Leather vs Textile Motorcycle Gear | A Reliable Guide to the Similarities and Differences

Leather vs Textile Motorcycle Gear 1

Have trouble deciding between leather and textile motorcycle gear? 

You aren’t alone, and being a beginner rider doesn’t make it easier. Even experienced riders are usually undecided on what to choose between textile and leather motorcycle clothing, with most choosing to dabble between the two before finally settling on one type. 

I’ve found that one is ideal for riders who want utmost crash protection and durability, and the other for those who want maximum versatility and comfort at an affordable price. 

Let’s start with a 60,000 ft view. 

TL;DR: Leather vs Textile Motorcycle Clothing

Has excellent abrasion resistance 
Offers the best crash protection
Easy to break in
Highly durable when well treated
Offers a cool, traditional look
Provides more comfort and freedom of body movement
Has moderate to high abrasion resistance
More breathable
Most textile motorcycle gear is waterproof
Highly versatile in function and season-based usage
Lighter than leather
Plenty of storage pockets
Can be quite expensive
Not the ideal for extreme weather conditions
May be restrictive and uncomfortable when not on the bike
Heavier than textile
Most leather motorcycle gear isn’t waterproof
Easily damaged by heat
Not as durable as leather
Cheaper than leather
Doesn’t cut the best or coolest look when worn
Best ForBest For
Best for optimum crash protection
Best for durability
Best for riders who crash often at high speeds, such as racers. 
Best for riders looking for affordability and optimum versatility
Best for comfortable rides, especially long tours
Best for riders looking for plenty of storage pockets

Table showing pros and cons of leather and textile motorcycle gear.

Functions of Motorcycle Clothing

Motorcycle clothing is made to serve the following functions:

  • Preventing or minimizing bodily injury in a crash
  • Making a desired fashion statement (leather serves this purpose better because it is stylish, traditional, and timeless)
  • Protecting motorcyclists from the elements—from cold, heat, rain, wind, and even snow
  • Drawing the attention of other motorists to enhance safety on the road—conspicuity or visibility (textile clothing performs better here because it has brighter colors; unlike leather which is usually dull—although some white leather apparel is now common).

The Case of Leather Motorcycle Clothing

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For a long time, motorcycle riders had to make do with adapting other types of apparel, such as hiking boots. Although most of these apparel featured leather, it wasn’t the best deal for motorcyclists. 

Riders needed gear that was better suited for specific motorcycle riding applications, and manufacturers began looking into making motorcycle-specific clothing. 

Thus came leather motorcycle gear, which promised motorcyclists optimum protection from injury during crashes and a stylish look. 

Fortunately, leather moto gear has lived up to the promise. One of my favorite moto gear is a black motorcycle jacket my mother bought me in 2017—please show her some love. 

I like the jacket because it offers excellent protection and has stood up well to all these years of regular use and abuse. 

See, I wasn’t always so confident at riding motorcycles. As you already know, I usually have coordination problems when using my hands and legs simultaneously. Well, apart from walking. 

I’ve had a good share of falls and minor crashes when riding, but the jacket has always protected me well from injury. It’s now started to show signs of despair. Poor guy can’t put up with my abuse anymore! But that’s a story for another day… 

Types of Leather for Motorcycle Clothing

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Motorcycle clothing is made using different types of leather, depending on the manufacturer. The most common type of leather is cowhide because it’s cheaper and easier to obtain. It’s highly economical. 

Cowhide provides better protection because it’s thicker than other types. However, it can be a little stiff, making wearing it before it’s broken in a source of discomfort. 

Motorcycle gear manufacturers also use goatskin, kangaroo hide, and buffalo hide. Goatskin and kangaroo hide are stronger but thinner than cowhide. 

Kangaroo hide has excellent abrasion resistance and is often used in more expensive gear. It’s thinner and lighter but doesn’t compromise strength.

On the other hand, goatskin has a lot of lanolin, a waxy secretion of the sebaceous glands of wooled animals like sheep. 

