Leather or Textile Jackets
Leather or textile? It’s one of the most common rider questions and the debate goes on and on, but in the end, there is no overall right choice, just a right choice for each rider. Choosing which material suits you best is the most personal part of picking a motorcycle jacket. I know what you really want: a jacket that offers you the best in protection, comfort, and style. That’s what makes the choice so personal because you want your jacket to fit your own personal sense of style and riding. Can’t decide which option is best for you? Don’t worry, I won’t leave you in the dust, I’m here to help you weigh the pros and cons.
- Budget: The best solution would be to have a different jacket for every kind of riding you do and every kind of weather pattern you experience, but that would cost a lot of dough. Most of us can’t afford that luxury; therefore I need a jacket that can transition to fit all of our specific needs. I’m going to give it to you straight and let you know right now that if you are looking for a less costly alternative, textile will always be cheaper. Whichever material you choose, just remember that they all come in high-quality and low-quality versions. When it comes to riding, you need the best, and it’s definitely worth the cost when you think about it in terms of your safety. Remember, you get the quality you pay for, if you purchase gear cheap, you have to expect cheap gear.
- Protection: When it comes to leather, there’s no comparison to the protection. Leather offers you better impact protection and abrasion resistance. That doesn’t mean that textile won’t protect you too, it will, just not as well as leather can. While textile materials have advanced, leather still takes the gold. Make sure to check the thickness of your leather. In order to properly protect, leather should be at least 1.2 mm thick. Leather jackets have been a staple piece in the fashion world for decades, but you need proper motorcycle leather and not the cheap knock-off you’d find at the local mall.
- Weather: When it comes to varying weather conditions, textile may be the best way to go. Leather material is heavy and does not offer as much ventilation as textile jackets, making it not as practical for summer riding. If you will be riding in the heat and still want leather, most manufacturers do offer perforated options. In the cold, leather will keep you warm as it retains body heat and is wind resistant, while textile may require additional layering. In rain, leather can leave you soaking wet and your jacket ruined. Leather jackets can shrink and colour bleed when in contact with water, while textiles are often water resistant. Most riders, who prefer leather, carry a rain suit. Staying dry, warm, or cool, affects the comfort of your ride. Remember that discomfort on your motorcycle is a safety hazard and nothing, especially your jacket, should distract you on the road.
- Comfort & Fit: Whether you choose leather or textile, your jacket needs a snug fit. Leather sport jackets are more fitted to your body. This will keep your armour in place, which is extremely important in the event of a crash. Leather is also a softer material, which can prove to be more comfortable on your ride. Some textile jackets tend to be bulky, but then lighter in weight. Due to their lightweight properties, textile may offer you greater flexibility than leather. In this area each material has strong pros and cons so it will really come down to your personal preferences.
- Durability: With textile jackets, it’s usually one and done, meaning that you will still be protected for your first crash, but will probably need to replace it before your second. Leather is much more durable. You may have a few scuffs here and there, but after a crash, if cared for properly, leather jackets can actually last a lifetime. You may pay more up-front, but in the end, you will actually save money because it’s a one-time purchase vs. paying for multiple textile jackets throughout your lifetime.
- Care: While dirt is much more apparent on textile jackets than it is on leather, textile is much easier to clean. Most textile jackets can be thrown into the washer, while leather usually needs to be dry cleaned. Textile colours fade more quickly, but leather needs a lot of care to make it last. Leather needs to be properly cleaned and conditioned but is easier to patch and repair. If a textile jacket develops holes or is damaged, it typically requires replacement. Therefore even with proper care, the lifespan of a textile jacket is generally much shorter than that of a leather jacket.
- Speed: How fast you go can be the determining factor in the leather vs. textile debate. The higher your speed, the more I recommend leather. Textile jackets are usually better for commuters while leather is better for performance riding, it’s all about what style of riding you do, and what exactly you want and need from your jacket. Leather jackets cut the wind better, keeping you warm at top speeds, while textile jackets are better for transitioning to the needs of the daily commuter or adventure rider.
- Style: Your jacket shows off your individuality as a rider, so shop for a jacket that fits your style, and has the features you want and need. If you want to look vintage and classic, leather would be the choice for you, while textile offers a more modern look. Both materials are available in a variety of different colours with high-visibility reflective qualities to further protect you. Remember, the right jacket for you will offer proper protection and show off your personal sense of style.
- Combo: Don’t forget to look into a combination in best of both worlds. Yes, these days you have jacket options that offer you textile jacket panels for ventilation and leather panels for protection and durability.
For the most part, any motorcycle jacket your purchase will be a compromise and you have to choose which features are most important. In order to be comfortable on your ride, you might be giving up some protection. No one jacket will be perfect for every rider and style of riding. Safety and Comfort are the key deciding factors; choose wisely and stay safe!