How Much Should You Spend On A Leather Jacket?

A leather jacket is a staple piece of any fall and winter wardrobe, but figuring out how much a leather jacket should cost can be a bit of a seasonal stressor. It's such an essential for me that I have several Mike & Chris leather hoodies and recently purchased a Mackage Kiera with a removable hood and a zipper-happy Elizabeth and James leather moto jacket, both of which were nabbed for a fraction of the retail cost at sample sales.

Finding your ideal leather jacket price isn't like baking — it's not an exact science and there is no set formula. You can, however, easily come up with a figure that works for you once you consider the many factors that go into purchasing a leather jacket, from the fit to the color to the style to the price.

But first, you have to come up with a budget, since quality pieces can cost anywhere from $200 to $2,000, and then seek out the perfect coat from there.

The next questions: Are you buying a real leather jacket? Are you going with a vegan option, which is much different than faux and is considerably cheaper? Or do you want a luxe, name brand?

The fabulous Ashley Massis, a former fashion buyer, stylist, and consultant, told me, "A quality leather jacket can range anywhere from $300 to upwards of $1000 or more. When you're looking at your budget, a few things need to be taken into consideration for the perfect piece."

Those "things" include the fit. That's basic. Then there is the style. You should aim for classic cuts, like bomber or motorcycle, as they are timeless. Also, make sure the length of the arm sleeves is comfortable and fits well.

Massis also said, "If you are looking to spend more for a classic rather than trendy style, aim for a piece that sits at the waist rather than the longer versions we are seeing on the runway."

That's critical intel there. Trendy is not what you want to spend a rent payment on. Grab something that has trickled down from the runways at Forever21 and splurge on an investment classic.

I paid less than $100 for this faux leather bomber from Garage. It's warm, it's stylish, and looks and feels like leather. While not super trendy, I wasn't sure how often I'd wear this cut, so I was frugal.

For the purposes of this discussion, if you are going to spend around $400 or so, you have a few more things to ask yourself. Will it last from season to season? How well is it made?

These are the other important things you need to understand about why a quality jacket will cost what it does, thus justifying the cost.

1. Materials

Choosing the right material or skin is paramount! "When looking at a jacket over $400, a lot of people think that leather made from cow skin is the most popular," Massis said. "This is a myth, as bovine leather takes the longest to break in and it is the hardest to maintain its softness once you get to that level. Lambskin is the softest material, but I personally prefer goatskin because it is durable, soft, and tans well for coloring."

2. The Finish Line + Tans Lines

Massis says that another critical thing to think of is the tanning and finishing process applied to the skin. "The two main methods are chrome and vegetable tanning. Chrome tanning is a faster process, so less expensive jackets use this process. However, it is absolutely terrible for the environment." So that's something to consider. Since you might be spending some decent loot at an upscale store, these are all questions that the salesperson should be able to answer.

"Vegetable tanning is the classic version of tanning," Massis tells me. "It takes longer, thus is more expensive. It's better for the environment and is a durable tan process so it is less likely to scratch or crack. Because of its less harsh treatment, it is the first to stain, so like any quality piece or staple piece you may have, you have to take care of it. It will be noticeable if you treat it poorly."

3. The Lining

If the jacket is lined poorly and cheaply, then it's likely that the hide is cheap, too. "The more expensive jackets are quality lined, have tougher stitching and thread fabric, which means it will take more to have it wear," Massis says. Clearly, a more expensive jacket is built to last, meaning you can take the cost per wear into account. If you have it for five years, that can shake out to pocket change per wear.

4. Details

Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

Things like the buttons and buckles need to be quality, since they can rust when wet. "A quality piece of metal will be coated or painted to have rust and wear protection," Massis says.

5. Go Vegan

Blank Nyc Leather Jacket, $108, Blank Nyc

If you want a vegan leather jacket, Will Redgate, VP of [BLANKNYC], said the average cost is around $100 to $150. The price can be higher based on detail, but shouldn't go above $200. The style above is $108 and is available here.

About vegan versions, he tells me, "The production needs to be precise to ensure proper fit. They typically have a fair amount of hardware which brings up the price. Good quality vegan leather fabric is worth a little extra because it looks authentic and is more durable."

Vegan Leather Moto Jacket, $168, Blank Nyc

When committing to the spend, Redgate says, "The first thing people should look for is the quality of the fabric. It should look and feel similar to real leather. Fit is crucial. It is also subjective, but we recommend slim sleeves, higher armholes, and shorter in the waist. Zipper details, belting, and front closures are all personal preferences but look at them closely when deciding what style to buy."

The moto version above looks real, doesn't it?

So there you have it. You need to come up with your budget and then consider the fit and fabric and go from there. It seems like $400 is the right price for a leather jacket will last forevs.

Images: shesaysboo/Fotolia; Amy Sciarretto (6); Courtesy of Saks Off Fifth (1); [BLANKNYC] (2)