Recommend me a leather jacket

MrBlue

Member
Hey everyone,

I was wondering if the kind and knowledgeable members of the VLJ forum would be able to recommend a leather jacket for me?

Below I'll detail what I'm looking for and hopefully you guys have some interesting ideas.

Location: I live in the UK, so purely from a logistics point of view, I'd prefer to buy from a UK based supplier because it makes returning easier. I might be making a trip to the USA next year summer, but that isn't certain.
Budget: Let's say up to £1100 - not sure how much that is in dollars but maybe around $1300
Colour: short answer dark brown or black
I own a dark brown Noble House BF-109 Jagdflieger jacket in horse hide, which I love. But, I'm looking for a jacket that is a little darker. Ideally I'd want a brown that is dark enough to look black in the right lighting.
I'm not sure whether a black jacket would look good on me. Reason being, I'm a fair skinned man with muddy blonde hair. Not sure how else to describe it. Maybe I'll say that I'd consider black but I'd want to see it on my first.
Style:
I like flight jackets. I like the A2 and G1, not really a fan of the MA2 though. I don't like the collar. I like jackets with either shirt collars (like the A2) or tall stand up collars.
I'm not opposed to motorcycle jackets. I don't like the Perfecto styled jackets because of the asymmetry - can't handle any asymmetry! I also am not sure about Cafe Racers because while they do have a standup collar, it is so thin and small.
I also think (and this might sound strange) that I prefer flight jackets to motorcycle jackets because I have such an orderly, organised personality. I'm not what you would call a rebel.
Fit:
Something close to my body. I've got a fairly athletic body, and I'd like something to show it off. I've heard that the A2, especially original contract A2s, tend to have a fairly boxy and bulky fit. Is this true?

Current frontrunners for me are the ELC Slender A2 and the ELC G1. My issue with the Slender A2 is that the colour might be too similar to the BF-109 jacket that I already own - I want something different. With the G1, I'm wondering whether the mouton collar makes it look less badass than the A2. But the fit of the G1 is apparently better.

I've had a look at the Aero Leather website - for some reason, the colour and the grain of the leather look off to me. Like, too shiny. Never seen one in real life though.
 

Greg Gale

Well-Known Member
I'd say G-1. It's fairly dark, and ideal for athletic builds. Also allows more freedom of movement. The mouton collar is badass, don't worry.

This being said perhaps you should consider buying an original instead of an ELC, it's also much cheaper.
 

MrBlue

Member
Thanks.

What do you guys think about ELC vs Aero Leather? Is ELC worth the extra cost?

EDIT: Problem with buying an original is finding one in my size. I'd consider it if I found a good one.
 

Brettafett

Well-Known Member
Both A-2 and G-1s are badass.
G-1 may be a good call for a number of reasons. One may be the fit. The bi-swing back opens up and makes the jacket quite comfortable to wear... practically.
G-1s made iconic thanks to Top Gun.

Secondhand originals can be found, but you have to go in with your eyes wide open. If you are lucky you win, However, bare in mind, these jackets have been worn, so may have smells, stains, may have jacket issues, knits, mouton collar, zipper, lining etc. Replacing these is not as easy as many claim. Here in the UK, there are only a couple of people who can/ will do it and its NOT cheap!
If you want it done properly you have to import the bits from US or Japan and your local tailor simply does not have the expertise to do it properly.
I know because Ive been down this road here in the UK.

If you are patient and find an original that fits and is in good condition, and don't mind just wearing it, then you should be fine with a bit of searching and patience.
You can still find original G-1s here in the UK on Ebay.
Eastman make a fantastic repro G-1 55J14, and you could buy a regular fit jacket to try. If it fits... great, if not you can return for another size or even have one made with added length.

A-2s have that classic WW2 fighter pilot heritage. Depending on your size, JaDubowmfg.com has one of the best high end A-2 repros on the market today. Especially for the price!
Lots of secondhand A-2s on Ebay and on these forums, but again, eyes open and check what you get.
Replacing or reconditioning these jackets is not easy and not cheap!

ELCs Slender is a nice generic jacket, but perhaps you want to get a russet jacket... something different. Eastman are a great bunch of guys, good customer service. Not cheap.

Also look at Bill Kelso's jackets. Another top end maker based in Greece, but ships to UK no problem. Good range of jackets, custom sizing to a degree. Customer service is a bit hit & miss, and communication sometimes lags, but the jackets are insanlety good. Horsehide comes in a dark seal, seal and russet. The Seal is a classic mid brown colour and the russet a lighter, reddy brown. All very authentic and will be different to your other jackets.
All their jackets will cater to a slimmer, fit.
 

