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Who doesn’t love a good jacket? Not only are they among the most exciting purchases a man can make, but they include some of the most iconic and influential designs anywhere in menswear. Bombers, trench coats, parkas, puffers – these are pieces that have helped to shape menswear as a whole, but who are the labels behind them, and what sets them apart from the thousands of other jacket brands out there?
To answer that question, we’ve compiled a list of what we see as the greatest jacket brands of all time. These are the innovators, the influencers and the originators. They’re the labels that are the best at what they do, and they each have at least one key design that serves as a benchmark against which all others should be measured.
Know For: Raincoats
There’s some debate (read: rivalry) between Burberry and Mackintosh over who created the first waterproof raincoat, but the provenance of the item doesn’t really matter. All you need to know is that Mackintosh has perfected the style, offering truly waterproof trench coats and macs that look as good as they perform.
Under the creative direction of Kiko Kostadinov, this British heritage brand has been dragged into the 21st Century, now offering more directional designs alongside its ‘Icons’ line and a conveyor belt of sought-after collabs with some of the hottest labels in the game, including A COLD WALL*, Maison Margiela and This Thing of Ours to name but a few.
Private White V.C.
Known For: Military Styles
Manchester’s Private White V.C. makes some incredible outerwear, focussing on classic shapes, high-quality materials and traditional British manufacture. Named after the founder’s grandfather, Private Jack White V.C., a decorated war veteran, it should come as no surprise that this a brand which specialises in military silhouettes.
Think the type of outerwear born in the armed forces: parkas, flight jackets, bombers, peacoats, trench coats and field jackets are all present and correct, rendered in the finest fabrics and made entirely in its Manchester factory.
Known For: Waxed Jackets
Anyone who has ever paid a visit to the North East of England will understand why a brand producing the world’s best heavy-duty rainwear was born there. Barbour’s waxed-cotton jackets have been the outerwear of choice for farmers and country folk in the UK for centuries.
They’re still handmade in the brand’s South Shields factory, and are built to take a serious beating. But that’s not all – they look good too. In fact, this crossover appeal has seen Barbour team up with everyone from Supreme to C.P. Company to produce collaborative collections.
Known For: Technical Jackets
Massimo Osti was arguably the most influential and innovative outerwear designer of the last century. Stone Island wasn’t his first brand, but it has been the most commercially successful, and the one most closely tied to Osti’s fascination with unconventional fabrics and unusual dyeing techniques.
Even with the iconic compass badge removed, it’s easy to spot a Stone Island jacket from the fabric and silhouette alone, which is why the Italian label is one of the best technical jacket brands around.
Known For: Harrington Jackets
Baracuta’s G9 Harrington jacket has graced the shoulders of everyone from James Bond to Elvis Presley. Hailing from Manchester, the brand originally started as a raincoat manufacturer, crafting high-quality outerwear for the likes of Burberry and Aquascutum in the late 1930s. But that all changed when the company began to export its own G9 cropped rain jacket to the US, where it became a big hit with stars of stage and screen.
The G9 is still very much in production today, and remains the true original Harrington jacket – often imitated, but never bettered.
Known For: Leather Biker Jackets
The classic leather biker jacket, as we know and love it today, would never have come to exist if it hadn’t been for Schott NYC. The label’s famous Perfecto design – with its cropped cut, asymmetric zipper and belted waist – was revolutionary when it first launched, and quickly became a symbol of rock ‘n’ roll rebellion thanks to the likes of James Dean and Marlon Brando.
Today, the New York-based label still produces some of the finest outerwear around, including, but by no means limited to, its classic leather jackets.
Known For: Denim Jackets
What can we say about Levi’s that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? There are only a handful of brands throughout history that have had as big an impact as this San Francisco label. Originally a humble haberdashery, Levi’s brought riveted denim jeans to the masses and changed the face of everyday fashion in the process.
Naturally, it didn’t leave it at legwear, and the brand’s denim jackets are still international best-sellers to this day.
