Motorcycle jackets have come a long way since the ton-up boys’ heyday. Back in the ‘50s, it was all black leather, metal studs and club patches. Modern riders are no less interested in looking cool, but premium materials, modern styling and advanced safety features now appeal more than fanciful flair.
Today we’re taking a look at some of the most exciting motorcycle jackets currently on the market. Read on to learn more about the best cafe racer jackets in 2023.
What Is a Cafe Racer Jacket?
The lines have definitely blurred when it comes to defining the cafe racer style—from the motorcycles themselves to the gear their riders wear. As always, however, gear that reimagines classic styles still fits the bill best.
However, you’ll also find new styles in this list that are just as well suited to vintage cruisers as modern classics. So whether you ride a 1972 Kawasaki Z1 or a 2021 Kawasaki Z900RS, you’re going to cut a fine figure sporting any of these cafe racer jackets.
Leather Cafe Racer Jackets
When it comes to leather, there’s no comparison. Leather still offers some of the best impact protection and abrasion resistance out there. These days, riding gear manufacturers are using hides from all manner of animals in the design of their jackets, and each offers unique benefits. What matters most, though, is how well they’re put together and how good they look out on the street.
Spidi Premium Jacket
The name says it all. The Spidi Premium Leather Jacket is a premium item in every sense. The jacket features classic styling and a fitted tapered cut. Accordion panels along the rear torso improve rider comfort and add to the jacket’s classic looks.
The Premium Jacket is made in Italy (the home of Spidi) using leather from one of the country’s oldest (600+ years) and most respected tanners. The jacket’s 1.1–1.3mm all-leather construction boasts AA protective riding jacket certification, and Spidi has backed it up using Multitech shoulder and elbow armor. Diagonally-oriented pockets on the chest double as cooling air vents on warmer days, and there’s a removable thermal liner for winter rides.
As far as leather jacket styling goes, Spidi’s Premium Jacket is the epitome of classic cool.
Features: genuine Italian leather / removable 100g thermal liner / class AA safety certification
Roland Sands Designs have had their finger on the pulse from the very beginning of the brand. Their riding gear looks great on and off the bike, without ever sacrificing protection. In typical RSD fashion, the new F@#k Luck Punk Race Jacket boldly raises its middle finger to mainstream styles.
The Roland Sands F@#k Luck Punk Race Jacket features a full cowhide leather exterior ranging from 1.1–1.3mm thick. For improved comfort on the bike, the sleeves are rotated and pre-curved, and you’ll find flex panels on the sleeves and jacket sides.
Additional protection comes in the form of Knox CE armour in the shoulders and elbows, and there’s space for an optional back protector. Extra features include an internal waterproof device pocket, a bold red liner, zippered air flow vents on the shoulders and back, and a zipper at the lower back for attaching them to riding pants. But what we love most about the Roland Sands F@#k Luck Punk Race Jacket is its look.
The combination of a short waist, large areas of unbroken black leather, asymmetrically-positioned zippers, and quilted panels finished with lightning bolt stitching makes this a definite standout cafe racer jacket for us in 2022.
If the Schott Perfecto 118 jacket looks a lot like one of the jackets you see guys like Marlon Brando wearing in old movies, that’s because it is. Schott NYC is the original motorcycle jacket manufacturer, and their flagship product still stands among the best in the industry today.
Made entirely from premium naked cowhide and featuring an insulated quilted nylon lining, the Perfecto 118 offers fantastic protection in a slide and admirable resistance against the elements. The leather is even specially treated to withstand wet conditions, so you won’t have to worry about ruining it in the rain.
You might be put off by the lack of armor (in fact, the Perfecto doesn’t even have pockets to add it as an option). But take it from a guy who has actually fallen off his bike in a Schott jacket and hit the pavement: the only parts of my body I didn’t hurt were the parts this jacket was covering.
Make no mistake about it: these jackets are as tough and strong as they are beautiful and timeless. Besides, if you really want to double-down on protecting yourself, you can always buy a size up and wear your jacket over an armored undershirt.
Features: naked cowhide leather construction / insulated quilted nylon liner / adjustable waist belt
Buffalo leather has grown in popularity with riding gear brands in recent years. It’s as tough as it sounds, yet still supple—making it an ideal material for protective wear. The Buffalo leather in this Spidi Clubber jacket, however, is a little different. That’s because Spidi imported the leather and had it tanned in Italy using an age-old process.
The Spidi Clubber Jacket features a 1.0–1.1mm Buffalo leather outer layer over a premium tartan-print cotton liner. Warrior Lite armor at the shoulders and elbows provide CE-rated protection without detracting from the jacket’s svelte profile. And the jacket’s removable 80g thermal liner makes it suitable for use in any season.
Another notable feature of the Spidi Clubber Jacket is that it’s available in either classic black or a very smart-looking green. The green Clubber also features contrasting stitching, ribbed design details, and embroidered retro Spidi badges on the sleeves. Wearing this jacket is a surefire way to stand out from the crowd.
Features: green colorway / buffalo leather tanned in Italy / removable thermal liner
When temperatures rise, textile motorcycle jackets can offer much needed relief from the heat. But even in cooler conditions, they can also be very well insulated—while weighing significantly less than leather alternatives.
