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How often should you wash your leather jacket? Experts chime in, plus 11 options to shop

We've found all the right stuff to channel your inner T-Bird.
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It's not too cold for a full-on, puffy winter coat, but it's not warm enough to strut around in our best summertime shorts. Enter: a tried-and-true transitional piece, the classic leather jacket.

Leather jackets first originated in the early 1900s, worn by aviators and military members. Since then, the leather jacket has expanded into different genres of clothing, including oversized options with a slouched silhouette, leather puffers, motorcycle jackets and more.

We spoke with Alwrld owner Philip Pavkov and stylist Mallory Morris about the pros and cons of faux versus real leather, how to best take care of a leather jacket and which ingredients are a certified no-go when it comes to cleaning a piece.

The faux vs. real debate | Cleaning and maintenance tips| Styling tips | Are there affordable leather jackets? | Do leather jackets make good transitional pieces? | Faux leather jackets to shop | Genuine leather jackets to shop

The faux versus real debate. Which kind of leather jacket is better?

"There’s benefits to both and there’s downsides to both," Pavkov summarizes.

While genuine leather jackets have longevity, the process to create 100 percent leather or products that have real leather as part of their fabric makeup is a "dirty process," according to Pavkov. "That’s kind of the negative side of leather."

Faux leather, on the other hand, lacks longevity and needs to be replaced after a short period of time. However, the process of creating products with it is less detrimental to the environment.

How should I clean my leather jacket?

You don't want to ruin it after one load of laundry if you're spending some serious money on a leather jacket. "It does take a little bit more care than your typical T-shirt that you just throw in the wash," says Pavkov.

When spot-treating your leather jacket, Pavkov recommends using a cleaner with all-natural ingredients.

"There’s a bit of a maintenance that goes along with leather," Pavkov says. "So oiling it, keeping it properly moisturized and things like that, allows your leather to have a much longer, healthier life than letting it dry out and crack and get dirty like that."

Morris takes a more generous approach to washing leather jackets, which she notes that others might find "gross."

"When it comes to my jackets, I do not wash them often at all," she said. "I'll go wearing a jacket, perhaps 20 to 25 occasions before I'm like, okay, maybe I should wash it. And depending, of course, [on] the niceness of the jacket, I'll always clean it and either hang dry it or I get it dry cleaned."

Letting your leather jacket go between washes can add to its longevity, according to Morris. She advises against washing after wearing it to just run errands or a day out on the town.

"Realistically, it's not getting that dirty and it can go through a bunch of wears," Morris says. "I think also wearing it in and giving it that love is what brings quality to a leather jacket as well. Letting it breathe and not washing it as consistently as you would wash your other pieces. Not in a gross way, in a loving way."

Leather CPR Cleaner and Conditioner

If your jacket is getting to the point of no return, this product might be the key to restoring its quality. This cleaner and conditioner can be used on a number of leather products, including shoes, furniture, car seats and jackets, so you'll get multiple uses out of it.

"CPR is creamy smooth and a breeze to apply," said one reviewer, adding that there's "no stickiness, no glossy coating. It absorbs into the leather and truly softens it and brings it back to life."

Coach Leather Moisturizer

Coach recommends testing this moisturizer on an inconspicuous spot of your jacket, such as the inside of a pocket, to ensure this won't leave stains or ruin the exterior of your jacket. They then advise dabbing amounts onto a washcloth and spread it around the jacket. One reviewer loves this because it "extends product lifetime," while another one loves it because it "keeps leather safe and soft."

Caron and Doucet Natural Leather Oil Conditioner

When used often enough, this oil and conditioner can help prevent and resolve cracking and dry leather, according to the brand. This all-natural, non-toxic solution to restoring your leather products is "easy to apply" and leaves your products with "new-like leather," according to reviewers.

How to style a leather jacket

When it comes to styling your leather jacket, there's a myriad of inspiration pictures on social media. However, Morris gave tips on how to dress up (or down) a jacket, depending on the occasion.

"For me personally, I'm all about layering," Morris says. Morris layers leather jackets with a button-down shirt or a "lengthy" tee underneath and a blazer on top for a double jacket look. "I've really loved because it's kind of unique — it adds a bunch of depth to the outfit, it's kind of unexpected in a way and it just looks like you've put a lot of thought into the outfit."

Attempting this style is easy, according to Morris, because "really you're just using three super basic pieces that most everyone, if not everyone, already has in their closet."

When it comes to dressing a leather jacket down, Morris worries less about layering and more about utilizing just the jacket as a top. Pair it with a pair of jeans and your favorite sneakers and voila!

"[It] doesn't matter what's underneath, [it] doesn't matter what's going on under the outfit — the jacket is the top and that's all there is to it," Morris says. "It looks put together, it's casual, it takes no thought, but you look stylish, no matter how you're doing it."

Is there an affordable way to buy a real leather jacket?

For a more unique and already well-loved leather jacket, Morris recommends going to your local thrift store, flea market or checking out estate sales. This way, you can "skip" the breaking in period and purchase a quality jacket at an affordable price.

"As far as leather jacket shopping, unless you want an investment piece for the rest of your life, which is great too, but if you're looking to find a good one on a good dime, I think thrifting one is beyond the best options," says Morris.