Lanolin makes goatskin leather softer and more supple. It’s often used on the palms of motorcycle gloves. 

Natural leather from animals isn’t the only material for making leather gear. Faux leather, also called artificial leather or synthetic leather is used to make moto gloves, boots, and even shoes. 

Faux leather is highly cost-effective and provides enough abrasion resistance. It’s a good choice for riders who want leather moto clothing that doesn’t use any leather from an animal. 

Grades of Leather

The processing of natural animal skins allows the production of various types of leather for making different garments. Different grades are achieved depending on how the hide is treated, which also affects the feel, durability, and abrasion resistance. 

The leather grades include nubuck suede, suede, split suede, embossed grain, full-grain, and top-grain.

The leather used to make motorcycle gear usually comes in two grades—full-grain leather and top-grain leather

The best and strongest leather is full-grain leather because its grains remain intact throughout processing. It’s highly durable and items made of it last a long time. Full-grain leather is the most expensive. 

Top-grain leather is thinner than full-grain leather because manufacturers have to sand it down to eliminate imperfections. 

Items made with top-grain leather are good fashion pieces because the leather has a better appearance. However, the strength of top-grain leather is lower than full-grain leather, given the sanding done to correct the hide’s imperfections. 

The Case of Textile Motorcycle Gear

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Textile moto gear is a late entrant into the motorcycle clothing industry, but that doesn’t mean it is to be underrated. Like leather moto apparel, textile apparel has also undergone a series of advancements that have made it even better for riders. 

In the past, riders had to rely on textile clothing for casual wear before manufacturers started focusing on motorcycle-specific textile clothing

The result is that riders can now enjoy a wide range of textile gear to supplement their existing leather gear wardrobe.

The good thing about the battle of textile vs leather motorcycle gear is that things keep getting better and better to the benefit of riders. As manufacturers battle it out, better technologies and processes arise, resulting in high-quality moto clothing. 

Relevant Characteristics Between Leather and Textile Moto Gear

Leather Textile
Lower impact protection but high crash protectionImpact and crash protectionHigh impact protection but lower crash protection
Poor comfort levels when not ridingComfortHighly comfortable
Highly durableDurabilityLess durable
Less versatileFunctionalityHighly functional
Looks coolStyleDoesn’t look cool
Quite expensiveCostCheaper/more affordable
Usually dull and less conspicuousConspicuity/VisibilityAvailable in many bright colors that are highly visible

Table comparing different characteristics of leather and textile motorcycle clothing.

Similarities and Differences

Source: Shared Infographics

What similarities and differences are there between leather and textile motorcycle clothing? Let’s take a closer look below. 

Leather and Textile Motorcycle Clothing Differences

Below are some differences between leather and textile motorcycle clothing. 


Leather motorcycle gear is generally heavier than textile gear. Most leather motorcycle clothing is made using cowhide. Now, cowhide is one of the heaviest animal hides or leathers

Although it isn’t made of cowhide, my leather motorcycle jacket is quite heavy and usually weighs down on me. The weight actually becomes a problem if it turns out too hot out there or if I throw many items into the pockets. 

The greater weight of leather gear is also attributable to its thickness. Leather is thicker than textile or cloth materials. Adding liners adds more weight. 

If you are out to buy a leather moto jacket, you can expect the weight for a lined one to be 3.5-5 Ibs, while an unlined one averages 2.5-3 Ibs. 

The problem with leather being too heavy is that it introduces conflict between a rider’s primary safety (accident avoidance) and secondary safety (protection from injury)

Because of its extra weight, leather gear can increase your crash risk because of heat fatigue, discomfort, and restrictive movement. 

The primary-secondary safety conflict here isn’t only seen in leather clothing. Textile gear also runs this risk, but it all depends on the manufacturer. 


Leather gear lasts a longer time than textile clothing, especially when you take good care of it through polishing and moderate cleaning. 