Although textile motorcycle jackets don’t have quite the same timeless appeal as leather ones, manufacturers have been doing great things with tech fabrics recently. Here are a few releases that appeal to our cafe racer aesthetic.
Merlin Barton II Jacket
No Cafe Racer Jacket list is complete without a classically styled piece by Merlin. The Barton II Jacket is made out of a waxed cotton canvas to eliminate the weight commonly associated with leather jackets.
The cut of the jacket falls longer than waist length, yet remains shorter than a three-quarter styled jacket. A Reissa Waterproof membrane makes the Barton II a great choice for inclement weather riding, while the removable thermal liner allows you to adapt to the changing seasons.
Included in your purchase is CE Level 1 armor factory installed in the elbows and shoulders. On the rear is a pocket meant for a back protector that can be purchased separately.
Features: 12oz Silkwax Waxed Cotton/Waterproof Membrane and removable thermal liner/armor inserts included
The Cedar is a pullover-styled hoodie that does an impressive job of balancing comfort and protection, all while maintaining a sleek, streetwear appearance. It is made out of Cordura Ripstop – the same material used in REV’IT!’s top-tier riding jackets. While bolstering impressive comfort, rest assured you’re protected by the same cut, tear, and abrasion-resistance as high-end riding jackets.
Seesmart CE armor is included at the elbows and shoulders, with the option of added a CE level 2 back protector insert at an additional cost. The armor is extremely low-profile and flexible to give you the look and feel of not wearing any at all. The same areas are reinforced with a double layer of REV’IT!’s signature PWR|shield fabric.
Features: Pullover streetwear hoodie design / Cordura Ripstop outer shell / CE Level 1 armor included in the elbow and shoulders
A vintage look doesn’t need to offer vintage features. The Belstaff Brooklands 2.0 Jacket gives you the look and feel of a real, vintage racer while incorporating a hint of the 21st century through features such as a detachable thermal liner, a waterproof internal membrane, and much, much more.
This hit riding jacket by Belstaff is constructed from signature 10oz UK-Sourced waxed cotton, alongside Cordura panels for abrasion protection at the shoulders and elbows. Alongside dryness, comfort is guaranteed by vented underarms, adjustable neck and cuff openings, and a covered waist buckle.
Belstaff is known for producing high-end riding jackets and the Brooklands 2.0 is no exception. Everything down to the included D30 T5 EVO X impact armor has a lasting premium feel you’re sure to love.
Features: fantastic weatherproofing / CE level 2 shoulder and elbow armor / CE level 1 back and chest protectors
The Truman is an enduro-styled riding jacket with vintage-inspired leather accents throughout that make it look as though you’ve just pulled it out of your grandfather’s storage chest. The Truman has a dual construction, making use of both 11.5oz waxed cotton and premium Dakota leather.
Designed as a true instant classic, the Roland Sands Truman CE Jacket is both water and abrasion-resistant, as well as packed with CE level 1 SAS-TEC flex armor in the elbow and shoulder. Oiled Dakota leather on high-impact areas increases the durability, as well as a unique look and feel that only the Truman can provide.
Features: Dakota cowhide leather (0.9mm – 1.1mm) detail / Water repellent / CE approved to CE EN 17092:2002 as a Class A garment
Riding shirts have come a long way. The best designs are almost impossible to tell apart from regular shirts, making them an ideal option if you’re heading out on the town or want to travel light. Best of all, they now come in styles that complement classic and custom rides while offering impressive levels of protection.
Scorpion EXO Covert Waxed Riding Shirt
There’s no way you’d know at first glance how many features this low-key riding shirt comes packed with, but that’s sort of the point. Reinforced with DuPont Kevlar lining that provides excellent protection against both abrasion and heat, this riding shirt also features a waxed coating to protect against rain, and mesh armor pockets that let you insert optional Sas-Tec CE armor to help withstand impacts.
Featuring a timeless look reminiscent of late 20th-century work-shirts, this garment is as flattering as it is functional—all without being obnoxious in the slightest. Whether you’re jumping on the back of your Triumph Bonneville or flipping into fifth on your custom Harley Street 500, you won’t feel out of place in this.
Flannel shirts are the ultimate in casual cool for milder conditions. Portland-based riding gear outfit Icon took everything they loved about the style and applied it to their Upstate Flannel Riding Shirt.
Icon has achieved single-layer brilliance with their design, adding even more comfort and flexibility to its use. The Upstate Flannel riding shirt is made from Cordura-reinforced heavyweight flannel with impressive abrasion resistance properties. A relaxed fit ensures comfort in any riding position you adopt, while ventilation points and breeze stoppers are built in to help manage unexpected climatic highs and lows.
The Icon Upstate Flannel riding shirt is available in either an orange or blue flannel design. Panels on each elbow add extra abrasion resistance, and reflective accents increase low light visibility. As we’ve come to expect from Icon, the Upstate Flannel also comes with a complete set of low profile D30 armour (elbows, shoulder & back) included in its very reasonable price.
Features: single layer design / D30 armour set / all-day comfort