MrBlue

Member
Thanks!

Wow - Bill Kelso's jackets look really amazingly good.

JaDubowmfg.com looks interesting, but the limited choice of colours makes it a no go for me.

I really like the look of the Bill Kelso Great Escape A2 - the Captain V Hilts one. However, I don't want the name badge or the arm patch. I see I could get a Rough Wear 27752 in Liberty Dark Seal without that stuff - although I suppose it would still not look the same as the V Hilts spec.

In an ideal world, I'd order a few jackets, try them on, and return the ones I don't want to keep for a full refund. I could probably do this with ELC although I'd contact them first to be sure it wouldn't be a problem.

But with Bill Kelso being so far away, if I order a jacket I think it would be difficult to return.
 

Brettafett

Well-Known Member
Yes, BK won't accept a return unless there's a fault. You have to be patient with them, because they don't always get back to you right away.

The Hilts jacket is iconic, ELC do a version also, but its over-the-top imo. And very expensive.
BK's Hilts jacket is a RW27752 in dark seal Liberty, so yes, you could just get that. However a Seal Liberty is more 'authentic' for most A-2s, or russet.

ELC should be happy with sending you a test jacket, Ive done this many times with them. Rob is great to deal with. Who knows, it may fit first time.
If you're a 42 chest, first try with ELC should be a 42 regular in the A-2 (you may/ may not need a long). You may need to go up one size for the G-1 though.

ELC does not always have stock of all jackets in a regular size. Best bet would be to call Rob (or Gary if you get ahold of him) and speak to them about what you want. Email is slower.
ELC may not be cheap, but they offer a great service. Usually.
 

mulceber

Well-Known Member
All excellent advice. If you’re leaning toward an A-2 and are choosing between Eastman and Aero, I think Eastman is worth the money, but I’d recommend their original contract jackets over any of the house jackets. More authentic for a bit more money, and if you find yourself catching the A-2 bug (which is much more pleasant than COVID), you’ll be more satisfied with it.

Bill Kelso is worth a try as well, as Brett has suggested. Their jackets are every bit the equal of Eastman’s, IMO, but £300 cheaper, and you’ll be able to get a jacket in the color you want with whatever measurements you want. On the whole, I prefer them. But the downside is no way to get a test jacket, a wait of several months while they produce your jacket, and spotty communication. Andy is VERY good at advising on sizing, however. BK also opens up your options, and you can choose one of the more comfortable contracts, like an Aero (Arco), Cable or Dubow without sacrificing the darker color you want.

Also, welcome to the board!
 
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MrBlue

Member
All excellent advice. If you’re leaning toward an A-2 and are choosing between Eastman and Aero, I think Eastman is worth the money, but I’d recommend their original contract jackets over any of the house jackets. More authentic for a bit more money, and if you find yourself catching the A-2 bug (which is much more pleasant than COVID), you’ll be more satisfied with it.

Bill Kelso is worth a try as well, as Brett has suggested. Their jackets are every bit the equal of Eastman’s, IMO, but £300 cheaper, and you’ll be able to get a jacket in the color you want with whatever measurements you want. On the whole, I prefer them. But the downside is no way to get a test jacket, a wait of several months while they produce your jacket, and little in the way of communication once the order is placed. Andy is VERY good at advising on sizing, however. BK also opens up your options, and you can choose one of the more comfortable contracts, like an Aero (Arco), Cable or Dubow without sacrificing the darker color you want.

Also, welcome to the board!
Thanks!

Yes you summed up what my thoughts are.

Eastman would be more... forgiving in that I could return a jacket as long as it is not made to order. Bill Kelso would be less forgiving in that returns are not possible, but, I could go with any colour and size combo I want.

What I'm probably going to do is continue thinking about it for a while. I always planned to buy the jacket towards the end of summer. So, by then, I need to decide on the mouton collar issue.

Really, its the mouton collar that decides it. If I want a mouton collar, I'll probably go with ELC G1. If I don't, then probably a BK A2 in Liberty Dark Seal. Not authentic I know!

EDIT: In terms of measurements, do you guys go to a tailor and get yourself measured?
 