One good thing about leather clothing is that it doesn’t attract or show grime and dirt easily. Textile usually gets dirty quite fast and can be hard to clean, even if you can toss it into a washing machine. 

Another aspect that defines durability is if the gear serves its primary purpose well. 

It’s not enough for motorcycle clothing to last a long time. It’s equally important for it to continue serving its purpose throughout its lifespan. You can expect this more from leather than textile clothes. 

While most textile clothing fades or tears down with time, leather usually gets even better. It ages like fine wine and maintains its ‘cool’ and timelessness. 


Leather vs Textile Motorcycle Gear 4

If you are on a tight budget, you’ll want to go with textile gear. Leather motorcycle clothing doesn’t only have a high initial purchase price—its maintenance cost is also high. 

Leaving a leather piece of clothing untreated for a long time makes it deteriorate. It starts cracking, and large chunks may even peel off if the cracking continues. 

Besides regular cleaning and small repairs, textile clothing rarely requires expensive maintenance, making it the better option for motorcycle enthusiasts on a budget. But keep in mind that leather is easier to repair. 

Comfort and Fit

Textile motorcycle clothing provides more comfort than leather clothing. You can attribute this to textile’s better qualities such as more airflow, better breathability, warmth, and less restrictive movement. 

Leather clothing provides a better fit because it stretches. You only have to wiggle a bit to stretch the leather and make it conform to the shape of your body for a more comfortable fit. 


Textile gear is more functional than leather clothing. The versatility of textile is hard to rival. You can expect to wear your textile clothes in extreme weather conditions comfortably. 

Waterproof textile clothes are the best when it’s too cold or rainy because they won’t let water sip in. Also, more breathability and airflow mean that your textile gear is better suited for summer when it usually gets too hot. 

Leather clothes may be water-repellent and water-resistant, but leathers aren’t entirely waterproof

Riding in heavy rain in leather apparel will necessitate wearing a rain suit, which adds to the costs and discomfort. 


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Textile clothing wins the battle when it comes to visibility on the road. Most manufacturers make textile moto clothing with bright colors to enhance visibility. 

Unlike textile, most leather motorcycle gear is not visible well enough. Natural leather is dull and won’t give you the best conspicuity on the road. And it gets even worse if the leather is distressed. 

For example, one of my best leather motorcycle jackets is made of natural leather and is quite dull. It’s a brown jacket with a distressed leather surface. 

While I like it for its badass look and high abrasion resistance, it’s not the one I usually pick when the weather calls for wearing highly visible clothes. I don’t even wear it when riding at night

The good news is that leather gear is also evolving rapidly, and there are now more visible and brighter leather items for riders. For example, you can now wear a shiny white, brown, or red leather jacket. 

Most of them are made of faux leather—which isn’t the best for durability, but they are more visible. And you can’t have everything in one piece. 

Impact and Crash Protection

When you crash, textile clothing offers you better impact protection since the material or fabric construction allows for better absorption of the energy from the crash. Leather such as cowhide is quite stiff, and it won’t absorb much of the energy. 

On the other hand, leather provides better crash protection because the smoothness of its surface allows you to slide on the crash surface with relatively low friction. 

The lower the friction, the lower the heat produced, meaning your leather gear will hardly tear down. 

Unlike leather, most textile clothes have a rough surface. They are easily damaged by the heat of the crash, leading to wear and tear that exposes you to skin abrasions and other injuries. 

Leather and Textile Motorcycle Gear Similarities

Let’s now look at some similarities between textile and leather moto gear.

Abrasion Resistance

Although leather traditionally wins the abrasion resistance fight against textile gear, there is now a thin line between the abrasion resistance of the two materials. 

The explanation here is that despite coming much later, the abrasion resistance of modern textile gear is highly improved by using materials of different types and weights in high-impact areas like the knees and shoulders. 

Multiplicity of Gear Items

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When you think of leather or textile motorcycle clothing, the jacket comes to mind first. But both textile and leather are used to make other gear items such as pants, gloves, boots, and overpants. 

