet…check them out! I have a lovely navy blue jacket, with a collar and two diagonal front pockets – overall, very simple with a V type silhouette.

Jason

The problem with motorcycle jackets is they only look good on motorcycles.
There are simply just better things to wear on every other occasion.

Anon

A poor choice of topics and one which will not endear you to those of us who both read your blog and keep horses. The thought of skinning an equine companion for the sake of fashion is as repulsive as using dog or cat fur for a matching collar and gloves.

joshgtv

U.S. law (i.e. where the horsehide is sourced from) makes it illegal to kill horses for hide. So the hides come from horses that have died from natural causes. IIRC.

Wild Bob

Perhaps exercise your right to choose without criticising other people’s’ choices. Horsemeat is very popular in Switzerland. I would never eat it but I respect their choice to consume it.

Robert G

I have to say this jacket is more than a motorcycle jacket, it has enough sophistication that it would in my opinion, be appropriate when a purely motorcycle jacket would not. I think it could also be nicely paired with more informal cut corduroy trousers.

Martin

Does horsehide mould to the body more than other kinds of leather? And is it better in the rain?

Martin

Thank you, Simon. Maybe the characteristics of different kinds of leather would be an interesting topic for a post.

Jay

I have the same request as Martin. It’d be great if you could throw shearling and furs into the discussion. Maybe also tell us which styles and leathers (including suedes and nubucks) can be worn in what weather and season. Does any leather outerwear work with business wear?

Aran

I appreciate your articles and fashion insights. In this case, I feel compelled to offer a differing opinion and I do not mean to be malevolent, but to discuss fit and silhouette. The fit from the pictures is not flattering on your silhouette. The arms are too long, the body is appears a sizes to large on the body, and the asymmetric approach on the strange shape is not flattering for your athletic build. It looks like you face the challenge of broad shoulders with a slim silhouette that is often very challenging with many leather jacket cuts. I would suggest some of the cuts by Addict Clothes or Vanson. Addict can do custom orders, while not full bespoke, the made to measure program may be better suited to get the right fit from a heavy horsehide.

Hugh

The style point which sticks out to me the most is the yoke, and how it sits on (or exentuates?) your shoulder blades

-hugh

Hugh

I like it as well. My shoulder blades are fairly prominent, do maybe I am more aware of them on others’ clothes

M

Simon, do you have any tips on horse hide leather care? Would it be advisable to use some leather balm on the areas that bend a lot?

I’m concerned about cracking over the long term.

M

Thanks Simon. I agree some rippling and creasing (minor cracking) adds to the look, but I’m paranoid about large cracks over time because I beat it up so much.

I know people tend to say “that won’t happen unless/until the jacket is 60 years old” – just want to maximise the chance that turns out to be true.

John

Motorcycle jackets are incredibly frustrating to me. If you wear the correct size they only look good zipped up. If you wear them unzipped, they only look good if you’re wearing a size that’s too small for you. It’s funny to look pictures of The Ramones or pictures of bands like The Strokes wearing perfectos that cannot possibly be zipped up (mayyyybe if they’re just over a t-shirt). I think this one looks good on you but it wouldn’t look any worse if the zipper were centered.

M

While I completely agree with you, the Ramones/Strokes are going for a completely aesthetic to the average PS reader.

And I’d say if you’re an actual rock star you can get away with wearing a tight, black perfecto at 20

Stanley

Im a skinny asia man with tall 176cm, i never have a leather jacket before

is it a good selection be my first leather jacket? or too risky?

Paddy

From your previous pictures, you are wearing your brown Wolverines with the jacket.
I was wondering if a Red Wing Moc Toe work but in a special deep indigo dyed iteration?

Michael Smith

Simon
Your passing comment about mid life crisis could become a topic for a separate post.

I am over sixty which is not a problem until I look longingly at jackets in Clutch Cafe or Lewis Leathers ( both conveniently closed when I am taking the dog for a walk in the evening) . Not being an aging rocker or a biker means such wear on me would become fancy dress (as well as any amount of mixed messages).

I have always believed you should dress for your age and this could be a topic to be explored in both directions; dressing too young (a danger in your 60s) and the opposite, ( think Oxbridge/ young fogeys ) .

Mike

Joel

Mike, I think you can almost wear anything in any age bracket if you know “how to wear it”. Just look at David Bowie just a few year before his passing and the likes of Keith Richards.

YK

i have this jacket too but i struggle to pick shoes for when i wear it…do you think the sanders brown playboy and the paraboot brown michael suits the jacket?

Justin

Something like dark denim and a Chelsea boot or is that even a little smart ? Would something like a timberland boot work ?

pat

I see that you’ve finally got the Marc but in the new dark brown poly twill. What made you pick this over the original wool one? and do you still like it as much as in your review?

Joon

Hello!

How about Owen Barry?? Is it a good shearling coat and worth buying one??

Anonymous

Hi Simon, what do you think lf Drake’s shearling coat (https://www.drakes.com/usa/clothing/coats-and-jackets/cognac-shearling-car-coat)? Thanks!

James

Hi Simon, I’m commissioning my first horsehide jacket and, mindful of your comment about warmth, i’m considering a shearling collar (n.b. detachable isn’t an option). Given your experience, do you have any thoughts on pros/cons of shearling collars in terms of warmth, durability, style etc? Any advice very gratefully received.

Justin

Hi, I have a Belstaff cafe racer style leather jacket, in dark brown . Can this be styled in the same way without looking like I’m trying too hard or midlife crisis?

John

Hi Simon,

a bit of styling question.

What would be your opinion on combing a classic black leather motorcycle jacket (in rather stripped-down “urban” design: supple shiny leather, silver hardware, just few zipped pockets, no flapped ones, short boxier cut, preferably worn unzipped) with, let’s say, black chelsea boots, dark high-waisted textured (flannel, cavalry twill etc.) trousers and a shirt (probably soft button-down) or roll neck. I personally can picture this combination particularly with a dark roll neck for autumn/spring season, with the motorcycle jacket adding a bit of unexpectedness.

Just like to know your view on this.

Thanks a lot!

J.

Chris K

Simon,
I first saw it back when you had the video calls at the start of lock down, when you were sharing beautifully aged items. And again, I’ve seen the very singular (and beautiful) looking object in the background of your recent Instagram outfit snaps. That black racer (horse hide I think, or maybe it’s just that patina texture). It’s wicked.

This is the most relevant post I could find to ask the question, but it’s a valid one I think. How do you go about wearing a black racer like this, and keep it looking everyday (avoiding a ‘look’). I’ve seen Colhay’s do it well recently in their look books, usually with a navy sweater underneath (which I particularly like, navy wool and black leather has something very nice about it) or cream, also nice. Dark olive would look great as well I think, dark brown too.

Casual shirts would look great in slightly warmer weather, I like the idea of the PS. selvedge chambray in particular with some nice denim. But it’s footwear that makes me wonder. sneakers of course are easy, but regards actual leather/suede shoes or boots, what would you go with? Would you stick with black suede for example, or would you be inclined to go with a dark brown suede?

Would love to hear your thoughts, also would be great to see an article on the jacket at some point

Ck

Chris K

Sums it up nicely Simon, thanks for the detail and pointers!
Ck