Classic chic: Best retro leather jackets as chosen by MCN

Riders of retro, classic or vintage motorcycles have a duty to follow the visual impact of their machines, and donning an old school, retro leather jacket to complete the image is practically obligatory. Whether you’re looking for traditional café racer cool, a 70’s retro vibe or just something that looks like it’s been there and back, there’s a jacket to suit your ride.

Looks may be the primary reason for choosing a vintage style leather jacket, but that’s no reason for skimping on safety, so weigh up options in the same way you would any new item of motorcycle kit. The CE certification is the first place to start, with AAA being the highest and B the lowest, then see what armour is included. Shoulder, elbow and back protectors are rated either CE Level 1 or 2, the latter offering greater resistance to impacts. A waist zip to connect to compatible jeans is also a good idea, as it stops the back of the jacket riding up.

Other features to consider are removable thermal or waterproof linings, adjustable ventilation ports to provide airflow in warm weather and pockets for storage, both inside and out. To ensure a precise fit, most jackets have adjustment points at the waist, collar and cuff.

We’ve gathered a selection of some of our favourite retro leather jackets here.

Boasting a premium cowhide construction, the AA rated Toulon 2 comes with a desirable 'lived in' look. Back, shoulder and elbow armour is included, plus it has a vintage cotton lining and removable hood. Fit can be adjusted via press studs at the waist and zips at the cuff, and the collar has a neoprene trim for comfort. Also available as a women's version.
Price: £284.99 (was £299.99)
The AA rated Brandish is an official IOM TT tie-in, named after a section of the famous island course. It's AA certified and includes both shoulder and elbow armour, with a pocket for an optional back protector (sold separately). The chequered lining is soft twill and it has buckle adjustments at the waist. A nice touch is the embossed TT logo on the chest.
Tested by Simon Weir for five weeks, 1,200 miles. I’m blown away by the quality of this stylish jacket – which in terms of looks and finish compares very well to my vastly more expensive old Dainese jacket. It’s made of soft 1mm cowhide, reinforced in key areas, with triple-stitched seams. It has armour in shoulders and elbows and is CE-AA rated.

Minor niggles are that the inside pocket is on the right (so I have to remove both gloves to get my wallet), the phone pocket won’t take an iPhone in a case, and only Oxford’s (£29.99) back protector insert fits – I can’t use one I already have. Those are small points – it’s a great jacket and outstanding value. All it really lacks is the snob value of an Italian label.
Quality: 4/5
Value: 5/5
  • CE AA rated
  • CE elbow and shoulder armour
  • Pocket for back protector
Tested by Phil West for 14 months, 1,200 miles. This is a retro-style jacket that is actually impressively versatile. The design is subtle and classy in either trendy brown or black with padded shoulders and elbows. The outer is in quality, soft, full grain leather with chunky but smooth-operating zips. The fit is neither too snug or loose with waistband popper adjusters. There's a zip out thermal liner in stylish tartan, two large, zippered outer pockets and a waterproof inner for your wallet plus removable Level 1 CE shoulder/elbow protectors and a sleeve for a back protector.

I've been really impressed. It's comfortable, fits well, oozes quality (the metal Astars detail on the right sleeve is a typical touch), the lining works great and it's stylish on or off bike so much so that it's become my go-to jacket, not just for retro bikes but for round town and all-day rides, too. It's even not bad value.
Quality: 5/5
Value: 4/5
  • CE A rated
  • Level 1 elbow and shoulder armour
  • Pocket for back protector
  • Removable thermal liner
  • Waterproof inner pocket
Price: £169.99 (was £199.99)
Get your best Brando on with this classic cut biker jacket worthy of any Wild One. Behind the authentic vintage look, the DXR Vinz has a removable thermal liner, mesh lining for improved air circulation and a waterproof wallet pocket. Safemaxx shoulder and elbow armour is fitted as standard, and this deal from Sport Bike Shop currently includes a compatible back protector.
Price: £250.00 (was £279.99)
Gaining a Recommended award in RiDE's test, the Detroit from Weise is CE AA rated and comes with Level-2 armour at the shoulders and elbows, plus a Level-1 back protector. It comes up reasonably large with a 'European' fit, but does have a warm removable thermal liner and plenty of pockets, including a dedicated mobile-phone spot. There's neoprene edging to the collar and a zip to join to matching riding jeans.
Tested by Mike Armitage for twelve months, 2,500 miles. As someone who does their weekly food ‘big shop’ based on what’s on offer and who has been known to superglue his kid’s school shoes back together, the idea of spending almost eleven-hundred quid on a leather jacket seems preposterous. Well over a bag of sand for a bit of hide? Surely the price of this BMW clobber is some sort of typo.

It's not, of course, and you realise why as soon as you get hold of it. Created out of horse hide, the PureBoxer jacket has a fabulously smooth finish and subtle sheen, and softness that makes you want to stroke it. Quality is wondrous. Copper is used for the zips, press-studs and arm badge which adds another layer of class, as does the silky liner and high-quality removable thermal layer. You get a little kit as well, which contains a couple of badges in alternative colours. There’s another journalist I know who’s a riding kit magpie, and he couldn’t stop cooing over the jacket last time we bumped into each other – a sign of its obvious quality.

After a year of now-and-then use (I can’t help but save it for best) there are a couple of niggles. One of the leather tags pulled off a pocket zip, and the delicate lining inside the sleeves is starting to fray a tiny bit from where it’s been in contact with Velcro on gloves. While it’s AA-rated and has pukka shoulder and elbow armour there’s no back protector included, either. I can forgive these minor niggles however, simply because the jacket feels special each occasion that I wear it. Splendid garment.
Quality: 5/5
Value: 4/5
  • CE AA rated
  • CE elbow and shoulder armour
We've seen a few Texpeed products from Amazon and they usually get pretty good reviews online and this classic-styled leather with a distressed finish is no different. It's made of 1.2-1.3mm thick full-grain leather and has a removable thermal lining for use when it's chilly or warm. It comes with what the manufacturer says is CE-approved armour to the shoulders, elbows and back, with no confirmation what spec, you'd assume Level-1 but even so, for that money and looking like this, it seems a bargain.
This classic-styled jacket from Oxford is CE AA rated and comes with shoulder and elbow armour and a pocket for an optional back protector. It's a straight-cut garment, with buckle detail at the collar and the waist and zipper cuffs. It has a removable quilted thermal liner and quilted detailing on the shoulders and forearms. It's a jacket that would look great on a retro bike.
Price: £219.98 (was £299.99)
The Wyatt is another retro-style leather jacket, with subtle styling and a relatively straight cut. It's CE AAA-rated, for the highest level of protection and comes with Level-2 armour at the shoulders, elbows and back protector. It features a waterproof and breathable membrane and a removable thermal liner and it is both supple and easy to wear. You need to get the right fit, as there is little adjustability but RiDE gave it a Best Buy triangle for its combination of protection, comfort and style.

How MCN tests products

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