Cocker

Well-Known Member
My two cents: if you are unsure about which style you prefer, or which one would suit you best, instead of getting one high end repro, why not get in touch with Shawn and get one A-2 AND one G-1 from him? He can work it to your spec, it'll be half the price for both jackets that you'll pay for one high end repro, and you'll still get two very good jackets. After that, if you're really into one of the two style, you could still get it from a high end repro manufacturer.
 

mulceber

Well-Known Member
Bill Kelso would be less forgiving in that returns are not possible, but, I could go with any colour and size combo I want.
I will say, there have been remarkably few instances of BK customers ending up with a jacket that didn’t fit. I can’t recall any off the top of my head. Just make sure to lock down the details with Andy. And you can measure with a friend/family member, if you have a tailor’s tape. Their website has a guide. Here’s another useful one from another site:
8967AAB5-9EC4-4784-A269-8B44986B74B4.jpeg


And I wouldn’t say dark seal is inauthentic, depending on the contract. If you order an Aero/Arco in dark seal with rust colored knits that would be very authentic.
 

MrBlue

Member
My two cents: if you are unsure about which style you prefer, or which one would suit you best, instead of getting one high end repro, why not get in touch with Shawn and get one A-2 AND one G-1 from him? He can work it to your spec, it'll be half the price for both jackets that you'll pay for one high end repro, and you'll still get two very good jackets. After that, if you're really into one of the two style, you could still get it from a high end repro manufacturer.
Sorry who is Shawn?
 

mulceber

Well-Known Member
The proprietor of Five Star Leather. Very nice guy, and his jackets have been improving by leaps and bounds since he got here. They run in then price range of $150-250, so they’re much cheaper than any of the prices discussed so far. Not a bad option for exploring, and his customer service is the best out there.
 

MrBlue

Member
Also, quick question.

Bill Kelso uses a leather designed to age quickly. As per their website:
Liberty horsehide is specially processed so that its color will fade quickly with time and wear allowing the lighter shade of the leather underneath to show through, including scratches and scuffs etc., just like vintage jackets. THIS IS INTENTIONAL AND BY NO MEANS A DEFECT OF THE LEATHER. This way it will age exactly like originals. We have a testimony from a WWII veteran that his A-2 jacket aged and developed “patina” in only six months of light wearing inside the cockpit of his plane. We have requested our tannery to adjust their tanning technique accordingly so that our leathers can achieve the same effect in approximately the same period of time.
But, does this affect the total lifespan of the garment? I'd be a bit worried that the jacket would wear out quicker because of this.
 

mulceber

Well-Known Member
Also, quick question.

Bill Kelso uses a leather designed to age quickly. As per their website:


But, does this affect the total lifespan of the garment? I'd be a bit worried that the jacket would wear out quicker because of this.
Nope - ok, technically the answer is “nobody knows,” since BK has only been producing Liberty for about 5 years now, but we have no reason to think it will. What they mean is that the pigment that gives the leather it’s color is designed to wear away sooner than most other leather would, giving it the worn look. The integrity of the leather remains intact.
 

Brettafett

Well-Known Member
Also, quick question. Bill Kelso uses a leather designed to age quickly. As per their website: But, does this affect the total lifespan of the garment? I'd be a bit worried that the jacket would wear out quicker because of this.
Not at all. In fact I wouldn't read too much into that. I have three BKs, and none have aged much at all... Same can be said for ELC's Warhorse. These will 'age' or wear in, depending on how and how much you wear it.
Also, Fivestar may be a good call. If you get the A-2, get the Doniger in goat.
 

mulceber

Well-Known Member
Ha, Jan, you and I seem to be on the same wavelength always lol
Funny how that always seems to happen. ;)

My reservation about 5 Star is that the Doniger is the only contract they’ve really nailed down, and the Doniger’s collar is...an acquired taste. Also I’d be worried that Shawn would be so nice that he’d be reluctant to tell a newcomer to A-2s “no no no, that’s ACTUALLY how this jacket is supposed to fit,” and Mr. Blue could end up with a jacket that’s too big.
 

Cocker

Well-Known Member
Also I’d be worried that Shawn would be so nice that he’d be reluctant to tell a newcomer to A-2s “no no no, that’s ACTUALLY how this jacket is supposed to fit,” and Mr. Blue could end up with a jacket that’s too big.
I had to read it twice to get it right! Indeed, Shawn could do that, just take the dimensions that MrBlue wants without telling him that it may look "off" for an A-2 jacket. Now, I suppose that since you've talked about it here, MrBlue could always check with Shawn that he's not too far off a normal A-2 sizing and find a good compromise.
 

mulceber

Well-Known Member
True that. I'm mostly thinking back to when I first bought an A-2. The '30s/'40s fit is not one that seems natural to most people nowadays, and Andy almost had to persuade me that I should go for a 42. Then, when I got it, I thought it was too short, and I had to have both Andy and friends in the VLJ community reassure me that it was a good fit.

Man, looking back, I was stubborn! :p
 
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