|Thanks to Thursday Boot Co. for teaming up with us on this post, check out their new line of beautiful leather jackets.|
Blame it on MacGyver.
Along with my lifelong appreciation for Swiss Army Knives and my brief stint with a mullet when I was 7 (really), I’ve always had a thing for leather jackets.
There’s something primally utilitarian about them. They’re built to be beaten – and when you do they look even better. One of the few things that we buy that receives compliments for how great it looks beat up.
I’ve had a long journey with leather jackets.
- I got my first when I was only in elementary school. I begged and begged, and was finally able to get a MacGyver-esque brown bomber jacket from Hess’s Department Store for $69 with a couple of gift certificates I had accumulated.
- I bought another from JCPenney in 6th grade. In high school I bought a black lambskin jacket from Target that was real leather. (Can’t find those at Target these days.)
- I bought a suede trucker jacket from Wilsons Leather in college that was on discount but never ended up wearing it because it was a full size too large.
- In the early days of Primer I picked up another from there, my first moto jacket. It was distressed and decent for the price.
- A couple of years ago I spent $200 on a vintage leather jacket from a flea market which I thought was a huge score. But I didn’t know anything about vintage leather jackets and when I tried to care for it by moisturizing it, the leather ended up drying and cracking all up and down the left sleeve. I had to spend another $200 to have it fixed.
To say I’ve been trying to find the balance of a great leather jacket on a budget for my whole life is not an understatement.
But Primer has an informal policy: we don’t post fake leather jackets in our Getups, deal posts, or articles. Why?
It’s against our principles.
The trouble with fake leather jackets is they always look…well…fake. Sometimes known as PU Leather (short for polyurethane) or Faux Leather, these options always look and feel like an imitation regardless of how much they cost. With a fake one you're not getting the cool factor of a leather jacket at a discount – you’re overpaying for a plastic jacket. A fake leather jacket doesn’t earn a patina, it wears out and flakes. And they’re not even that cheap; a fake leather jacket can easily be $200! My position has always been if the cost of a real leather jacket is not in your budget, you should opt for a different look – like a denim trucker jacket, field coat, or pea coat instead.
However, as I’ve learned through my lifelong journey with trying to buy them on a budget, real leather jackets are expensive. Vintage can cost you thousands or lottery-level flea market luck. Mass market brands can be more affordable, but still easily $500+… and they come with a hidden downside. A mall brand leather jacket may look good in product photos online, but I’ve bought and returned at least 3 in the last 10 years because of how disappointing the quality of leather was in person.
In short, there hasn’t been a go-to option for guys looking for a lifetime-quality, real leather jacket at a reasonable price point. That is, until now.
One of our favorite leather boot makers, Thursday Boot Company, have just announced they’re getting into the jacket business. This is good news.
We got our hands on the Thursday Motorcycle jacket made from impressive, Chicago-based Horween Chromexcel leather, and styled it 7 different ways to prove just how versatile and utilitarian they are. We reached out to co-founder Nolan Walsh to get the scoop on the leather and production – and why a boot company is branching out into leather outerwear.
Birth Of A Disruptive Leather Jacket
The origin story of the Thursday leather jacket begins a lot like the origin story of the Thursday boot: with dissatisfaction.
Co-founder Nolan Walsh kept finding himself in conversations with friends that would go something like this: We like leather jackets. We want leather jackets. But we’re unhappy with what’s out there.
As Walsh tells it, “Aesthetically, my friends felt like they were either forced into choosing the very thin European jackets, or the very heavy Americana jackets that are a little too rugged for daily life in New York City.”
This disconnect was reflected in the spread of prices for leather jackets. “There are a lot of cheap jackets out there, but we weren't aware of any that were really built to last more than one year while being put through the ringer of an East Coast winter. There are high quality options out there, but $800+ for a leather jacket just feels like too much money for one article of clothing that can't really be worn year round.”
Walsh resisted the idea of starting a new line. After all, Thursday is still focused on improving their bread and butter – or leather and laces? – boots.
But if you think about it, the premium leather boot segment and the leather jacket segment are similar. In both, you pay a hefty premium for (admittedly excellent) heritage or designer brands. Both are leather. Both must be handmade.
And just like with their boots, Thursday has a playbook for disrupting leather jackets.
Same Materials, Same Factory, Same Craftsmen
When Thursday decided to make a premium boot they did something surprisingly logical: found the factories where leading heritage brands are made and engaged their skilled craftsmen to make the Thursday design with the same Goodyear welts, quality leather, and hand stitching as the competition.
Why would they do leather jackets any different?
“We have two jacket manufacturing partners: one in León, Mexico, and one in San Francisco,” says Walsh. “Both factories have been around for more than 40 years, are masters at their craft, and work with brands that sell leather jackets at the $800-$2,500 price points.”
Nowhere is this more evident than the Thursday Varsity Jacket. The manufacturing partner in San Francisco is none other than Golden Bear, a legendary shop that’s been making leather jackets – and leather-and-wool varsity jackets – continuously since 1922.
Examine a Thursday Varsity Jacket under the microscope and you’ll find the same attention to detail – cream bovine leather sleeves, leather lined pockets, and Melton wool body – as you find in jackets twice as costly.
The combination of quality and low price point has raised a few eyebrows in an industry accustomed to steep markups. “Similar to our boots,” says Walsh, “our jacket manufacturing partners are skeptical that we can sustainably sell the jackets at only a 1x markup.”
The all-leather jackets are made in León, but not at the same factory as their boots, for an interesting reason: “Very few of the best factories in a given category make more than one type of product,” says Walsh.
How Does It Wear?
Primer has tried and tested a handful of leather jackets over the years. As with a majority of products we test, we chose not to write about them because the quality or price was just too far off to recommend. The difference between the real deal and a thin consumer fashion piece is immediately apparent. When the Thursday Motorcycle jacket arrived for testing, my immediate thought was, “This is a real leather jacket.”
The brown Motorcycle jacket is constructed out of Horween’s famed natural Chromexcel leather, which is top of the line. You can smell it from across the room. If the wonderful leather scent doesn’t get you, the weight will. Weighing in at seven pounds, the Thursday Motorcycle jacket is built like a tank without being unwearable. Like a great pair of boots or denim, a nice leather jacket will break in to your body providing perfect fit and comfort.
Nolan Walsh knew Thursday would use Chromexcel from the get-to, but getting the weight just right required three test versions before they found the sweet spot. “We ended up going with a 2.5-3.0oz weight,” says Walsh, “which is about 50% thicker than most jackets on the market.”
That thickness means the Thursday jacket doesn’t come pre-distressed. “Chromexcel isn't ideal for everyone (read: most normal people who aren't leather geeks!) because it is quite stiff at first and there is a heavy pull-up,” says Walsh.
This is a jacket you will have to break in over time. In other words, you have to earn it. And the reward will be all the sweeter for your efforts.
If brown isn’t your color, the black Motorcycle jacket is full-grain leather sourced exclusively from Tier 1 midwestern USA cattle.
Maybe It’s Time To Invest
A real leather jacket is an investment, to be sure. Knowing you’re getting a premium quality piece at half the cost of a more established brand can take the sting out.
As with any investment piece, do your homework. Take a quick research pass at the mall: brands like Wilsons, whose jackets I would consider baseline for a leather jacket, come in more expensive than Thursday. Look at the premium brands like Schott or AllSaints, then take another look at Thursday. The combination of quality raw materials, craftsmanship, and Thursday’s well-deserved reputation as a bootmaker makes their line of jackets highly competitive.