Is a leather jacket a good transitional piece?

Wearing a leather jacket as a transitional piece can be hit or miss, depending on the weather outside. While they can sometimes be a hefty and comparable option to a light coat, warmth depends on two things, according to Morris.

"It's just about feeling the thickness and feeling the quality of the outer leather," she says. These two factors attribute to the overall warmth of the piece.

Faux leather jackets to shop

Women's Cropped Faux Leather Shacket

Available in a black or light brown color, this cropped leather jacket is perfectly paired with high-waisted jeans. With two front pockets, this leather jacket leans into simplicity as its main selling point. Reviewers recommend staying true to size when ordering and love it because it's "very soft and buttery on the outside and is lined with a nice black satin fabric."

Target's The Future Collective Oversized Faux Leather Jacket

For office days and nights out on the town, turn to this oversized faux leather blazer to outfit you for any occasion. Reviewers love this leather blazer because it is "versatile" and able to go with slacks, a mini skirt or other casual outfits. Falling just below the hips, this blazer is a looser and less firm leather jacket compared to moto or cropped versions that are also popular. On the plus side, it has pockets! "This blazer is a classic that you’ll wear year after year. It goes with everything," said one reviewer.

LY VAREY LIN Faux Leather Motorcycle Jacket

"I always get compliments," associate social media editor Dani Musacchio said about this jacket each time she wears it out and about. The brand warns against dry cleaning and machine washing this jacket, as it should only be hand washed and hang dry.

This jacket boasts a lot of the traditional features, including a zipper closure. For individuals who want a lengthier version, opt for this non-cropped one.

Express Croc Faux Leather Cropped Jacket

Editorial assistant Shannon Garlin notes that Express makes high-quality leather jackets, having owned one similar to this from the brand for over a decade. With a zipper front, Express recommends layering this jacket, leaning into the style tips Morris gave above. Or, you can zip it shut to create a more laid-back fit.

Abercrombie & Fitch Vegan Leather Moto Jacket

Available in four different colors, from a classic black hue to varying shades of brown and cream, this leather jacket requires extra care, as it cannot be machine washed or dried, nor dry cleaned. Reviewers note that this jacket fits a little on the larger side, which is perfect for layering, but when wanting to wear with thin t-shirts, they recommend sticking true to size. "This leather moto jacket is all I hoped it would be! The fit is true to size and the quality is great," said one reviewer.

Noize Cropped Shearling Vegan Leather Jacket

Similar to Levi's Sherpa Trucker Jacket, this vegan leather jacket from Noize embodies most of the same features, including a sherpa lining on the inside, including sherpa borders on the outer seams. "This is definitely a statement piece that me and my friends love," said one reviewer. Pair this cropped jacket with high waisted pants or a dress, to accentuate the length.

Genuine leather jackets to shop

Barney's Originals Real Leather Jacket

With a matte finish, this leather jacket has more of a regular fit, according to the brand and reviewers, so staying true to size will not be a problem, or you can size up if you're wanting to layer. "Everything about this jacket exceeded my expectations. The fit is perfect and the leather is soft and good quality," said one reviewer.

Quince 100% Leather Motorcycle Jacket

Whether you're gripping the handles, sitting in the passenger seat or hoping to simply embody your inner adrenaline junkie, rock any look with this genuine leather jacket from Quince. The brand notes that this jacket has a slim fit, meaning sizing up might be required if you want to layer with this jacket. Outfitted with details such as zipper pockets, a collar and a hem complete with a belt, it doesn't get much more biker chick than this. "The style, fit, and quality of this leather jacket speaks 'high cost' yet so affordable," said one reviewer.

Lucky Brand Classic Leather Moto Jacket

Made with lamb leather, this genuine leather jacket from Lucky Brand is outfitted with details such as zippers lining the sleeves stopping just above the wrist, buttons on the collar and an off center zippered front. Now on sale, this jacket has more of a slim fit, so if you're looking to wear it oversized, the brand recommends sizing up.

The Jacket Maker Women's Cityscape Leather Biker Jacket

With a ribbed-like front and snakeskin-like sleeves, this imprinted leather jacket screams biker chic. Whether you're riding shotgun or putting the pedal to the medal yourself, this jacket has a slim fit. Side and front zippers are the only details, giving it an overall simplistic look.

The Jacket Maker Alison Black Leather Biker Jacket

SEO commerce writer Jannely Espinal names this as her all-time favorite genuine leather jacket.

"While it's heavy, the construction of this leather jacket is first-class," she said. "I love the little details and pocket additions including the coin pocket, inside compartments, side pockets and more. The zippers give it that extra edgy and rough look but what I love the most about this leather piece is the added warmth. I can easily wear this during mid-50s weather and feel comfortable. It's my treasure and I just love all the closures. It's perfection!"

Meet the experts

  • Philip Pavkov is the founder of the brand ALWRLD, that specializes in sustainable apparel for both men and women.
  • Mallory Morris is a stylist based in Los Angeles. Morris also also has a vintage jewelry brand, named Un Autre Tour, where she curates vintage jewelry to sell.