It it Ever Acceptable to Wear Faux Leather?

Expensive isn’t a pejorative.

Trends trickle down but everything rots from the bottom. In the world of style, the bottom is the fast fashion houses that chase trends and this year the trend to chase is the leather jacket. What the Brit’s call “High Street Labels” want to be able to offer hide coats because motorcycle jackets are – once again – the epitome of cool. Unfortunately, quality leather is the epitome of expensive. Enter the faux leather jacket, that hobgoblin of the seventies. They’re suddenly everywhere and many of them are actually pretty great looking. The only question is: Can you, in good conscious, wear one?

Quick follow up question: Are you a vegan for moral reasons? You aren’t? Than this isn’t an issue of morality. Vegans can wear vegan jackets (though they might be troubled by the behavior they’re encouraging) in the same way that varsity athletes can wear varsity jackets. They put in the hard work and had the discipline to make the team. Most people aren’t on team meatless, which means they can only cheer from the sidelines.

If you’re not buying a faux leather jacket because you’re appalled by the tanning industry, then you’re likely buying a faux leather jacket because it’s inexpensive. There’s a lot to be said for inexpensive. Inexpensive lets you experiment; Inexpensive lets you buy something red when you’d normally buy something black. Be that as it may, a double-take price tag is generally not going to be attached to a well-made garment, which is okay too if you go in with your eyes open. Still, it’s one thing to compromise and another to willfully misunderstand a garment’s significance.

Leather jackets are popular because they look awesome, but they got popular because they were incredibly durable – ideal for war and road warriors. Over the year, they’ve been domesticated to a certain degree by brands like Prada and Zegna, but they’re fundamentally still designed to take a beating, which is why they’re such a lasting signifier. A guy in a leather jacket is a guy who spent money on a coat tough enough to weather his wear-and-tear lifestyle. The more money the jacket costs, the more committed the guy seemingly is to putting himself and his garments in harm’s way. The less the jacket costs, the less it signifies.

There’s a reason you don’t see a lot of kids in motorcycle jackets: They’re made for the long haul. You get one when you become an adult – there’s no ceremony, but there could be – and you keep it until it falls apart or you do. If you’re lucky, it gets dinged up when you go on an adventure and that’s what makes it yours. If it’s a thing you bought “just cause,” it’s meaningless insulation. 

But that’s not to say there is never any reason to buy a faux leather coat. There are plenty of reasons to buy a faux leather coat. The reasons are called events and you should mark them by dressing appropriately. The thing to recognize is that faux leather and actual leather have two different purposes: One is for a thing you have on a Thursday evening and the other is for life. Don’t mistake the two and you’ll be fine. And if you’re ever in doubt, err on the side of window shopping.

Photos by Justin Case / Getty Images