Forget about biker jackets and tall oxfords – leather pants are 2021’s must-have menswear item.
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Don’t believe us? You might not see men traipsing around in polished leather trousers at the grocery store, but it’s a trend that’s both been bubbling under the radar – thanks to a fascination with western wear and motocross over the past few years – and gracing the runways in a few forms. Back in 2019, Rick Owens introduced the “Why not?” concept of leather puff-sleeve jackets, looking like something Lady Gaga might have donned during her “Bad Romance” era, so pants – slim to regular in silhouette – don’t seem like that far of a stretch.
Yet, while men’s leather pants might seem strangely absent from our daily outings, they were a fixture of Fashion Week presentations in 2020. We spotted them among high-fashion brands Celine, AMI, Hermes, Lanvin, Loewe, and Versace. And, signaling the imminent adoption by the everyday consumer, luxury streetwear brands like AMIRI and Fear of God dabbled with them at the same time.
Leather’s a curious material – one that’s simultaneously practical yet riddled with a sense of the forbidden. It reflects a cowboy on the plains dressing for the weather and his long trek – and well as protective clothing for motorcycle riders to avoid road rash and more serious injuries. At the same time, pants, more so than a leather jacket, seem stolen from fetish culture, perhaps borrowed from or taking a too-obvious influence from 1970s movie Cruising. As such, anything leather beyond an overshirt seems to be approached with a degree of trepidation.
Still, red carpet trends can make something complicated or too out of social bounds become more accessible. Indicating the average man could try out leather trousers, they’ve been spotted on Kanye West, A$AP Rocky, Rami Malek, Timothée Chalamet, Jeff Goldblum, and Joe Jonas, to name a few.
So, if you’re contemplating this trend but aren’t sure about how to start, begin with the following tips:
Selecting a Pair of Leather Pants
- Despite their rockstar implications, don’t treat leather trousers as an oddity – the material makes them a statement piece by default. Instead, avoid the bright shades for something versatile, like solid black or brown.
- Understand the materials out there. Not all leathers are the same – especially if you opt for faux leather over the real thing. Suede, while the most neutral, tends to require a greater degree of care. Lamb leather, by contrast, provides the most accessibility, with a matte, almost denim-like appearance.
- Pay attention to the lining. Yes, a Friends episode shows what happens when you don’t wear talcum powder under a pair of real or faux men’s leather pants. Today, though, brands seem to know better, and have been outfitting their styles with lightweight cotton lining.
- Don’t ignore the fit. These aren’t the skin-tight pants of ’90s and ‘00s rockstars – nor are they the pleather leggings occasionally emerging from the womenswear world. Instead, you’ll notice a skinny to regular fit among offerings, so understand what best fits your body, both getting on and off.
- Be adventurous. Think a skinny cut’s right for you? Go for it. Beyond the fit, leather’s making its way among other trouser silhouettes, adding a degree of weight and luxury to track pants and joggers.
- Think about the rest of your outfit. In general, keep it all low key, in neutral hues and materials. Avoid the loud prints or shimmering rayons and silks. Instead, pair this style experimentation with quality knits, simple button-downs, a fitted T-shirt, or a denim jacket. Footwear wise, it’s the same deal: forego the campy-leaning cowboy boots for leather dress boots or sneakers.
- Give them a break-in period. For many guys, your leather pants might feel stiff initially. But, just as with a jacket, a break-in period allows the material to conform to your body, thus improving the fit and feel.
Looking to try out men’s leather pants yourself? Begin with some of the following:
Design wise, these look like a well-worn pair of boots from a distance. Up close, the waxed cowhide reveals an embossed motif over the surface for a new level of detail.
This skinny, alternative-styled version stands out from the pack with a vertical striped blend. Unlike other faux leather offerings, these pants start with polyester to provide a greater degree of comfort and flexibility.
If this is your first time even considering men’s leather pants, start with the brands that have found success among the leather goods market. Here, Schott NYC pulls no punches with this American-made straight-cut pair of steerhide pants styled like a classic pair of jeans.
Start simple with this pair of Italian-made leather pants from Sunflower. A regular fit and classic five-pocket design set an accessible stage for solid black leather lined with satin.
For a ‘90s denim interpretation done in leather, this collaboration between Bianca Saunders and Future Icons captures this vibe precisely. Think period ravewear upgraded for someone with luxurious tastes.
Athletic accents add character to this slim-cut pair of men’s leather pants, including a drawstring waist and elastic drawcord cuffs.
Over the past few years, Anthony Vaccarello’s vision for Saint Laurent menswear has involved skin-tight silhouettes and heavy contrasts. These pants capture that with solid-black lamb leather yet keep the wearer’s comfort in mind with a breathable cotton blend lining.
With its Icon Collection, Paige doesn’t shy away from its significant rock ‘n’ roll influences. Here, that comes through fully lamb leather construction with a slim yet tapered fit and lightly textured appearance.
The “it” menswear silhouette – high-waisted, tapered leg, with a wider cut – gets a leather-based interpretation from Acne Studios.
Alyx lives up to its increasingly gender-neutral reputation with a slim-to-straight cut in jet-black leather, capturing the perceived rockstar lifestyle across eras and genres.