Leather can be fashionable again

Men don’t get away with wearing much leather beyond the acceptable leather jacket. To do so, you are still seen as a rebel, someone outside the norm. There is the everyday look and then there are the fetish scene, to which the outfits will vary. For a night out at the gay bar, leather pants work for some, but for the main event, something more is needed. But what about embracing leather everyday, is it possible leather is gaining in popularity among the fashion designers.

I love leather. It’s not about full-body leather (not always), or BDSM, it’s about making a fashion statement. Wearing the right leather pants or shirt can still turn heads. Cut right the piece makes a statement, just make sure it’s what you want to say.

Watching the Paris and New York catwalks you see designer introduce leather clothes, innovative and unique, or fresh rethinks of standard items (the t-shirt or hoodie). I had always wondered if the outlandish and semi-practical items seen at fashion shows made it to shops, well most do. Paris and NYC seem in particular to be places where men can get away with everyday leather. Of course the prices are not very practical, so unless you’re making 6-figures or have a sugar daddy you probably won’t own any DSquared2, Rick Owen or Gareth Pugh (and neither will I).

Leather shirt and jacket by Gareth Pugh
This leather shirt and jacket are by designer Gareth Pugh. The jacket has a zip-away from section that has a kangaroo pocket. The shirt avoids a side zipper by having two zippers at the neck, partially hidden by flaps.

Quality leather

Hands down the best leather company is Northbound Leather in Toronto. The owners care about the quality and style. Maybe the limited choice of styles in European shops has made me biased (I’m not familiar with many US retailers), but the quality and prices in Europe just don’t match what Northbound offers. It comes down to the quality of the leather (texture, thickness, smell and finish) and how well made the garment is. Style is also important, and I think the items at Northbound can rival any high-end fashion house such as DSquared2 or Jitros. Even recently they have started introducing new pieces from their own catwalks, items you wouldn’t expect for a leather shop best known for fetish. While Canada has a Leather fashion chain, Danier, which focuses on coats and jackets only for men (though they previously sold leather pants) and everything for women, there are no high-end concept leather makers.

Leather shops throughout Europe easily divide into two groups, those serving the fetish community and the high-end fashion. Both have limited selections. The fetish shops selling the same narrow choice of styles (pants, chaps, police shirt), though recently a few innovations have been introduced: rear access zippers and the sport/tracksuit look. Fashion leather continuously refreshes their styles, keeping up with the trends and making great moves to not remain stale. Jitros is a famed and established designer, but I’m more excited by the looks produced by Rick Owen or Gareth Pugh. With any luck these looks will filter down the fashion chain to the popular high-street chains.

Emerging trends

A recent Guardian article highlighted new trends in leather thanks to techniques to make leather lighter and thinner. Until now thick heavy leather has been the best quality, strong and manageable but often impractical beyond pants and jackets. Lighter leather has not always been achieved through good tanning and finishing; brittle and low-quality these hides have not been for quality garments. The Guardian failed to share any examples of men’s leather fashion which is where my research lead me to the work of Rick Owen, Gareth Pugh and Dominic Louis. Gareth’s work especially shows the same emerging trend toward light weight, versatile and unique fashions, especially shirts/tops. Even if you’re not brave enough to wear a leather shirt or pants, these designers have also broken out of the default jacket styles.

Let’s be (im)practical

My new favorite dream outfit is a jacket & breeches combo from Northbound. The jacket I want has matching trousers though they are actually breeches and need long socks to cover the calfs or tall boots to complete the look. You can see from the above images that the breeches have a “button up bib front”. They end just below the knees with buttons on the side seam for easy entry, and a lace for adjustment at the back waist. (Shown in white they are also available in black leather. The jacket is only available in black but there’s another style without the tails available in red leather).

Men's Corset Jacket by Northbound Leather

After a tiny bit of research, this look is likely from the pre-Victorian early 1800s, also called the Regency era, and this look is typical of a dandy. One famous dandy, Beau Brummell, is credited with establishing the wearing of full-length trousers and ties but this outfit would be right for him.

The jacket and even the breeches are too impractical for outside the goth scene (of course only a gay would be able to justify spending $2000 on a single-night outfit, even for halloween). I can’t imagine wearing that outfit to a Recon full fetish party, or the leather bar. So let me share with you some high-quality photos of my favorite pieces, the trousers I own.

Northbound Leather trousers featuring an exposed front-zipper and generous crotch pouch
Northbound Leather trousers featuring an exposed front-zipper and generous crotch pouch

The latest additional to my wardrobe from Northbound, these trousers have ample room in the crotch and an exposed silver zipper to highlight the pouch. Best of all is the saddle stitch in the rear which allows for the pants to sit nicely on your ass. There are also no regular pockets, just a small hidden pocket on the right with the opening just at the waist band, enough room for some money and a key. They came lined (which I altered) and straight boot-cut legs, fitting nice against the skin, though I’d prefer them tighter to the calfs like the ones below.

Northbound Leather trousers with triple-zippered front
Northbound Leather trousers with triple-zippered front

These super-tight leather trousers from Northbound Leather feature a triple-zipper codpiece crotch (two on the sides and one behind that helps keep the pants tight to the waist, and there’s a convenient hole so your junk sits inside the codpiece for when someone wants easy access). What you can’t see are the matching silver zippers on the outside ankles that pull the lower legs tight to the calfs. And they come unlined so that leather is against the skin. These are by far my favorite, but the double-zipper gives a more sexual look to the garment, so they are probably not for more formal use.

I have another pair of trousers, from Black Body Leather in Amsterdam, and while they are your basic 501-jeans style leather pants they are more practical (if boring) for the casual bar scene. The styles available from RoB Leather (a chain of shops around Europe) is very much the same and limited.

I haven’t mentioned tops much, and I know I can also explore alternatives to leather for those on a budget or just not risqué enough. Let’s save that for another article.