Leather vs Textile:
What’s better for motorcycle riding?
Are you overwhelmed by the different styles and designs of leather or textile motorcycle jackets? We don’t blame you.
From waxed cotton, textiles, leather to denim and everything in between, we wanted to clear the air and see what type of jacket is best for riding. Our passion is riding in style and comfort and if yours is too, this will make your life easier and ride better when deciding between leather or textile motorcycle jackets.
Leather Motorcycle Jackets:
There’s something to be said about the everlasting partnership of motorbikes and leather. A timeless item that has made its way throughout the decades, the eternal cool-factor of leather jackets never seem to go out of style. Whilst iconic Hollywood actors, musicians, motorcyclists and rebels alike have repped the leather biker jacket for fashionable reasons, there’s a reason it’s remained a staple wardrobe essential for men and women. Two of our signature leather styles, The Isla and the Fly By Night, have even been recognised as “revolutionising the biking community” by Vogue Australia!
Pros: Leather comes in various hides and thickness, and not only does it form to fit the wearer with age, it is naturally abrasion resistant if using appropriate hides. It is used for racing suits for riders who crash regularly at high speeds and is considered the toughest material for riders. If you look after your leather jacket, it can last a lifetime.
Sheepskin leather jackets are soft, supple and lightweight – suitable for fashion garments but NOT motorcycle riding. It is naturally a much thinner hide and has very little abrasion resistance.
Cons of Leather:
Leather can be hot in warm climates, is heavier than its textile counterparts and requires some care and maintenance for it to stay in good condition.
It is more expensive than textile choices.
It is not naturally waterproof, however there are now products on the market for waterproofing all materials.
Cowhide leather: An ideal thickness of cowhide leather for motorcycle riding is between 1.1-1.5mm, is durable and easy to look after. It can be soft, thick and has good abrasion resistance, which makes it a perfect choice for motorcycle apparel.
All our leather jackets are constructed of 1.1-1.3mm top grain cowhide, such as the Isla Jacket as pictured (left). Our Dakota and Byron Jackets are carefully crafted with Nubuck, also cowhide leather that is buffed to give the look and feel of suede. It is stronger than suede but still resembles that smooth, velvety quality.
Kangaroo leather is more abrasion resistant than cowhide of the same thickness, and more flexible. It is naturally resistant to moisture and so is less likely to lose its shape or degrade over time. It is thinner, approximately 0.9mm, is lighter to wear and considerably more expensive.
Buffalo leather jackets have similar abrasion resistance to cowhide but can be stiffer to wear. The hide has a more pronounced pattern.
Goatskin leather jackets is are not as thick as cowhide or buffalo and has less abrasion resistance. Its suppleness and waterproofing qualities make it a preferred choice for motorcycle gloves.
Waxed Cotton Motorcycle Jackets:
Waxed cotton jackets have had a recent resurgence in popularity again following the popularity of retro motorcycle styles. It was originally introduced to motorcycle riders as a suitable material for weather conditions, ie. its wind and water repellency. Not all waxed cotton is the same however, and varying thicknesses will give different abrasion resistance levels. Waxed cotton is a thinner fabric than leather, and so easy to add layers of technical features, such as protective and thermal liners.
Our waxed cotton range including our women’s Aspendale Motorcycle Jacket and our men’s Black Hawk Motorcycle Jacket all come with full DuPont™ Kevlar® fibers Lining, CE-approved removable armour, Reissa® waterproof liner and removable liners for extra insulation.
Pros: Waxed cotton is a windproof and water resistant material originally made for fisherman. Added layers of protective materials will make this jacket comparable to leather in abrasion resistance. It’s naturally lightweight, breathable and a casual alternative to leather.
Cons: Waxed cotton absorbs dirt, and is harder to clean than leather or other fabrics. The waxed cotton also requires consistent wax reapplication to maintain the quality.
Textile Motorcycle Jackets
If you’re after a lightweight and comfortable motorcycle jacket that’s about as versatile as it is practical, textile motorcycle jackets are hard to beat. Most textile jackets (all of ours do at least!) come with abrasion resistance and water repellent layers, so you can feel confident wearing them throughout the seasons and various terrain. Textile jackets are easily worn all year round with their breathable, versatile features, and can be tailored to suit various climates.
Pros: Textile moto jackets usually feature removable thermal layers and waterproof membranes, which often results in a jacket that can suit both cooler and warmer weather conditions. They’re lightweight, easy to wear, versatile and breathable. Some textile jackets such as our The Mondello Jacket and the British Trench Jacket, have Dupont Kevlar Lining with removable armour and water-resistant layers, crafted in a trendy, flattering fit.
Cons: Textile jackets although versatile, aren’t naturally abrasion resistant, and require more layers for protection and waterproofing – qualities that naturally occur in leather. Although these are versatile pieces that can be customised to suit your needs, these jackets will require more additional materials and features to compare with leather jackets.
Best Value For Your Money?
Textile and waxed cotton motorbike jackets are usually cheaper than leather motorbike jackets, and unlike leather jackets, textile jackets are more adaptive to different climate conditions. You’ll most likely receive a lower priced jacket with all the qualities and features you need in textile jackets, but don’t forget about the timeless quality of fine leather, and their extensive lifetime.
Some motorcyclists keep leather jackets for 20 years, so perhaps long-lasting materials may end up more affordable in the long run.
The Comfort Levels
Depending on the type and quality, leather will soften and mould to the rider’s body. They say leather ages like a fine wine, and the better the quality, the longer your leather jacket will last.
However, depending on the climate, leather can feel heavy on the bike and retain heat. Textile jackets are often better for warmer conditions, as they are more lightweight, breathable and as man-made materials, have features to increase air flow when riding.
The Highest Safety Ratings?
There’s a reason the leather biker jacket has stuck around all these years as a long-running favourite of the moto community. The natural protective qualities of leather including abrasion resistance and mild water resistance allow riders quality levels of protection without inserting extra technical features into the materials. There are also waterproofing products now available for leather making this choice easier.
However, textile jackets are becoming more sophisticated with additional technical capabilities – aramid fibres woven within textile fabrics, Cordura, Super fabrics, as well as waterproof linings and coatings to offer the same protective qualities as leather. Apart from fabrics, the other most important factor in protection is armour, which can easily be incorporated into both jacket styles.
To summarise, both jackets are protective – leather jackets naturally carry more protective qualities, whereas textile jackets can easily be tailored to incorporate these same features.
So which style is better?
If you’ve already got a good, textile jacket, adding a leather or nubuck jacket to your collection is a great idea. They’re comfortable and stylish without the extra weight and increased flexibility of the removable armour. Both textile and leather are great for riding whilst remaining stylish — perfect for a daily ride or a weekend trip on the open road when you want to be free but remain stylish, be comfortable and be yourself.