Nothing says motorcycling quite like a leather jacket. Usually black. Sometimes not. Always cool and classy, the leather jacket is motorcycling's equivalent of woman's little black dress. You can wear it anywhere, and it commands respect.
The positives about leather include its classic look, the way it creaks when you move, and an aroma that ranks right up there with baking bread and chocolate-chip cookies. Most motorcycle leather jackets are made from split-grain cowhide with an insulated, sewn-in lining, while one some the liner is removable for when the weather is warm. Its abrasion resistance is top rate, using its hide to save your hide, and it's repairable. Leather's main drawback is that it's usually expensive, and not for inclement weather. Unless it's been specially treated it can be compromised if it becomes soaked. If that happens, lay the leather garment on a towel, cover it with a second towel, and press out as much water as possible. Let it air dry, then treat with leather restorer as soon as possible.
Just like a motorcycle, a leather jacket is a tool for a job. Define the job accurately, and the type of jacket will become obvious. The most common type is the three-season, a spring-through-fall garment that derives its temperature versatility from its insulated liner that's removable for hot weather, and controllable vents that seal when the weather is cooler. All else being equal, a full-sleeve liner will be warmer than a vest-style. Look for zippered vent openings in the front and rear that are backed with perforated leather to keep the bugs out. Rear vents are desirable so the air flows through and the jacket doesn't blow up like a balloon. Of course, if you ride behind a big fairing and windscreen, with minimal airflow, the venting will not be as effective. The other type of jacket you can look at is the hot-weather, perforated style. Riders have become wise to the fact that just because it's hot does not mean that riders should neglect protection. An old rider who'd been around once told me, 'I thought that riding in a T-shirt was cool, but I couldn't believe how hot those lamps were in the doctor's office as he was digging little stones out of my skin.' A perforated jacket can also prevent a nasty sunburn.
For proper fit while riding, look for pre-curved sleeves that have been rotated forward to accommodate the arms in the riding position. An action back is that extra pleat of material behind the shoulders so the sleeves won't ride up when you reach for the controls, and of course the sleeves should be slightly longer that on a fashion jacket.
Look for zippered cuffs that are easy to slide your hands through, but compact down small enough to fit inside your gloves. Much has been done in the past decade with 'armor,' impact-absorbing materials that are now common in shoulders and elbows. The European Community (CE) has devised standards for this type of material, and that which meets CE standards is considered state of the art.
A three-season jacket won't be worth spit unless it seals well enough to keep out the wind and rain. Look for a good seal at the neck, and it's a plus if it's expandable so you can wear additional clothing underneath in cooler weather. Waist adjuster straps help take up the slack as you ass and subtract clothing.
Motorcycle jackets seem to be defined by pockets, and each of these has a wallet pocket and two front pockets. I won't comment further on them unless they warrant it. The term 'hook-and-loop' refers to a peel-apart fastener that consists of little hooks on one side, and little loops on the other.