I Want A Cool-Girl Leather Jacket
Why are they so expensive?
When I turned 30 last year, I told myself that I would mark the occasion by purchasing The Perfect Leather Jacket. I’d survived my turbulent 20s and ended up with a good, steady job where I felt appreciated, a great fiancé, and a totally livable one-bedroom apartment in Queens with two cats and a West Elm couch (not the Peggy). That probably deserves a back pat, no? Or maybe… a cool-girl leather jacket from Madewell?! Like, to celebrate my being 30 and flirty and thriving?
It’s four months later and I still have no leather jacket. What I do have are two fake leather jackets from Uniqlo and Forever 21 and one vegan leather jacket from Urban Outfitters, all of which I purchased at some point while telling myself that they’d be a cheaper way of filling the void. They have not.
If I’m going to be psychological about it, the leather jacket basically represents not just a practical purchase but also an idealized vision I have of my grown self. When they were my age, my parents had already bought a home and two cars and had two kids. Those were things you could have when you were in your 30s in the ’90s. Me, I’ve adjusted my expectations accordingly; I already know that due to my age and the unlucky year I graduated from college, I may never own property or have kids (Some pretty serious life changes would have to take place for either to occur), and if I buy a car, it’ll be very, very used. I will also never open my underwear drawer to find neatly layered silk panties and matching bra sets (It’s just a bunch of frayed jumbled cotton in there). I still microwave most of my dinners. And all of that’s okay. I never had the domestic gene. But a leather jacket is totally achievable, just like how one day I think I could have a two-bedroom instead of a one, a dog, and neat little capsule wardrobe, preferably one organized by the Container Store.
But most leather jackets clock in at approximately $500. I never spend that kind of money on anything, unless it’s vet bills or international travel or the one time I was forced to buy two handmade formal dresses in Morocco because the bride insisted we all come dressed for the occasion(s) — there were two weddings, as per Moroccan tradition — in authentic garb. Even my own wedding dress cost approximately $900. But that’s a wedding dress. And, well, I did not technically buy it (Thanks, mom and dad. I love you).
Most of the time when it comes to clothes, I buy second-hand, from a store’s sale section or sample-sale racks or clothing swaps with friends. Poshmark is my absolute favorite. I got nearly all of my Madewell jeans, sweaters, and boots there this past winter, and I successfully sold a few things, too. Other places I like: ThredUp, the Buffalo Exchange near FIT in Midtown (where there so many discarded treasures), and J.Crew Factory. I also like pillaging my most stylish friend Angie’s donations pile, from which I once pulled my now-favorite denim jacket. The best shot I’d have at getting a good leather jacket for a discount is perhaps trying one on in a retail outlet, then searching for it on Poshmark — a strategy I haven’t tried yet, because I’m also pretty lazy. There’s just something to be said for walking into a store, trying something on, and buying it sans guilt. (Somebody tell me what that’s like, please?)
You might also suggest turning to a place like Etsy or Ebay where I could bid on a cool leather number. But I cannot buy a leather jacket online. One of the most vital elements to leather jackets — especially motorcycle ones — is the fit. It could be too short, too long, too roomy in the arms. Buying anything via the internet is a gamble, and a leather jacket may as well be playing Russian Roulette with your wallet.
Or maybe you’d ask, “Why haven’t you done it already? Bite the bullet; grab the bull by the horns; other overused cliches! Credit cards exist for a reason!” I’m still paying off a chunk of credit-card debt I managed to accrue in my 20s, and charging anything more substantial than a bag of groceries right now feels like a very slippery slope. It’s probably smarter to wait until my next birthday and/or windfall. Or use my checking account and only eat peanut-butter sandwiches for the rest of the month. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!
So it’s not to say that I’ll never have a proper cool-girl leather jacket and stomp around Manhattan like my style icon Jessica Jones. I do see one in my future. Approximately when is pretty blurry. But maybe in a year. Maybe in two years. Almost certainly before I turn 40. It’s good to have goals.
Epilogue: Writing this essay made me buy a leather jacket over the weekend. It cost $321, and it was worth it.
This story is part of The Billfold’s I Want It Now series.