Different Types of Construction Material

Both textile and leather motorcycle gear are made using different types of materials. Besides the common cowhide, leather moto gear is also made using kangaroo leather, goatskin, and buffalo hide. 

Most textile moto clothing is made of Cordura, polyester, waxed cotton, and ballistic nylon. Cordura fabric is preferred for its versatility, durability, and excellent abrasion resistance. 

Waxed cotton is ideal because it’s water-resistant and windproof, but it’s high-maintenance since it requires regular waxing to retain optimum water resistance. 


Motorcycle gear manufacturers are now developing modern ways to make both leather and textile moto clothing more functional and safer. 

For example, both textile and leather moto gear now feature body armor strategically placed in all the essential places to better protect the rider, especially in a crash. 

We can expect things to get better and better in the future because of technological advancements in the moto clothing industry. 

Advantages of Leather Motorcycle Gear

Leather motorcycle clothing has the following benefits.

  • It lasts a long time when treated well
  • It offers a traditional look. Textile hardly beats the “cool” look of leather.
  • More abrasion resistance results in better crash protection
  • Leather clothing items are easy to break in because leather stretches fairly well
  • Despite the high cost, leather has a high cost-to-abrasion resistance ratio
  • Leather is easier to repair than textile
  • Grime and dirt do not show easily on leather. 

Advantages of Textile Motorcycle Gear

Textile motorcycle clothing has the following benefits:

  • High conspicuity or visibility on the road
  • Weatherproof and waterproof. Textile is easier to waterproof using additional membranes and treatments
  • Textile clothes provide ample storage space because they have many pockets
  • Better impact protection since textile absorbs and dissipates energy better than leather during a crash
  • You can wash textile clothing in washing machines without risking damage. 

What About Hybrids?

You can try hybrid motorcycle gear if you want the best of both worlds of what textile and leather clothes can provide. 

Hybrid moto clothing refers to gear made using both leather and textile in the same item. This approach is quite common in jackets, especially mesh jackets. 

Hybrid gear usually features expansive textile construction with leather in impact areas like the elbows, knees, and shoulders. 

The idea is to bridge the gap between leather and textile gear to strike a balance in durability, comfort, weight, and abrasion resistance while improving crash and impact protection. 

Hybrid motorcycle gear is a good option if you don’t want to buy both textile and leather gear, even though I highly recommend doing so. 

Your textile gear can serve you well in winter and summer, while leather is ideal when you need utmost protection—which should be every time you ride your bike. 

Standards for Motorcycle Protective Clothing

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The US may not have fully defined or operational government-instituted standards for motorcycle protective clothing like the DOT helmet standard, but we’ll eventually get there. Hopefully. (They say hope is for those who aren’t already living in grace, and in this area, we really aren’t!)

Luckily for us, Europe already has elaborate standards for protective moto clothing that guide manufacturers on making moto gear that will live up to the promise of secondary safety—avoiding injury during a crash. 

Technically, the best route is to make moto gear that balances primary safety and secondary safety. Your gear shouldn’t expose you to higher risks of crashing—in the first place. 

Although high safety standards for motorcycle clothing majorly apply in the European Union, they have been adapted and are now applicable in other markets globally. We could do great by widely adopting the same in the US. 

The European Directive on Personal Protective Equipment became law in 1989 and thereafter followed the development of standards for motorcycle clothing. 

One of the European motorcycle gear standards is the EN 1621 -1 (1998) for impact protectors. 

Other standards have since been issued so far, such as:

  • Back protectors (CE EN 1621 -1 or -2) Level -2 in 2003
  • Boots (CE EN 13634) – Latest version – 2011
  • Pants, suits, and jackets (CE EN 13595) Level -1 in 2008, Level -2 in 2002 & 2008, Level -3 in 2002, and Level -4 in 2002. 
  • Gloves (EN 13594) – 2008

Every approved gear must permanently have the CE label attached, together with the number of that standard (as shown above).

