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Things to Consider When Buying Vintage Leather

Things to Consider When Buying Vintage Leather

Things to Consider When Buying Vintage Leather

By Adeline J. Wells

While trends may come and go, there will always be a place in fashion for vintage goods, which bring the quality, design, and styles of the past to the present day.  However, there are a few factors to consider when purchasing vintage fashions, in order to ensure that one is buying a piece of quality that has been properly stored and cared for. These are especially important when sourcing leather goods, whose higher price point often accompanies necessary added care.  

Cut of Leather

When shopping for leather goods, one will frequently be presented with pieces noted as being “full grain,” “top grain,” or “genuine leather.” 

Full grain leather is the highest quality of leather goods.  Taken from the top layer of the hide, its strength and durability makes it more difficult to work with, which is reflected in its price.  Full grain includes all of the natural imperfections that make the leather beautiful and special.  As it ages it will develop the desired patina effect.  

Top grain is the next-highest quality of leather; with the outermost layer of the hide removed, it is a thinner piece that is easier to work with.  That top layer’s removal also gives the top grain a smoother, more uniform look.

Genuine leather is more of an umbrella, catch-all term referring to anything that is technically leather.  The piece is generally crafted from lower layers of the hide that may be pieced together.

Quality of the Piece

When sourcing vintage goods, it is important to note the condition the leather is in at the time of purchase.  Gentle scuffs, distressing, and creases that look natural help create the rugged look that vintage leather is coveted for.  However, one should examine the piece for any excessive creasing, cracks, peeling, or oxidation of the leather, all lending to the fact that it hasn’t been cared for properly.  Pockets and zippers should be examined as well, as damage to vintage pieces may be more difficult and expensive to fix.  It is often beneficial to ask the seller if they have any information about the leather piece’s origin as well, including when it was made, and how it was stored and cared for.


Of course, style is an essential factor when considering purchase of any clothing item.  However, an item’s vintage label does not always correlate to a piece that has, or will age well.  Vintage leather styles such as motorcycle jackets, racers, blazers, and trench coats seem to be eternal, having endured the test of time to still remain fashionable today.  These classic, beloved silhouettes tend to last, and are hailed as being better investments in the long-term than trends of the day.  

Follow-Up Care

After purchasing a vintage leather piece, it is a good idea to clean and condition it prior to wearing.  Starting with dusting off any debris, one can then use a soft rag and warm, gentle soapy water to clean the leather.  After cleaning with a lather, the soap can be rinsed off with a damp cloth before being set out to dry. Following this, a conditioner should be applied with a rag to nourish and soften the leather, making it ready to be worn in style.

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