Why do Motorcyclists wear Leather?

Motorcyclist in leather jacket poses on chopper

Motorcyclists know that the right gear can make all the difference between a soft slide or a broken bone, road rash, or even death after a crash. But what makes leather the first choice for most motorcyclists? And why do almost all motorcyclists swear by leather?

Protection & Style are the main reasons that motorcyclists wear leather. Bikers wear leather jackets because leather offers an extra layer of defense if the rider should crash, helping prevent broken bones and road rash. Leather also looks so dam cool on a motorcyclist while they cruise down that highway.

Let’s break down why leather is clearly the best choice for motorcyclists, what are the pros and cons of leather, and if there are any other materials that show promise to perform as well as leather.

Why Leather is so good at Protecting Motorcyclists in crashes

Leather is a natural material that offers a unique combination of stretchiness and durability. It is this uniqueness that makes it so great at protecting motorcyclists in a crash, despite being a relatively thin material. Bikers wear leather because it has an amazing amount of giving which is necessary to absorb the energy from a crash. This means that if you fall off your motorcycle wearing leather pants as opposed to jeans or a leather jacket, chances are you’ll slide much further as leather can stretch up to 8% of its initial length without tearing!

Most motorcycle jackets and motorcycle pants actually have thicker areas of leather that offer more resistance during a fall or impact. This makes sure that no matter how hard the surface rocks underneath the rider’s body weight, you’ll slide right over without the leather jacket ripping. motorcycle riders wear leather because they know that sometimes the ground can feel like a brick wall, and as such, it would be wise to wear as much protection as possible. And the best protection is a leather jacket.

Leather Vs Other Materials

Leather Vs. Vegan Leather for Protecting Motorcyclists

Group of cows in intensive livestock farm land, Uruguay

If we know leather is one of if not the best materials for taking a slide off your motorcycle; how does vegan leather compare?

Artificial leather, vegan leather, or faux leather is actually a really great vegan alternative to animal leather. It is more commonly used in moto shoes, boots, and gloves than motorcycle jackets and pants. But there are still some good options around.

Vegan leather is actually more cost-efficient and though it is not genuine leather, it still provides good abrasion resistance for motorcyclists. So next time you’re looking for a motorcycle jacket, it might be worth looking at the vegan leather options!

Leather Vs. Textile for Protecting Motorcyclists

When considering the purchase of protective wear for motorcycling, we essentially have two materials to choose from: leather and textiles. Textile material usually comprises a ‘shell’ and a ‘liner’. The shell is the outermost layer that travels away from the rider in the event of an accident; it’s designed to absorb impact forces and protect against penetration by sharp objects.

A motorcycle leather jacket liner, meanwhile, is located close to the body (underneath the shell), where it performs such tasks as wicking moisture away from the skin. Sometimes this membrane will be supplemented with an insulating element for extra comfort.

The primary benefit of leather is its abrasion resistance; because even when punctured it tends not to tear like textile does (in the event of an accident). As well as this, leather is waterproof (for a certain amount of time); it stretches (without losing its protective qualities) and is comfortable to wear. It may even make you look like part of a well-oiled machine – if not one about to barrel roll down Mount Tamborine.

The flipside, however, is that leather does not breathe very well and in hot climates can become unbearably hot and unpleasant. Also, it costs more than textile materials and requires more care in order to maintain the integrity of the material when not under extreme stress.

Leather jackets won’t stretch out over time as much as textile jackets, which is a good thing because the desired level of protection doesn’t change from crash to crash, but one’s position on the bike does. So if you’re riding behind someone and have your arms stretched out for an hour whilst wearing a leather jacket, that’ll be different from when you’re hunched over into a tank-slapper at speed. The break-in period helps conditions leather so that it can move with the rider without restricting movement or causing harm.

Benefits of Leather, Excluding Protection

Leaving aside crash protection, leather has a number of other benefits that make it a favorable material for motorcyclists. For one thing, it always looks incredible in photographs. Those images of the metal beasts colliding into each other with no regard for their riders? You can bet they’re wearing leathers. Or at least some

Leather is a very durable material that can withstand most weather conditions. It does really well in the cold and can be opened up to be breathable in the hot.

Leather has a certain waterproof quality to it that keeps you somewhat dryer in a light shower than other materials. Fully waterproofed leather can be a lot more expensive though!

