Vintage vs. New: How To Pick Out a Jacket

Everyday I speak to potential buyers of leather jackets.  The two most common inquiries by buyers relate to sizing and whether to buy a vintage jacket or a new one.  The answers would seem obvious to both questions, but this is not the case.  Firstly sizing is about the most difficult issue when dealing with clothing.  Buying online does not allow for trying on a jacket to test the fit.  How do you figure out if something is going to fit?  What do you do if the garment doesn’t fit and how do you avert problems before they happen?  It would seem simple enough to measure yourself or a garment but until you do it rarely does the reality sink in that there are many  ways to measure and it is not an exact science.

Firstly I have made a low rent video on how to measure yourself.  Figuring out your size and body type is about the most difficult component of shopping via the internet.  My video while humorous is only just the primer on self measurement…

I often refer to it when a customer calls me trying to figure out if something fits.  Secondly measuring is a two person sport.  It is virtually impossible to measure yourself without the help of a second person.  I always recommend that you measure yourself and you measure a garment that is similar in design to the one your purchasing.  I personally like my customers to send me a picture of themselves from the flat front on view and from the side in order to evaluate the body type.   Real clothes hounds know their measurements but most of us have barely a clue.  It does not help that sizing has become completely dishonest today.  Even though WW 2 required a new set of standards and measurements for garments to cloth the millions of lads going off to war, it appears modern manufacturers have skewed true measurements to appease the growing obesity epidemic.  Nowhere does this become more apparent then when I am comparing vintage (true) measurements to modern garments.  This adds a further complexity when someone is ordering a jacket.  They may believe they are a size 42 when in fact they are a size 48.  They may believe they are a Medium or an XL without any clues what those sizes mean.  Even more tricky is trying to compare measurements.  If you measure a garment with a drop shoulder, or a shoulder pad, your arm measurement will differ to a raised shoulder line.  Ultimately the safest way to figure out your size is to try on a bunch of jackets that are sized and similar in style at a store and noting the measurements of the jacket (short of trying on the actual garment you wish to purchase).  I recommend two things when measuring:  Get a friend to help and do it a bunch of times or,  even better go to a suit store and get fitted or measured by a professional.

Number two on the recommendation list is find a similar garment to what you want and take the two dimensional measurements of that garment on the floor.  For example my jackets  have an average 4 inches of extra room in the chest for movement typical of vintage jackets.  If your chest measurement iis a 38, then my jacket measurement would likely be 42 or 2 x 21 inches on the chest.  Seems complex eh?  The real key is to know yourself.  Go to a tailor.  Acknowledge your build and any freakish body dimensions you may have.  If you have monkey arms accept it and order extra long arms (typically around 26 inches) if you have wide hips and a narrow chest you must note it.  And if you have a big belly you better mention it because many vintage cuts will not fit at all!  And for the bodybuilder set…if you don’t note it I can guarantee it wont fit because it is very hard to accommodate huge muscles.  Part of my strategy is to have stores globally where you can try on a jacket.  Short of that I am working on cotton mockups for paying customers to try on before ordering.  Hopefully there wont be too many issues here.

Now to point number 2.  Vintage or custom jacket?  Well each one has its plus’ and minus’.  It is a common misconception that collectible vintage jackets are unaffordable.  While they are a “limited” resource I still get many vintage jackets that I sell both in my Ebay Auctions and in my Dry Goods section on my Himel Brothers website.  Vintage jackets have definite plus’ in that they are broken in and develop crazy character and patina.  Usually because I dont sell jackets that are not finest quality hides and the leather has reached a state of creasing and character that makes them pre worn awesomeness without any fakery.  Beyond character  the jackets are absolutely authentic in cut.  The down side is of course they are partially through their life, with a strong possibility of failures of liners, zippers and seams.  On a good vintage jacket these are all designed to be repaired and replaced.  The upside of vintage is also the downside.  If you wanted to break in your own jacket or get maximum wear out of it then you need your own new one.  Plus often you will never find your exact size or style.  In this case you definitely need a new jacket.  Here is the kicker, outside of incredibly rare designs and brands, it costs more to make a truly authentic perfect vintage style jacket the to purchase a vintage one.  So vintage is likely where you will find a deal.  This is usually not the case if you are looking for a Trojan or a Buco jacket but buyer beware not all replica or vintage jacket makers are equal.  There are a million websites that debate the quality and characteristics of each manufacturer.  I have a particular philosophy when approaching the issue of vintage vs. new.  I buy rare designs and vintage jackets,  hard to find collectible jackets to add to the HBL collection and I make jackets that are inspired from old jackets or replicate old jackets allowing my customers to get perfect vintage quality.  I like eccentric rare  leather jackets  and designs because I believe everybody deserves one good thing!

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