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.
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.
what is a ‘black Perfecto’ if I may ask?
A Perfecto is a classic model of motorcycle jacket, usually in black leather
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.
The Chapal has aged very nicely, although I think I had it made a little.too short, which is frustrating.
I think the two are rather different, this being just a shell and much thicker, while the Chapal is much warmer and softer.
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.
The problem with motorcycle jackets is they only look good on motorcycles.
There are simply just better things to wear on every other occasion.
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.
A rather extremely worded view, but thanks anyway.
Do you have a problem with cow leather being used for shoes and outerwear? By no means all of it is a bi-product of the beef industry
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.
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.
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.
Does horsehide mould to the body more than other kinds of leather? And is it better in the rain?
Yes and yes, two big advantages I think. The reason the feel is so nice is the way it moulds like that – there’s a big difference in feeling compared to the calf, cow, goat, lamb, sheep etc I’ve tried elsewhere.
And it does very well in the rain – indeed it’s a good way to make it bed in and age better.
Thank you, Simon. Maybe the characteristics of different kinds of leather would be an interesting topic for a post.
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?
Thanks Jay, good point and question
I would like to remind you of this topic, if I may.
Thanks SVT, noted
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.
Thank you for the view Aran, and for putting it so politely.
The sleeve could be a centimetre shorter certainly, but I’m not sure I agree on the body fit. The shoulders are perfect, even tight with more heavier knitwear underneath. And as I mentioned, the cinching of the waist gives it a nice slim fit on me – something that, you’re right, I often struggle with.
Interesting why you think an asymmetric cut is not flattering too. Let me know if you have any other thoughts there.
The style point which sticks out to me the most is the yoke, and how it sits on (or exentuates?) your shoulder blades
Interesting point Hugh – I think that does exaggerate both the width and the styling. I quite like it, but it would certainly be subtler if it didn’t have that western-style point
I like it as well. My shoulder blades are fairly prominent, do maybe I am more aware of them on others’ clothes
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.
Cracking is part of the charm M, and will happen (particularly when it gets wet). But occasional application of mink oil (which most of the jacket sellers also offer) is the best way to keep it supple and healthy
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.
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.
Interesting point, thanks John
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
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?
A little risky. You might want a slimmer style, but more importantly you might also find the style a little too unusual, as discussed
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?
Yes, that could be nice. The wolverines are burgundy by the way, but a very dark shade
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 ) .
Nice point Michael, and good idea for a post, yes
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.
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?
I’m not sure about those to be honest – I think the best thing is a straight boot (eg Alden Tanker, or my Wolverine 1000 Mile) or a canvas trainer like the Doek – there are lots of other workwear brands of that type of trainer too
Something like dark denim and a Chelsea boot or is that even a little smart ? Would something like a timberland boot work ?
A bit smart, yes, a more casual boot would be better. Maybe Wolverine, Red Wing etc
You can see mine here:
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?
I do, I absolutely love it.
The navy isn’t available any more
How about Owen Barry?? Is it a good shearling coat and worth buying one??
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!
I’ve tried it in person actually, and the quality is fantastic. Personally I’d prefer a darker brown, but that’s me.
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.
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?
Yes I should think so Justin. Just try to keep the other pieces understated
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!
I think you’ve thought that through very well in terms of colours and materials. My only fear would be that a black leather jacket, roll neck and boots would be a bit showy and a bit too affected. Certainly, I’d be a little afraid of looking like a man going through a mid-life crisis.
I’d suggest the shirt would be better than the roll neck, a vintage jacket would be better than a new one, and perhaps boots that had seen some wear, or were not too elongated and stylised, would soften the whole look.
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
Good point, and it probably deserves a separate post at some point.
In brief, I find that:
– The easiest colours are greys. The things I wear most often are a charcoal collared knit, and a grey crewneck sweatshirt. Navy is tricky, can look a bit too smart and rich. And cream a bit showy.
– For footwear, I wear either canvas shoes like the ones in this post, or boots. Easiest boots are something like my Viberg or Wolverines. Some dressier boots are just about OK, like Edward Green Cranleigh. For colours, either dark-brown suede or colour 8 cordovan. Black looks a bit too much of a look.
The other nice way to wear it is for contrast, much dressier. Like charcoal flannels, black loafers, and a white shirt under a cashmere crewneck.
Sums it up nicely Simon, thanks for the detail and pointers!
Did you have any problems with the jacket “squeaking”, and if so what did you do/use to overcome the problem.
Not after a few wears Peter, no.
simon, usually how long the sleeves of a leather jacket will be “shortened” after many wears and thus creases appear? Was your sleeves of this jacket longer at the beginning ?
I don’t think it’s shortened a really noticeable amount – one or two cm at the most
Thanks! I am curious if the length of sleeves of leather jacket is longer than that of a wool sports jacket? (From your pic, it looks like so). If so, is there a rule of thumb how long the sleeves of a leather jacket like this should be?
Yes they are slightly. I think because it’s more a piece of outerwear, that should cover your wrists and knit underneath from rain etc. The rule there is usually that it should protect these even when your arm is lifted, and I guess that’s probably even more the case with a biker jacket if you’re going to have your hands raised on the bike all the time
Hi Simon, I see from your recent pics, you’ve been pairing the mink suede Cranleigh boots with your vintage black horsehide jacket and your Chapal.
I’ve only seen pics of you pair white canvas trainers with this Real Mccoys horsehide jacket so I was wondering have you ever paired the Cranleigh with the Real Mccoys?
I haven’t, no Pat, but not because it wouldn’t work, just because I didn’t think of it. I will now!
I think it’s fair to say that your personal style has changed somewhat significantly since this post (at least the side of your style displayed here/on IG). I wondered whether you still wear this jacket and, if so, whether you have any new/different thoughts about how and when to wear it. Thanks in advance.
Out of interest, how do you think my style has changed?
I do still wear this jacket, yes, though interestingly I’ve found the asymmetric design to be a little harder to wear frequently than I thought, and I find I wear my Chapal one more. I’ve also always worn suede bombers more than anything in leather
Thank you, Simon, this is very useful information!
I would say that you’ve veered away from more traditional, tailored clothing towards more casual clothing (as the world has, generally), but also that you’ve gone more and more for subtler clothing (to use the terms from today’s article, and taking as an example the all navy outfit from earlier this week, as well as other tonal, cold-color combinations). Interestingly, I can see how some readers might think those combinations are showy/”fashion”, but I do not think they are.
In that context, I wondered whether a relatively “showy” piece like this got much use still. Thanks again.
Ah I see. Yes that makes sense, I just didn’t think of that piece as that showy, but perhaps I’m gradually realising over time that it is actually, more than I thought