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The Journal

What is Vintage Leather?

Leather is a material that can be used to make many different types of clothing and accessories. Some clothing items you may see made out of leather are jackets, pants and even boots. Many people have either heard of, seen or worn leather in their lifetimes, but not as many are as familiar with vintage leather. 

In this article, we will go over exactly what vintage leather is. We will cover topics such as age of leather, optics, patination, character of the leather and also things to consider before you decide to buy vintage leather, how to choose a vintage leather jacket and frequently asked questions regarding this material.

What is Vintage Leather?

Leather that has been manufactured prior to the 1980’s is considered to be “vintage leather”. You can typically decipher between regular leather and vintage leather because vintage typically will have distinct characteristics or imperfections such as scratches, wrinkles or other giveaways that it is older and has been worn or used longer. 

One reason many prefer vintage leather to newer leather is because the specific imperfections found in vintage leather make it harder to fake than the faux leather made to imitate newer types of leather. For this reason, many people have chosen to use vintage leather for their furniture. Although, vintage leather is typically not as soft or comfortable as newer leather, including synthetic leather. 

Antique Leather Because of Age

A leather can be called “antique” generally when it is about a century old. This same idea of a hundred years of age means vintage can be applied to other items aside from leather as well. 

Antique Leather Because of the Optics

Another characteristic that can cause a leather to be classified as antique is the “old look”. This term is frequently used with embossed chairs, desk tops and Chesterfield furniture. When we are discussing these terms, we are considering the look of the leather instead of the age that makes it antique, and therefore “vintage leather” can be used widely for an older leather appearance. You may be able to pinpoint vintage leather by the contrast of colors. 

Leather Patina

The “Patina” is the look of the leather that has been altered due to its aging, but is still of the appealing quality. An old painting may have some sun spots or cracks from its age, but it’s still beautiful. This is the same with leather. For leather to be classified as patina it does not necessarily have to be a hundred years old like antique leather, it just needs to have the same old look. If you were to look at a couch made out of antique leather and a couch made of newer, modern leather, you would obviously be able to point out the patina. 


The process of modifying modern leather to look vintage is called patination. The leather is called “rubbed off leather” when a darker hue that is semi-transparent is added to the material. You can even buy leather with an antique finish. 

Age of Vintage Leather

The difference between vintage leather and antique leather is the age. Vintage leather typically refers to items before the 1980’s, but no older than 100 years. Anything older than a century is considered to be antique. 

Character of Vintage Leather

Instead of wearing out, real leather that was created before the 1980’s ages beautifully and the look is highly sought after. So much so that while generally unsuccessful, the look or “patina” is attempted to be recreated. If you own a piece of vintage leather, count yourself lucky, because you essentially own a piece of history. Make sure you treat your leather with love and care.

If you haven’t acquired your own vintage piece or are not going to be passed down one, you can typically find distressed finish or vintage inspired pieces. Try to find high quality leather, because the higher the leather quality, the more character it obtains. 

What to Consider Before You Buy Vintage Leather

  1. Condition of the leather- One fun part of buying a vintage leather jacket is knowing that it has had a history and you can tell that from the patina. Although, it is important to know the difference between an old look and too worn out. Try not to buy damaged leather, and before you purchase the jacket check all the zippers and pockets to ensure they are in good condition and working order. Because of the rarity of the material, it may be harder and more expensive to fix, so checking out the condition prior to purchase is recommended and a good idea. 

  2. Origin of the leather- As we discussed earlier, while challenging, it is still possible to recreate the look of a vintage leather jacket. This is why it is a good idea to get the history of the jacket. Wherever you purchase the jacket, question the person that is selling it to you and try to get to the bottom of its history, such as when it was made, how it was cared for and who it was bought from.

  3. Style of the jacket- While you will typically find the motorcycle jacket to be the most common style out there, there are still other styles or types of jackets such as the aviator flight jacket, a leather blazer from the 90’s or the flapping trench. Whichever style you prefer, it is a good idea to become familiar with each type and decide what you would like to purchase before going on the hunt. This way you will know what you want and will not be as easily swayed to make an impulsive decision or purchase.

  4. Your own budget- Authentic leather jackets can prove to be pricey. Authentic vintage leather could be even more expensive. It is a good idea to plan out how much you’re willing to spend before looking for your jacket. Although, there is nothing wrong with a little research to understand and see for yourself what the average price of a good jacket can be. 

  5. How it will fit- Make sure you find a jacket that not only fits you, but suits you. Get a good idea as to what you will be wearing with it. For example, you may want to go up a size on your jacket if you are planning on wearing it over bulky clothes. Although, you do not want it too big either, because then it may be unflattering. 

Tips on Choosing a Vintage Leather Jacket

One of the first steps to take to choose a proper vintage leather jacket is to pay attention to the style. As previously stated, there are various styles that you can choose from when buying a jacket. It is a good idea to try on different styles and see which one suits you best. There is also the matter of color. Vintage leather jackets can be made of different colored leather, and it is important to choose the one that suits you best. It is a good idea to shop around or do your research to find out all the different options you have before making your purchase.

The most important step is making sure you choose the right size. Like we said before, you need to take into consideration what you will be wearing the jacket with. If you plan on wearing it over a lot of thick clothes, you may want to go up a size. A good rule of thumb is to wear what you plan on wearing underneath it when you try it on before you make the purchase. If you must resort to an online purchase, try finding custom sizing that you can input your exact measurements. 

Lastly, you will want to find out the features of the jacket. One of the most important features are pockets. It is a good idea to decide if you want or need pockets in your jacket before purchasing. You might also want to check on the zippers. Some jackets may have zippers, others may not, and some may have more zippers than others. Learn as much as you can about the jacket before buying. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Would Vintage Leather be Considered a Good Buy?

Vintage leather is considered beautiful and timeless because of its age and the patina--or look in which it has obtained through the years of wear and tear. While you want good quality leather, it is actually sought after to have leather with lines, wrinkles and scratches. While you may be paying more than an everyday cotton jacket, you will be receiving a high-quality jacket that will last you. You also will obtain something valuable that you can either pass down or resell when you have gotten your use out of it.

Does Older Look Better?

While this may vary from person to person, many people prefer the look of older weather. Not only does it develop a unique patina, but it tells a story. Vintage leather has a history and to many people this makes it that much more appealing. Along with the quality, it also has it’s own look that many people love. 

Now that we have covered what antique and vintage leather is, you can decide for yourself whether it is worth the investment. Both materials are unique and beautiful and would prove to be a great quality jacket, now it’s just up to your personal preference.