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What is Unique About Vintage Leather?

G. Melanson
G. Melanson

The term “vintage leather” typically refers to leather products and fashions that pre-date the early 1980s. It often has unique characteristics, such as wrinkles, scratches, and other imperfections that are considered positive features that add to its aged appearance. Vintage leather may also be dyed with various colors, creating highlights and adding a rough texture. “Distressed” leather, which has been aniline dyed to create a worn appearance artificially, is often used synonymously with this term.

Throughout the 1980s and the new millennium, vintage leather jackets, boots, and other accessories have been popular staples in mainstream fashion. Bomber jackets were particularly popular during the 1980s and featured this look, complete with various shades of dye overlaid. Celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Jessica Simpson, and Justin Timberlake have all been seen sporting vintage jackets in recent years. Some animal rights activists consider vintage leather and fur to be acceptable clothing items versus new leather and fur. However, others feel that wearing leather and fur of any kind, regardless of its age, is an inappropriate promotion of cruelty to animals.

Man wearing a vintage leather jacket.
Man wearing a vintage leather jacket.

The unique imperfections of vintage leather make it more difficult to accurately duplicate its look compared to that of new leather, which can be more convincingly replicated using synthetic materials. Because of this, vintage is often a popular choice for covering furniture, such as chairs and couches. The feel, however, is not usually as soft as that of new leather or synthetic leather. Leather jackets and boots found in secondhand shops often feature a rough, cracked texture that can be uncomfortable to wear and may actually crumble over time.

Woman in a vintage leather jacket.
Woman in a vintage leather jacket.

To prevent vintage leather from deteriorating, special care needs to go into the maintenance of the material. The first step in preventing damage is to avoid getting the leather soaked or soiled. It should also be stored in an environment that is not excessively humid or dry. If the item is especially delicate, it should be taken to a professional leather cleaning facility before any restorative products are applied. Products made specifically for genuine vintage leather can be applied and left to dry naturally, leaving a matte finish. Or a treatment may be applied to the hide and buffed with a lint free cloth, leaving the leather glowing.

Discussion Comments


Vintage leather is best achieved with aged leather.

I wouldn't fully agree with secondhand shops to be the place for vintage leather. Many custom made designer leather jackets for men and women are on sale available online.


If you are concerned about animal welfare but still want to be able to wear leather, vintage is the way to go. Vintage leather is available in so many styles that you're sure to find something you love. While there are those that will argue and say you're supporting animal cruelty by purchasing this products I think that is complete rubbish. What is wrong with recycling quality clothing?

I would argue that the amount of effort that goes into producing most popular clothing is created through environmental degradation and human slave labor. While you may not be wearing leather, you certainly aren't a saint.


Vintage leather is a really smart choice if you want to save money and still look good. One of the best things about vintage leather is there is a huge amount of it so you can pick up fairly high-quality items for very little.

One of the best places to look for vintage leather is at your local second-hand stores and online. I have gotten some amazing deals off of auction sites online and with shipping being so affordable these days, why not do it?

The only thing you have to be very careful of is sizing. Sizing is definitely not the same as it was 30 or 40 years ago, so take care to get accurate measurements.

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    • Man wearing a vintage leather jacket.
      By: goodluz
      Man wearing a vintage leather jacket.
    • Woman in a vintage leather jacket.
      By: Coka
      Woman in a vintage leather jacket.
    • Bomber jackets debuted in the 1920s, and are still popular today.
      By: Luis Louro
      Bomber jackets debuted in the 1920s, and are still popular today.
    • Distressed leather is made to look like vintage leather.
      By: Paul Maguire
      Distressed leather is made to look like vintage leather.