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Langlitz Leathers Custom Jacket Review

Langlitz Leathers Custom JacketAlthough Langlitz Leathers is not a widely recognized name, they don’t spend much time worrying about their public profile being low; they’re too busy making sure they’re quality is unsurpassed. For decades, veteran riders have recognized leathers bearing the Langlitz name as being synonymous with excellence.

Ross Langlitz founded the company in Portland Oregon in 1947. He was a young motorcycle enthusiast who was dissatisfied with leather jackets available at that time because they weren’t well suited to riding bikes. They were too short in the back, too long in the front and the sleeves rode up his arms when he leaned forward to grab the handlebars.

Ross bought a jacket from Sears and took it apart. He was working as a glove maker and had experience working with leather. Ross used the panels as starting points to create templates for an improved design that would work better for motorcyclists.

He formed a company called Speedway Togs to make and sell leather garments specifically designed for motorcyclists. That company was eventually renamed Langlitz Leathers and has been doing business in Portland for over 60 years. Motorcycle garments are not a part of their business; it’s their only business.

The company offers jackets, pants, vests and variety of accessories. Over the years, their products have earned a reputation for fit, quality and durability that is second to none. Motor officers in many police departments have equipped themselves with Langlitz leather jackets and swear by them. About 35% of their output is sold to overseas clients. Their products sell well in Japan in particular, where a Langlitz black leather biker jacket has a uniquely American Brando-esque mystique about it.

Custom Langlitz Leathers Motorcycle JacketA Manx Norton hanging from the rafters.

The company’s products are entirely hand-made at their shop using American hides and hardware. They cut the hides and sew the garments in-house. There are no logos visible on the jacket, only a discreet label on the inside of the jacket. There’s also no “size” tag, just the customer’s name, the date the jacket was made and the unique serial number for the jacket printed on the inside of the inner breast pocket.

Having a leather jacket custom made is self-indulgent and expensive. Why would someone do such an extravagant thing?

Ross Langlitz wearing his first jacket in front of Western Cycle Sales in March of 1948.

Well, mostly because people come in all shapes and sizes. Some folks are lucky enough to be able to find something that fits perfectly right off the rack. I’m one of those people who’s “between sizes”: my chest measures 43” so standard jackets are usually a bit snug or a tad loose. Two people with the same chest size can have different length arms, bigger or smaller bellies, etc. If you happen to be at either end of the sizing bell curve, a custom-made garment makes a lot of sense.

Manx Norton hanging in the Langlitz Leathers shopThe skilled artisans at Langlitz Leathers can build something that not only fits perfectly but also looks exactly the way you want it. Accurate measurements can be taken either at the shop or at home using the instructions offered on their website. Decades of experience outfitting motorcyclists tells them where the jacket needs to be a bit shorter to prevent bunching or a bit longer to prevent air gaps and how much the sleeves will shorten over time as they get creased.

Before measurements are taken, decisions need to be made about style, color, collar type (dress or Cossack), quilted padding (yes or no), hardware (brass, black or silver), pockets (how many, where, leather or cloth lined), type of leather (cow or goat), weight of leather (heavy, medium or light), fit (snug, medium or loose) and a few other options. It sounds intimidating but the helpful folks at the shop walk clients through the process painlessly.

Most folks go with black leather. It goes with anything, has a slimming effect and ensures a good re-sale value, if your jacket ever needs to go to new home. By the way, an expensive custom-made jacket is an excellent incentive to NOT gain weight.

There are several basic styles of jacket, all of which can be seen on their website. Again, these are all starting points and can be customized to your heart’s content (or the size of your bankroll). Quality comes at a price, which, in this case, is upwards of a thousand bucks (how much upwards depends on how you configure the garment).

Look at it this way: it’s a lifetime investment; the jacket will likely outlast you (assuming it doesn’t have to save your hide someday in an unfortunate encounter). If you think about what you spend on tires, chains and other consumables for your bike(s) it’s really not that bad.

Think about how many leather jackets have you bought since you started riding. I’m sure I’m not the only one who has purchased several over the last decades trying, like Goldilocks, to find the one that was “just right”. Now that I have one from Langlitz, I won’t be wearing the others as much. In hindsight, it would’ve been cheaper to buy the custom jacket in the first place.

Scott and Bennie behind the counter inside the Langlitz shop.

Langlitz Leathers is not trying to compete with anyone and they’re not in a hurry. The eleven employees turn out four or five jackets a day. The wait list grows and shrinks depending on the time of year and turnaround times can vary from weeks to months. My jacket was promised in two months but came sooner. They strive to under-promise and over-deliver when it comes to turnaround times.

I ended up going with a black goatskin, Cascade jacket with Cossack collar, with quilted padding on the shoulders and elbows and brass snaps and zipper. I also opted for the ever-popular leather-lined gun pocket (which will also hold a paperback book, depending on what kind of day you’re expecting).


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