Known For: Trench Coats
One of two British brands credited with inventing the trench coat, Burberry used its own water-repellent ‘gabardine’ fabric to create outerwear for Army officers in the First World War. George Mallory even wore a gabardine Burberry jacket for his fateful 1924 Everest attempt.
The brand still uses this fabric today and its Original Trench Coat has barely changed since those early days, inspiring countless imitations over the decades.
Known For: Bomber Jackets
From a brand linked to the British Army to one with ties to the US Air Force. Plenty of iconic outerwear designs have their roots in the military, and Alpha Industries’ MA-1 bomber jacket is certainly no exception.
With its cropped body, elasticated waist and cuffs, and roomy fit, it set the template for all other bomber jackets to follow, and is still as relevant in today’s fashion climate as it was when civilians first got their hands on it in the late 1950s.
Known For: Technical Shells
Canadian outdoor brand Arc’teryx has been one of the hottest labels around for a few years now, but those who actually use the outerwear for its intended purpose have known it to be superior for decades.
The company started out making climbing harnesses before progressing to technical shell jackets, and has been responsible for several important innovations in performance outerwear, including the waterproof zipper.
Known For: Motorcycle Jackets
Created in 1924 by Eli Belovitch and his son-in-law Harry Grosberg, Belstaff is a UK label best known for its links to motorsport. It was the first-ever brand to use waxed cotton in the manufacture of motorcycle jackets, something which it still does to this day.
Belstaff’s bike jackets, with their multiple pockets and belted waists, are instantly recognisable and unapologetically British, with a long list of celebrity wearers including David Beckham, Daniel Craig and Steve McQueen.
Known For: Goggle Jackets
Another outerwear brand with motorsport links, C.P. Company was Massimo Osti’s first project. It became famous for sponsoring two editions of Italy’s historic Mille Miglia race, creating a special jacket for participants to wear, which features goggles stitched into the hood and a watch-viewer window in the sleeve.
Those original Mille Miglia jackets are collector’s items now, but the style is still alive and well in the brand’s seasonal collections, where it takes on a slightly different form every season.
Known For: Fleece Jackets
No one does fleece quite like Californian outdoor brand Patagonia. The label’s Synchilla fabric (that’s a portmanteau of ‘synthetic’ and ‘chinchilla’ if you hadn’t cracked the code) is super soft and cosy, and used in Patagonia’s iconic Snap-T fleece, which has been in production for decades with barely a detail altered. Then there’s the Retro-X fleece, which is a thick-pile jacket with contrast panels to the chest pocket and collar – a design that has been imitated time and time again.
Although both are still being made today, there’s a huge mark-up for vintage versions, which can go for hundreds or even thousands, particularly on the Japanese resale market.
Known For: Chore Jackets
Known for its rugged workwear, Carhartt is the brand when it comes to heavy-duty canvas outerwear. The American label’s chore coats are the best in the game, constructed from thick duck-canvas fabric and quilted for extra warmth when you’re tinkering with trucks in the workshop… or just heading out in Williamsburg to grab a flat white.
Known For: Parka Jacket
Love it or hate it, Canada Goose makes the biggest, baddest parkas in the game. Its flagship Mantra parka is a favourite of Arctic researchers and wildlife cameramen who venture into the coldest corners of the earth.
Yet while the brand has been hijacked somewhat by inner-city youths who wear the badge as a status symbol, it’s hard to deny the quality of Canada Goose’s top-flight coats. Plus, the company is purportedly cutting out fur in 2022, which has been a big bone of contention for a long time now.
The North Face
Known For: Puffer Jackets
The North Face has been responsible for countless outerwear designs over the years, but none more iconic than its Nuptse puffer jacket. Instantly recognisable with its oversized baffles and cropped fit, this boxy down jacket is one of the Californian brand’s best-selling items, beloved by outdoorsy types and followers of fashion alike.