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.
First Manufacturing Qualifier Canvas Jacket
If you only know First Manufacturing for their excellent leather products, you are missing out on this sweet canvas jacket they call Qualifier.
Made from 20oz raw canvas, the Qualifier is a simple, clean, badass jacket that is perfect in moderate weather. The robust shell is quite easy to move in thanks to the underarm gussets and expanding side zippers. The clean lines have two zippered chest pockets, two zippered slash side pockets, and two concealed carry pockets.
First Manufacturing includes a full set of armor, meaning this is a jacket you will look good in and feel safe in.
Features: 20oz. Raw Canvas / concealed carry pockets / armor inserts included
Hooded motorcycle jackets need to look good both on and off the bike. They’re a great choice for urban commuters, and the Rev’It! Stealth 2 Hoody is no exception.
In keeping with its name, the Rev’It! Stealth 2 Hoody is finished in sleek, minimalist black or blue, but there’s nothing minimalist about the protection it’s offering. Don’t be fooled by its casual appearance; that outer lining is tough Cordura stretch denim and it’s backed by Rev’It!’s abrasion-resistant PWR shield in high impact areas.
Seesmart armour covers the shoulders and elbows, and there’s room to accommodate back armour too. A thermal vest liner sets the Stealth 2 up for winter conditions, and it can also be worn on its own as a freestanding garment.
Rev’It! has also laminated a layer of their waterproof hydratex to the chassis of the Stealth 2 to keep you dry. Reflective details make other motorists aware of your presence, and a snap connector on the back secures the hood in place at higher speeds.
Features: PWR shield-backed Cordura / stash and document pockets / wearable thermal vest
During their latest cross-continental motorcycle adventure, The Long Way Up, Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman are kitted out in Belstaff gear. Ewan wears one of the brand’s tried-and-tested waxed cotton Trials jackets, but Charley wears an entirely new addition to their range.
The Belstaff Long Way Up Gore-Tex jacket features the timeless styling we expect from Belstaff, but beyond its appearance, there’s nothing vintage about it. This jacket is one of the company’s most advanced items of riding gear, and it includes an extensive list of features.
During their adventure, Boorman was exposed to extreme changes in weather—from freezing cold to blisteringly hot—and this jacket enabled him to tackle it all head on. For a more detailed explanation of the features included in the Belstaff Long Way Up Gore-Tex jacket, read our in-depth feature here.
In summary, this is the jacket you need if you like to go riding no matter what’s awaiting you outside.
Features: fantastic weatherproofing / CE level 2 shoulder and elbow armor / CE level 1 back and chest protectors
Another offering from Roland Sands, the Ridgeline CE jacket mixes streetwear style with serious comfort and safety features. For one thing, the finish, seams, liner, and pockets are all waterproof, allowing you to ride through a range of conditions without discomfort. But this is far more than a simple waterproof hoody marketed to the biker crowd.
The 600D material used for the outer layer ensures that this garment offers plenty of abrasion-resistance in the event of a slide, and key impact areas are further reinforced with N66 Cordura 500D / 1000D fabrics. This jacket also has pre-curved sleeves to improve riding comfort, and adjustable cuffs with a lycra inner layer to protect your wrists and upper arms from the elements.
Branding on this jacket is minimal too, so you won’t find any massive logos or flashy designs to detract from that uncomplicated cafe racer cool. In fact, Roland Sands was so sure of the crowd they were making this jacket for that it only comes in one color: a sleek and simple shade of black that will look fantastic on top of any naked bike.
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