Leather also has the ability to keep it looking clean and tidy no matter how much sand, grime, or muck gets thrown onto the material. There is something about it that just looks good, even if it is dirty.

Pros and cons of Leather


  • Offers an extra layer of defense if the rider should crash, helping prevent broken bones and road rash.
  • Won’t stretch as much as textiles, meaning that whatever level of protection is desired stays consistent with any crash.
  • The break-in period helps to mold it into a form that doesn’t restrict movement or cause harm.
  • There’s something about wearing a jacket made of fine hides- something intrinsic and almost spiritual – that connects motorcyclists back to their earliest roots. Something about wearing textile jackets on a motorcycle feels fake.


  • More expensive than other material options for jackets, such as textile blends.
  • Easier to damage than textile jackets since leather will wear so easier during a crash.
  • Has a longer break-in period, which can be hard for some who do not have patience.
  • Maybe less protective if the leather jacket is not broken in properly and the individual crashes while wearing it.
  • More expensive than other material options. A leather jacket is so much more expensive than a textile jackets.
  • Has a longer break-in period, which can be hard for some who do not have patience.
  • Maybe less protective if the leather jacket is not broken in properly and the individual crashes while wearing it.

Leather as a cultural icon for motorcyclists

Wearing a leather jacket or motorcycle overalls is as much of a statement as it is practical. In the same way that skiers wear bright-colored jackets and “ski-pant” combinations to make them visible on the slopes, motorcyclists have adopted this safety measure for bikes by wearing highly visible clothing but taking it a step further with vibrant colors and decorative features.

Leather has been adopted so strongly by motorcyclists because of its cultural significance. And let’s face it, it looks awesome! Of course, when you look at pieces of clothing such as leather vests, these are really just for show. bikers wear leather vests as part of the culture, not so much for safety.

The Leather Jacket as a Fashion Statement

Bikers women in leather jackets with motorcycles
Bikers women in leather jackets with motorcycles

Many leather jackets are a fashion statement and they come in a wide variety of styles. There is leather, leather, and fur, leather and leather, leather and leather with fur trim, leather and leather with fur sleeves, leather and leather with fur hoods, leather and leather with faux fur sleeves or trim or hoods.

Young men might wear them as if they were a camouflage-patterned military coat while some might wear it to show off their masculinity. It’s also seen as an anti-establishment statement for people who don’t follow the norms of society.

Bikers wear leather vests, boots, and really anything to continue this fashion statement. Music artists have influenced leather jacket fashion trends, where leather jackets are worn with ripped jeans or leather pants.

In fact, even pink leather jackets have become popular among the youth. I have to say, I don’t have the confidence to wear pink leather jackets, but each to their own!

Leather Jackets in Movies

  • The leather jacket worn by Marlon Brando in “The Wild One” has become an icon of American pop culture.
  • James Dean’s leather jacket in “Rebel Without a Cause” is one of the most famous leather jackets ever to be produced.
  • Humphrey Bogart wears leather jackets in his movies such as “Casablanca” and “The Maltese Falcon.”
  • John Travolta wore a leather jacket on the cover of “Rolling Stone” magazine which became an iconic leather jacket image.
  • Richard Roundtree and Don Johnson (Miami Vice) leather jackets also helped to establish leather jackets as a fashion statement.

History of Leather Motorcycles Jackets

In the 1950s, bikers created a style of clothing that is still being worn by motorcycle riders today. The leather jacket or coat has been a staple of biker culture ever since this time period. In present-day society, bikers have become the subject of controversy and even fear among non-bikers; however, many people don’t understand the actual “history of biker gangs.”

Bikers are commonly thought of as being criminals or gang members that are violent by nature. However, bikers have also been misjudged in other ways. When they were first becoming popular, bikers were even regarded as sexual deviants. Bikers often wore leather jackets because it was the easiest type of clothing to obtain in post-war America.

The leather jacket that bikers wore were obtained through various means; many would get them handed down from family members or friends, others bought used leather jackets because they were affordable, and some could even get their hands on stolen leather jackets. When bikers began wearing their leather jackets, they would often get into fights with other bikers or even non-bikers that noted that there was a sexual nature to the act of wearing leather.

About The Author

daniel and sarah on motorcycle

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