This is the Leather Jacket Style Every Guy Can Pull Off

man wearing leather racer jacket in front of landscape

A tribute to an overlooked outerwear classic.

Special thanks to Thursday Boots for partnering with us to make this post possible.

What comes to mind when you hear the words “leather jacket”? Words like “tough,” “badass,” and “rebellious,” right? Maybe “cool” or “aggressive” for good measure?

Now–what in your closet pairs well with that garment, and that ethos? Jeans. A t-shirt. Boots. Sneakers. And…that’s about it. Great for after work or the weekend, but if you usually dress a few rungs up from casual on the style ladder, that jacket is going to languish in the back of your closet most of the time. Your dress pants and collared shirt don’t exactly scream, “rock ‘n’ roll!” in a Gene Simmons growl. And a thick, stylized black leather biker jacket doesn’t exactly scream, “office dress code!” unless you work at a really cool office.

So like many guys, you end up in a situation where you want to wear your leather jacket, but you don’t have anywhere to wear it. Or you want to *own* a leather jacket, but think you can’t quite pull off the look without feeling like you just stepped off the set of Grease 3.

Which brings us to…the racer jacket. It’s a slim, trim, streamlined take on the iconic biker jacket you probably pictured at first. One that swaps out exaggerated notched lapels and an industrial-size diagonal zipper for a clean silhouette and minimalist details. It’s supple and subtle vs. stiff and in-your-face – toeing the line between refined and rugged as Primer reader Shane Martin shows us:

man wearing brown racer jacket with tshirt walking in garage

man wearing white dress shirt with leather jacket

Rugged or refined? The racer jacket is whatever you pair it with.

It’s up to you when you want to cross that line. And which side you want to land on. The racer jacket is a great example of what Primer consistently refers to as a “chameleon” item: Something that looks dressed up when worn with other dressy items, looks casual when paired with other casual items, and always looks intentional (another Primer word to live by) yet effortless. Being able to adapt an item to many different situations and environments, while looking great in all of them, is the true definition of versatility and smart style shopping. Especially if you’re a modern man who rocks a smart casual style.

The racer jacket isn’t only appropriate for many types of occasions and settings. Because of its chameleon-like properties, it’s also appropriate for every type of guy.

The older guy who wants to dress with some edge while still looking age-appropriate? Racer jacket. Or the younger guy who wants to add some refinement without looking stuffy? Racer jacket. Perhaps you don’t like to call too much attention to yourself, but you think leather jackets are just really great (they are)? Or you’re a rugged guy who hates feeling confined by heavy, bulky styles? A guy looking for a smart casual jacket you don't have to take off when you arrive at a bar or event? Racer jacket, racer jacket, racer jacket.

The best thing about a more versatile leather jacket? You don’t have to feel like you’re trying on a jacket – or a persona – that doesn’t really suit you. It plays nicely with shawl collar sweaters and vintage band tees alike, according to your setting and mood.

On that note – try swapping it in for your usual blazer or sport coat. Worn over a chambray shirt and slim cut chinos, it helps you stand out. In a good way. All without saying “yes, I’m trying REALLY HARD to be cool!” and just, y’know…being cool.

Now you just have to find a racer jacket that won’t fall apart in a year, yet won’t cost a significant percentage of your rent payment.

This is exactly the kind of conundrum that Thursday Boot Co. was born to solve.

If you’re thinking, “why is a BOOT company making leather jackets?” know that Thursday isn’t just any boot company. When the founders couldn’t find high quality and affordable leather boots, they built their brand – and their boots – from the ground up.

Thursday boots are constructed with top-of-the-line features, such as Goodyear Welt Construction and Tier 1 Grade A US leather, using the same suppliers and craftsmen that high-end brands use. But thanks to a lean manufacturing model, the resulting boots are not only well-made, durable, and handsome but priced significantly below the industry standard, too.

The jacket has a similar origin story. Thursday’s founders realized that versatile, wearable leather jackets were few and far between. And versatile, wearable, affordable leather jackets might as well be unicorns. Their iteration of the classic racer jacket is a timeless, pleasantly weighty (but not TOO heavy) jacket you could wear for as many situations and seasons as possible. Without the four-figure price tag you might see from any other brand.

As with Thursday boots, the details make all the difference. The jacket is handcrafted from premium lambskin leather, which adds visual interest and texture – like a herringbone blazer’s slightly tougher older brother. Lambskin is known for its soft texture and smooth, almost silken finish. It’s lighter than the other jacket standard, caviar leather, which is thicker, sturdier calfskin with a grainy or pebbled appearance. Since lambskin isn’t as stiff as calfskin, the racer jacket’s drape is much more like cloth than hide. Rather than hanging off your shoulders or feeling boxy, it moves with you and will be comfortable from the first wear.

Although lambskin isn’t quite as rugged as caviar leather, it’s still a long lasting material. Especially when treated properly. That’s why Thursday guarantees the zipper for life – the leather will be the last thing to go. Twin side pockets and two hidden side pockets give you the ability to carry the essentials without ruining the jacket’s line, and the banded collar keeps the silhouette clean and fresh.

thursday boots and racer jacket

Suede racer jacket and tobacco leather President boots from Thursday Boot Co. / Read our full guide if you're curious about learning more about wearing brown boots with black jeans.

Just like its wearer, a good leather jacket acquires character with age. The racer jacket isn’t tough to break in like some of its heavier brethren, but it will still accumulate patina and personality every time you wear it.

Because you’re the one wearing this jacket, not the other way around.

What’s your favorite way to work a leather jacket into your smart casual wardrobe? Let's chat in the comments!

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Andrew Snavely

Andrew founded Primer in 2008 and brings 15+ years of men's style expertise. Known for his practical, relatable approach to style and self-development, he has been a recognized speaker at conferences and has styled work for top brands. Off-duty, he loves photography & editing, and enjoys road trips with his dog, Leela. Raised in rural Pennsylvania, educated in DC, and living in LA for nearly 20 years, Andrew's diverse experiences shape the relatable and real-world advice that has helped millions through Primer. On Instagram: @andrewsnavely and @primermagazine.