help me choose a cafe racer (first leather jacket)

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by ribeyemediumrare, Jun 22, 2019.

  1. ribeyemediumrare

    ribeyemediumrare New in Town

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    Hey everyone, I've been doing some research trying to find a perfect leather jacket for me and was told to look on this forum. I'm hoping some of you could give me some tips and answers some of my questions.

    My main priority is fit. I have 21 inch shoulders, a 44 inch chest, and 35 inch midsection. Ive never come across a jacket that fits my shoulders well but is still slim around the waist and arms. Schott, Aero and Vanson cafe racers seem to be most v shaped, are there any other brands I should be looking at? Ive also heard good things about Falcon garments MTM jackets but I'm not sure if the quality is on the same level as something like aero or vanson. Is it ok for my shoulder meat to pop out the side of the seems or should the seem always end at my shoulders?

    I want a thick durable leather that will drape nicely, and that will also have some color variation and a nice rich color. I hate how thin lamb mall jackets feel and I like the weight and feel of calf/cow jackets Ive had. Are aero and vanson leathers significantly stiffer and heavier then generic calf jackets I'm used to?
    I have boots in chromexcel and I love the smell, luster, and feel of the leather. It also seems to stretch nicely so it seems like it would mold to my body, however reading some posts here it seems like its super stiff and rigid. Does it eventually start to drape and lay flat or will it always be kind of boxy? Theres also leathers like goat and vicenza horsehide but I have no clue how these feel in person, people here describe them as thin and floppy but it's possible they might be heavy enough for my uses. I don't ride, I just want a quality jacket that will last a long time and will feel tough and protective, yet also flexible and comfortable.

    Lastly what type of back design would you recommend? I prefer clean and simple but I'm open to things like shoulder gussets if they're actually beneficial for range of movement. What are the pros and cons of a kidney panel?
     
  2. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Are you in a position to try some on in a city near you? If not, trying to describe some of these things via writing is pretty limited. Especially to a person with few reference points.

    You say your shoulders are 21inches - that is incredibly unusual. Is that jacket size or measured? I have wide shoulders but 19/20 inches fits me. If you are 21 inches across you will most likely need custom - a jacket with 23/24 shoulders. Then it's just a case of supplying measurements to a maker and letting them do their thing. In America I would buy from Johnson Leathers in San Fran. Great folks. Great product.

    If you have never worn Vanson's competition hide (3.5oz) or Aero's FQHH you may be in for a surprise at just how thick and unyielding it is. Some love this and claim not to notice the weight. I am robust 6'2" and 185 pounds but find it unpleasant and choose not to use it. I personally prefer never to wear anything heavier than 2.5oz. I live in a warm place, so a 3 oz jacket would only get a few weeks work.

    Remember too, trying something on for 10 minutes is not the same as wearing something for hours and can trick you.

    Most cafe racers are cool looking and the features are dependent on personal taste - why not start by picking a few features - what kind of collar do you want (the mandarin collar has many versions, some ugly to my eye.) I am very particular about the collar and really dislike too many snaps or sticking out bits. A Buco J100 cafe racer probably has one of the nicest collars.

    If I were buying a cafe racer and my first real leather jacket - I would probably buy a Vanson Comet from Thurston Bros in medium weight leather. It's the real thing and as well made as any jacket you ever need to wear. It will last forever and any improvements you might get from an artisan made jacket costing hundreds more, in my view, don't really add anything.

    If you are after simplicity and a nice looking hide - an Aero cafe racer in a J-100 style pattern in Vicenza hide, with a cotton drill lining would work well. I have a half-belt in Vicenza - it is substantial, full of character (if that matters) and it's a medium weight hide. Medium weight is tough enough to outlast you.

    A critical first step is you really need to work out all your measurements and preferences. Where do you want the jacket to sit in the sleeves and back. This requires real judgement and is very personal. For my height I prefer a 27 inch back with 26 sleeves.

    I doubt your first leather jacket will be The One - it so rarely ever is and will just be your first draft. It took me over a dozen jackets to work out my sizing and preferences just so. The process can be slow and you can get addicted to details. Bad thing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
  3. ribeyemediumrare

    ribeyemediumrare New in Town

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    I'm not able to try any on which is why I am considering ordering from somebody like thurston. 21 inches is my measured shoulder width, I lift weights a lot and my shoulders are pretty round. If I put on something like a sweater it looks good since it drapes and wraps around my shoulders and the seams don't matter. When I've tried on leather jackets with smaller shoulders Ive been able to fit into them but since they seams are stiff it drapes kind of weirdly and makes me look kind of fat especially when the waist is also wide. I also felt like I couldn't move in them, couldn't cross my arms. For the style of cafe racer I want 2 chest pockets with silver ball and chain pulls, brown leather, collar with the snap that is the longer type that flaps a bit. I like the j-100 style but from what I understand it has very narrow shoulders. I will definitely take your advice on going for a medium weight leather. I like the design of the Vanson comet but I was under the impression that their leather is incredibly stiff, the leather also looks a bit flat and boring in pictures but I may be wrong. I want the jacket to have a somewhat luxurious feel and look and Vanson seems to be made more like a tough piece of equipment, please correct me if I'm wrong because its a bit cheaper then an Aero. I appreciate the help!
     
  4. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Much of this is largely about taste so advice is pretty nebulous unless it is about measurements, weights and durability.

    All leather will age and soften and develop character.

