Fashion trends come and go, but what never goes out of style is a well-made leather jacket. Based in Oceanside, New York, with its own factory in Pakistan, First Manufacturing Company has been around since 1987 and claims to be one of the world’s largest makers of leather apparel. It produces leather jackets, vests, chaps, pants and gloves in men’s and women’s styles and sizes, as well as leather belts and saddlebags, canvas and denim jackets and vests, and ripstop nylon rain suits.
The Raider blends the classic style and heavy-duty protection of a black leather jacket with useful features that should satisfy the needs of touring, cruiser, café/retro and other riders. Made from 1.2-1.3mm Diamond cowhide that’s soft to the touch and needs no breaking in, the Raider has an athletic mesh lining with armor pockets and a full-sleeve zip-out thermal liner. (For an extra $60, I added First Mfg’s SW CE Level 2 armor for the elbows, shoulders and back, which is soft and pliable but hardens upon impact.) The action back uses an accordion pleat behind each shoulder to allow the back of the jacket to expand when the rider’s arms are stretched out to reach the handlebars.
From its simple banded collar to the buttoned, wind-blocking placket that covers the main zipper, the Raider has an understated design that I appreciate. High-quality details include YKK zippers with leather pulls, heavy-duty metal snaps and hidden metal hardware so the jacket won’t scratch your pride and joy. A thick leather jacket can get hot in the summer, and some relief is provided by two zippered horizontal vents on the chest that double as pockets and two zippered vertical vents along the lower back. And when it comes to carrying loot, the Raider is hard to beat with a total of 16 storage pockets: two vented chest pockets, two buttoned chest pockets, two buttoned handwarmer pockets, eight utility pockets sewn into two zippered chest panels (see inset) and two concealed carry pockets with bullet snaps and tapered holsters.
Weighing in at 8.5 pounds for my size large with the thermal liner and optional armor installed, the Raider has serious heft. It fits and feels great, and it’s a steal at only $279.99 (so there’s no excuse for not buying the armor). Available in black only in men’s sizes S-5XL.
For more information, call (800) 537-3030 or visit firstmfg.com.