How short are leather jackets supposed to be?

Leather jacket closeup

Dean, Brando, Michael Jackson in “Thriller” – icons who made the leather jacket what it is…or is it the other way around? Here’s how to know how short your leather jacket should be…

A leather jacket should end around where your belt is. It shouldn’t be any longer and overshadow your legs (which will make them look shorter if this happens.)

There are many things to take into account when it comes to how a leather jacket should look and fit, so it’d pay to take into account these other factors before taking the plunge.

How to tell if your leather jacket is too big?

Man wearing a leather jacket.

The perfect fit requires a few factors to take into account.

  • Length
  • Sleeve
  • Shoulders

To start off with however, the easiest metric to use is your belt. Or where your belt holder is located, use this measurement first to help you indicate how the fit looks on your body immediately. Like I said if the length sits around the belt area (or even a little bit above), then that’s a good thing.

If your jacket passes your belt mark however, simply take it off, go to your nearest store, purchase a pair of $2.99 matches, come back, and gently set that b*tch on fire for failing your expectations…

Just kidding. Don’t do that. But for the price of a leather jacket, you definitely don’t want to set your wallet on fire for nothing, so if you see the jacket goes past your belt, don’t even think twice – look for another one.

You shouldn’t have any more than 3 extra inches of fabric at any one spot.

What about shoulder legth?

Man posing with a leather jacket.

The jacket should sit around the curvature of your shoulder so that it simply drapes down your arm without any hiccups. Much like suit jackets, pay attention to your shoulder area.

However, unlike a suit jacket, the shoulder can come down your upper arm by a few inches (so you have room for layers). Although anything higher than your shoulder is too tight.

What about sleeve length?

The sleeves and/or arm holes are something that often gets overlooked.


With leather jackets, you’ll typically want a higher armhole, and by that I mean the actual holes where you arms poke through, where your armpits are – those holes should be higher and tighter (however still loose enough for you to wear a sweater underneath.)

A “snug” fit, not a constricted one. The last thing you want is for the excess leather fabric to be hanging down below. Your leather jacket should snug and hug your armpits closely, but comfortably.

You gotta be able to move a little in those things.

Remember though, this ain’t Paris, and you are not an anorexic runway model (whose job is solely to stand tall and walk straight.) You want to be relatively free in your movement with your leather jacket (think Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator 2.)

Swing your arms like this dochebag.

So swing your arms a little when suited up, and see how your entire jacket and sleeves react. We’re not talking Olympic breaststrokes over here, just slightly “larger than life” arm movements that you’d do in your day to day life anyway.

If you can move comfortably, then most likely you’ve ensured the right fit.

How to tell if your leather jacket is TOO short?

Star-Lord’s got style – be like Star-Lord.

With all the pertaining info up above, simply invert all the said advice. Though here is a list breakdown:

  • The length is generally considered too short if the length is above your belt line entirely. That’s when we start getting into dangerous crop top territory.
  • If your jacket rests any higher up past your shoulders, then that most likely means it is also too short (you should be able to feel the tightness of it, however.)
  • Your leather jacket is too short if your armholes feel too constricting under your armpits.
  • If you simply cannot wear a simple sweater underneath your jacket (zipped & unzipped), then toss it.
  • If you just cannot move too freely in general (folding your arms or bending them at 90 degrees. This should not feel discomforting or awkward at all, if it does then that means it’s too short/and or tight.)

Should you buy your leather jacket one size smaller?

Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay

Leather is an incredibly durable and practical piece of material, and which will most likely stretch and mould itself over your body over time. Rule of thumb is to size down from your standard outerwear size, especially if you plan to make it apart of your attire often.

Type of leather jackets to wear for your body type

Closeup of a couple wearing leather jackets on a motorcycle.
This is a perfect example of a simple, brilliant piece for the “bigger” gentlemen out there.

Another thing to take into account is your body type and build. If you’re a gentleman on the heavier, bulkier, even muscular side, then avoiding motor jackets or ones with large lapels and/or belts would apt. As this will only add volume to your frame where you necessarily won’t want any.

For these body types, try opting for a more streamlined route, such as a bomber jacket or a “cafe racer” leather jacket. This will highlight your physique WITHOUT making you seem too boxy or “bloated” in your frame, it will also elongate your stature… and when it comes to fashion- a little extra height is always a plus.

Close up of couple's back wearing leather jackets with lot's of studs and design.
The thinner you are, the more “fabulous” you can be with your leather jacket look.

For my thinner lads, this is where you will shine, as you should be able to pull off the likes of bulkier style choices, such as aviator and moto jackets.

For the select few chaps who are able to walk the line between being built yet lean, then any selection of jackets will be fair game.

How to stretch your leather jacket at home

kid in leather jacket.
The kiddo is just as frustrated as you are about his fit.

But what if you already own a leather jacket? And what if it’s a tad bit too small? Are you screwed? Well maybe…but maybe not.

Because your boi might still have you covered.

Now this is a little bit of a DIY method so bear with me. At my old place, when I had a functioning washing machine (and was desperate enough) I tried this voodoo, and it worked! Though it is a little risky, so proceed with caution.

For this hack you will need:

  • Washing machine
  • Fabric softener (any)
  • Hair Conditioner (any)

Now there are two ways to do this, one with just fabric softener and one with both fabric softener AND hair conditioner.

The first method involves putting fabric softener (standard amount) into a washing machine along with your jacket, setting it to “delicates”, and then letting the machine run its course. After you take it out, stretch parts of it by hand, or (if you’re brave enough) wear it while slightly wet, and move around it in it (essentially stretching it some more.)

The second method is to do it by hand, without a washing machine. For this, simply wash your leather jacket in a tub with both, helpings of fabric softener and hair conditioner. Then after roll it in a towel to squeeze out much of the water before trying it on.

Doing it by hand (while slightly more cumbersome), seemed to avoid leaving slightly faded marks on my jacket last time I tried this. The machine method might cause slight marks to appear on your jacket post wash, like I said it’s risky…but it works.

Tip: It also would benefit you to use a leather conditioner on your jacket when the drying process is almost or completely finished. This will ensure it does not crack from water exposure, and it’ll look alot more fresh.

These methods should help stretch it out by up to an inch more in length.

Why are leather jackets shorter rather than longer?


Another style that in of itself was conceived through function first. A style that gained popularity through motorcyclists and riders alike, as it was simple…practical even. With materials hemmed together to produce a very versatile, capable layer of functional protection.

And for motorheads, this functionality extended towards comfort as well, such as when they actually rode their bikes (as imagine how comfortable it would be to ride with a long-tailed trenchcoat flapping in the back?)

This is in part of the reason why it’s preferred to don a shorter, rather than a longer leather jacket – it makes for better riding.

“Fashion comes from function. If people only wore what was “functional” or for it’s specific purpose… fashion would suck.”

-Random internet quote (makes hella sense tho)

Let’s face it, you’re probably not the owner of a sweet Harley Davidson Street 750, or some other road devil alike. BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t sport a similar jacket with the same functional swagger that comes paired with owning such a staple piece of clothing.

And this includes sticking to the shorter classic fit in length that made the leather jacket what it is… an icon – because why fix what’s not broken?

Stay Rogue.

Dom Jeswal

Im a mixed third culture kid (with even more mixed tastes in fashion, food, manners & ideals) living in Asia. Currently exploring what it means to be a man a "spiced" value in the modern age - and all the interests and skills that come with the territory. Like your average men's lifestyle blog - only with more spice & more focus on info not exclusive to the West.

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