    Vanson's medium weight is soft to begin with and feels pretty good. It is still thick 3oz and I have a jacket made in it. It takes a while to develop character and if you want your leather to have immediate special visual qualities, you may need to select a more showy hide.

    If your shoulders are actually 21 inches then you will need custom. Any jacket can be made to fit you for a price.

    You can get a custom Vanson. Or you could have a custom Aero made. While Vanson is less expensive, they are exceptional quality.

    I would recommend you start a conversation with Carrie at Thurston or with Alan at Johnson Leathers or Kim at Vanson.

    Give them you measurements as per the standard charts; tell them your ideas; listen to their suggestions/advice.
     
    sweetfights likes this.
  5. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Here's Nick in a Vanson with a few years of light wear and it is a medium weight black hide - Firenze hide. I have a preference for this old school bike leather look, but some may find it not decorative enough. Personal taste again.

    Vanson AR.jpg
     
    sweetfights and nick123 like this.
  6. Rich22

    Rich22 One of the Regulars

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    Measure some of your favourite jackets and see what the shoulder seam to shoulder seam measurements are. I do a lot of weightlifting, my waist is 35 and chest 45, I'm 6'1, yet 18.5 inches on the shoulder is fine for me so long as the pit to pit measurement is sufficient and the cut works. I look broad across my shoulder blades , but the top of my shoulders remains average for my height- go and try some jackets on (EDIT: or at least get a fit jacket sent to you), as the numbers on paper don't tell the whole story. It would be highly unusual if your shoulders really need a jacket that measures 21" across the top.
     
    Seb Lucas likes this.
  7. El Marro

    El Marro One Too Many

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    I think Seb pretty much covered all the bases here and I agree that you would be well off going through Thurston Brothers and working with Carrie.
    In addition to Aero and Vanson Thedi is another option to consider and he has a wide variety of café racer style jackets in his collection. You can order directly from him or through Thurston Brothers. You pay a little bit more going through Thurston but you are pretty much guaranteed to get the fit that you want and that has always seemed worth it to me.
     
    sweetfights likes this.
  8. lucky23

    lucky23 One of the Regulars

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    My vote for a true riders top quality jacket is a Langlitz Cascade.
     
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  9. sweetfights

    sweetfights One Too Many

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    Langlitz A+ My finest jacket, with an incredible fit that is trim but allows for complete unrestricted mobility.
     
  10. Jejupe

    Jejupe Practically Family

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    I recommend custom jacket by Johnson Leathers, because you have unusual proportions. Johnson will start by making a mock up jacket with your measurements to make sure they get the fit right. They'll also send you leather samples to choose from. Jackets by Vanson or Aero are not made to measure, so it is more difficult to get a perfect fit with them.
     
    Seb Lucas likes this.
  11. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    I spoke with Kim at Vanson and they will make custom changes - extra length etc. But you might be right, if the shoulders are actually 25 inches that might be a deal breaker. It would be good to check, however.
     
  12. jacketjunkie

    jacketjunkie One Too Many

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    Forget your 21" shoulder measurement and measure the shoulder width, seam to seam on a jacket that fits you well in the shoulders. I don't see how large deltoids could possibly affect the required width of a jacket to any big extent; weightlifting doesn't make your collar bones grow longer or change location of your shoulder joints - and that is roughly where you want your jackets shoulder seams to be.
     
    Last edited: Jun 23, 2019
    torfjord, sweetfights, Rich22 and 2 others like this.
  13. ribeyemediumrare

    ribeyemediumrare New in Town

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    thanks ill look into Johnson, seems like they have a lot of leather and customization options.
     
  14. ribeyemediumrare

    ribeyemediumrare New in Town

    Messages:
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    Thanks for the help everyone. Johnson leathers never responded to me and Carrie from Thurston has been very helpful so I decided to go with Thurston bros for a custom cafe racer/board racer. Hopefully the fit jacket will work on the first try! I gave up on the idea of getting the shoulder seams to end at my shoulder ends and instead will try to get it at the joint or end of the traps and then just have the waist brought in if the upper area feels right. I'm going with a J-100 style pattern, can anyone comment on if the shoulder gussets make a worthy difference in mobility for a casual/non-riding jacket?
     
  15. handymike

    handymike I'll Lock Up

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    If you aren’t going to ride, I’d go without as it looks cleaner.
     
  16. ribeyemediumrare

    ribeyemediumrare New in Town

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    whats your opinion on the kidney panel? Other than the appearance does having or not having a kidney panel have any effect on fit or comfort?
     
  17. Rich22

    Rich22 One of the Regulars

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    If it’s an Aero jacket you’re getting, don’t bother with those shoulder gussets. Having tried on a cafe racer with them, they appear to be purely decorative- I can’t see how they add any freedom of movement. They end too high up when compared to functional shoulder gussets from other companies.
     
  18. handymike

    handymike I'll Lock Up

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    I’d eliminate the kidney panel too.
    I like this style super clean...no handwarmer pockets, slanted chest pockets, maybe a point yoke on back top, no center seam.
    -or-
    Straight chest pockets with straight yoke on back.
     
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  19. ribeyemediumrare

    ribeyemediumrare New in Town

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    Why slanted chest pockets, just prefer the look? Yeah I'm thinking if I should get rid of the handwarmer pockets, I don't see myself actually using them but who knows. They might be useful for storage if I get them with zips and then they won't bunch out.
     
  20. handymike

    handymike I'll Lock Up

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    Last edited: Jul 1, 2019

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