Generally, for any safety equipment to be labeled as “protective” in Europe, it must be tested for its ability to protect against bodily injury. The word “protective” doesn’t apply to any equipment or clothing meant to offer protection from the weather. 

I dug this information up because I know that as a rider, you want to ensure that every piece of motorcycle clothing marked as protective will provide you with the best protection. 

A torn Motorcycle Jacket. Image Credit: PVA-PPE

But this may not always be the case. However, it doesn’t hurt to know what tests your moto gear is expected to pass to be labeled as protective. 

Different motorcycle protective clothing items are subjected to various tests that gauge their performance in aspects such as:

  • Impact resistance: Impact protectors in high-impact parts of the body must be checked for their ability to slow down the rate of transfer of energy in an impact and how well this ability is maintained during the impact. 
  • Abrasion resistance: Moto gear is checked to determine how long its construction material can last when being abraded against surfaces like roads. 
  • Tear and cut resistance: The material used to make motorbike gear should not be easy to cut, penetrate, or tear if it encounters sharp objects during a crash. 
  • Burst strength: The material of the gear, fastenings, and seams should not split open on impact

Things to Watch Out for When Wearing Textile or Leather Motorcycle Gear

If you have been following my posts, you might have noticed that I am a stickler for motorcycle safety

I aim to share my riding story and help you celebrate your motorcycle wins as I do, but that’s impossible if you aren’t here to read my blog because you didn’t ride safely. I need you. Your family needs you. Your country needs you. Most importantly, YOU NEED YOU. 

In keeping with my love for riding safety, here are three tips to keep you safe when wearing leather or textile motorcycle clothing. 

  • Avoid carrying things in your pockets that could injure you if you crash. You shouldn’t carry things like knives, pens, or glass bottles in your pockets. 
  • Ensure all fastenings like Velcro straps are fully secure and well protected from making contact with the road or other surfaces during a crash. 
  • Avoid straps and external pockets that could tear or snag on things if you crash. 

Bottom Line

When it comes to the leather vs textile motorcycle gear debate, declaring a winner is hard. Both options are viable in different applications. 

I don’t consider my textile and leather motorcycle gear entirely exclusive. For example, while I can’t wear a textile jacket over a leather one or vice versa, having either option doesn’t exclude the other. 

I’ve found that leather motorcycle gear is ideal for riders who want optimum crash protection and durability regardless of the price. In contrast, textile gear is ideal for those who want optimum versatility and comfort at pocket-friendly prices

People Also Ask

I’ll now answer some questions people usually ask about motorcycle clothing. See if yours appears below. If it doesn’t, feel free to send it over, and I’ll answer. 

What is the Safest Motorcycle Gear?

You must always be in protective gear as a rider or pillion passenger. The helmet is one of the safest motorcycle gear since it best protects the most vulnerable part of your body during a crash—the head. 

However, every piece of motorcycle gear is equally important. Always ensure you wear the following when riding a motorcycle:

What Type of Leather is Best for Motorcycle Riding? 

Most leather motorcycle gear is made with cowhide because it’s cheaper and more readily available. It provides good body movement and has a desirable cost-to-abrasion resistance ratio.

What Should You NOT Wear on a Motorcycle?

If you really love yourself as much as I do, you should never wear sandals and shorts when riding a motorbike. You might be tempted to do so on a quick ride or when riding for just a few minutes, but I don’t recommend giving in to the temptation. 

Always ride safely. Much love! 

References for the Motorcycle Clothing Safety Standards Section – As retrieved on 15/16th June 2022

About Alex

Hi Friends! Welcome to Motorcycle Exploits. I'm Alex! If you ever had any personal hindrances or doubts about your abilities to ride a motorcycle, then you are in the right place, Mate! My desire is to help you overcome any fears and other personal struggles you have so that you, too, can celebrate your EXPLOITS!