This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

Which leather coat is best?

The leather “bomber jacket” became a staple of the United States Airforce uniform from the onset of World War Two. In “The Wild Ones’” film, the lead, Marlon Brando, wore a leather motorcycle coat soon championed by the rebellious cultural icon, James Dean. Then came the band The Ramones and other punk rockers of the 1970s and 1980s adopting the evolving leather jacket. Since then, leather coats have increasingly been designed for formal wear while still possessing traits equally perfect for laid back days. A top choice is the Polo Ralph Lauren Men’s Leather Jacket because it is made from the highest quality leather grade available. 

What to know before you buy a leather coat

How to determine a leather coat’s quality

An animal’s hide is its removed skin, with or without fur. After the hide is thoroughly treated, cleaned, and the hair and flesh are removed, it is split into two layers, both of which are used to make products with varying leather quality. There are three grades of real leather available to consumers. Ascending in quality from lowest to highest, respectively, the grades are genuine leather, top grain leather and full grain leather.

What a leather coat’s grade indicates

Coats marketed as being made from genuine leather do contain real leather, however, it is the lowest quality grade of the three. Genuine leather goods are made from the bottom layer of the hide, which was closest to the animal’s flesh. Since it is the part of the hide farthest from exposure to the outdoors, it has not been toughened over time like the outer layer has. The production of genuine leather involves bonding many bottom layers of the hide, then painting them for a uniform aesthetic. Genuine leather is not as durable, and is more susceptible to wear than top grain leather.

Top grain leather goods are made from the outermost layer of skin, however, is sanded down to hide any imperfections naturally attributed to the hide, for a smooth appearance. Afterwards, it is typically pigmented. Although tougher than genuine, top grain is still behind the highest quality real leather available, full grain leather. 

A coat made from full grain leather is crafted from the outer layer of the hide directly in contact with the elements, the tightest, most durable layer of skin. It is naturally marked with imperfections in the animal’s skin to give it the most authentic look. Every full grain leather jacket is entirely unique. If properly cared for, a full grain leather coat can last a lifetime.  

Why buy a leather coat

Besides being a popular outerwear option for their fashionable appearance, leather coats have practical applications as well. Full grain leather’s tight skin fibers protect people from harsh cold and wind, especially if used to make an insulated leather coat. Motorcyclists typically choose full grain leather to keep warm while riding at high speeds as well as a protective measure for its extreme resistance to tearing. Although rugged, the leather is also soft to the touch, making it a comfortable choice.

What to look for in a quality leather coat

  • Full grain leather. Full grain leather is the highest quality real leather out there. Make sure the coat you are interested in purchasing is made from leather that is full grain. It may cost more, but it will last a very long time and should be considered an investment for life.
  • Lining material. The material of a leather coat’s lining indicates its intended use. A polyester lining is warm, but also wicks sweat and dries quicker than a cotton lining. Polyester is better suited for more frequent use, especially outdoors. Cotton is comfortable but will take a long time to dry, so it is not good at regulating body moisture. 
  • Zippered closures. Leather coats that have zip-up closures and zippered pockets retain heat more effectively than button-up jackets and allow owners to securely store their phones, wallets or gloves. Front pockets above the waist are also excellent for keeping hands warm.
  • Cuff customization. Sleeve cuffs that can be widened or narrowed create a custom fit. Buttoned cuffs, like those on traditional dress shirts, prevent cold air from rushing up your arms. Zippered cuffs on leather jackets allow active wearers to dump heat any time.
  • Waist adjustment. Some leather coats have adjustable waists that can be loosened or tightened based on the weather conditions.  
  • Metal grommets. Metal grommets, or small openings sown and reinforced into apparel, help regulate body heat and moisture for warm leather coats.

How much you can expect to spend on a leather coat

A full grain leather coat will cost anywhere from $500-$700, depending on the style desired. 

Leather coat FAQ

Should I wear a leather coat in wet conditions?

A. Real leather doesn’t repel moisture, it absorbs it, but repeated exposure to damp weather will cause the material to stiffen. The characteristic rugged softness of fine leather will become stiff, and can even rot. Limited exposure to rain or snow here and there is inevitable, but when this occurs, make sure to wipe off any residue with a clean towel or cloth so it can effectively dry.

How do I care for a leather coat?

A. Any real leather coat will be destroyed if it is cleaned or dried in a household washing machine and dryer. To avoid the build up of dirt, periodically dip a soft cloth into the warm after, twist to squeeze as much water as possible out of it, then gently use the cloth to wipe down the leather’s surface. After you’ve cleaned the whole coat, gently wipe away the moisture, then hang dry it with all zippers and pockets completely closed so it retains its natural shape. When it is fully dried, gently and evenly apply a leather conditioner cream or conditioner recommended by the coat’s manufacturer to ensure the longevity and natural sheen of the coat.    

What’s the best leather coat to buy?

Top leather coat

Polo Ralph Lauren Men's Leather Jacket

Polo Ralph Lauren Men’s Leather Jacket

What you need to know: A classic style men’s leather coat made from imported full grain lambskin leather and designed for any occasion.

What you’ll love: A fully lined coat whose body has a black flannel cotton lining and sleeves with a polyester lining. Adjustable buttoned cuffs and waist allow for a casual or tailored fit. There are two front zippered pockets and one interior left chest pocket. 

What you should consider: The combination of materials and the streamlined fit make for a versatile leather coat.

Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s

Top leather coat for the money

Lauren Ralph Lauren Plus-Size Leather Moto Jacket

Lauren Ralph Lauren Plus-Size Leather Moto Jacket

What you need to know: A women’s motorcycle rider inspired leather coat cut to fit a wider range of body types.

What you’ll love: An imported full grain lambskin leather shell and a polyester lining offer warmth and are suitable for daily wear involving more activity. Zippered cuffs and underarm metal grommets allow for body temperature regulation.

What you should consider: The “moto jacket” is best suited for more casual outings. 

Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s

Worth checking out

Polo Ralph Lauren Men's Café Racer Leather Jacket

Polo Ralph Lauren Men’s Cafe Racer Leather Jacket

What you need to know: This jacket is made from imported full grain lambskin leather and has a fully filled polyester lining for warmth.

What you’ll love: Two zippered waist pockets and one external zippered left chest pocket ensure plenty of accessible storage. A stand collar that snaps closed is the defining trait of the café racer style leather coat popularized in the 1960s as an alternative to traditional motorcycle jackets.

What you should consider: Its rugged appearance makes it an authentic choice for informal occasions. 

Where to buy: Sold by Macy’s


Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.

David Rosner writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

Copyright 2022 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.