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Do Leather Jackets Stretch? – What to Watch Out For

Imagine the perfect leather jacket was purchased online for a great price. It arrives, but it’s too tight in the shoulders and chest. So, do leather jackets stretch? I will answer this and more to help obtain that custom-fit-feeling leather jacket.

Leather jackets stretch due to the leather’s natural fibers lengthening and becoming more elastic with wear and use. To speed the process, various techniques can also be used to stretch leather material and create a better-fitting or softer leather jacket.

Is there a leather jacket in the closet that just doesn’t fit right? Are you looking for a way to make a leather jacket fit like it’s custom-made without spending a lot of money? Let’s check out how to stretch a leather jacket and what to watch out for.

Do Leather Jackets Stretch?

Yes, leather jackets will stretch over time, with use,  and when using specific leather stretching techniques. Leather is a material that is treated and tanned to be durable and water resistant, but the fibers will naturally stretch and become more elastic as the leather is worn or used.

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • Reasons for Stretching Leather Jackets
  • Leather Jacket Stretching Techniques
  • How to Stretch a Leather Jacket Step by Step
  • Supplies for Stretching a Leather Jacket
  • How Much Will a Leather Jacket Stretch?
  • Do Faux Leather Jackets Stretch?
  • Leather Jacket Stretching Tips
  • My Personal Research on Stretching Leather Jackets
  • Helpful Insights on Stretching Leather Jackets
  • Key Takeaways
A Woman Wearing a Black Leather Jacket - Do Leather Jackets Stretch - Liberty Leather Goods
A Woman Wearing a Black Leather Jacket

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

One misconception around leather jacket stretching is that all methods can be used on all types of leather. This is false because not all leather is made the same. Therefore, some stretching methods work better on some types of leather, and some methods should not be used on certain leather types to prevent damage to the material.

Reasons for Stretching Leather Jackets

Would someone want to stretch a leather jacket on purpose? Sure! They may stretch naturally with time, but sometimes it’s just not quick enough for one’s taste. Some cases when there’s a reason for stretching leather jackets may be when:

  1. The leather jacket just doesn’t fit quite right – Whether it was purchased online or one has extra broad shoulders, stretching a leather jacket can help achieve a custom fit. 
  2. The leather feels too stiff – Brand-new leather usually has some degree of stiffness due to tanning. Leather can be stretched to soften when it’s uncomfortable or affects the fit.
  3. Wanting a custom fit without the expense – Getting a leather jacket custom fitted by an expert can be pricey, but it’s a nice look to achieve. Spot stretching a leather jacket can help get that custom-fit look without spending additional money.

Leather Jacket Stretching Techniques

There are several techniques for stretching leather jackets, and some are more effective than others. With all these methods, there is some potential for damaging the leather, so it’s important to be patient and follow the instructions carefully.

WaterSpritz the leather to dampen and wear until dry, perfect for all-over stretch
HeatUse a hair dryer or iron to heat and stretch leather; good for small, targeted areas
MechanicalWear the jacket or stretch sections by hand, suitable for all over stretch
Leather conditionerApply conditioner to soften and add flexibility for an all-over stretch
Leather stretch spraySpritz stretching spray to dampen then stretch by hand for targeted areas
Leather Jacket Stretching Techniques

Supplies For Stretching a Leather Jacket

The supplies needed for stretching a leather jacket will vary by the technique chosen. Let’s look at each technique to help with preparation:

  1. Water method – Spray bottle and warm tap water
  2. Heat method – Hair dryer or clothes iron
  3. Mechanical method – Body and hands
  4. Leather conditioner method – Leather conditioner and microfiber towel or old t-shirt
  5. Leather stretch spray method – Leather stretch spray and microfiber towel or old t-shirt

Heat stretching methods should not be used with faux leather to prevent damage.

How to Stretch a Leather Jacket Step by Step

Now that the supplies have been collected let’s review the process for each method step by step.

Water Method 

  1. Spray down the leather jacket evenly to dampen 
  2. Put the jacket on and wear it while it dries 
  3. Move the arms back and forth in a hugging motion and lightly tug on the cuffs 
  4. Do this until the leather jacket is completely dry.

Heat Method 

Using a Hair Dryer

  1. On a low to medium setting, direct a hair dryer no less than six inches from the tight spot 
  2. Heat it for 30 seconds
  3. Gently stretch by hand as it cools

Using a Clothes Iron

  1. Place a cotton t-shirt or cloth over the leather jacket 
  2. Iron on low heat for no more than a few seconds
  3. Gently stretch or put the jacket on to stretch as it cools

Mechanical Method 

  1. Wear the jacket normally
  2. Move arms back and forth in a hugging motion 
  3. Lightly tug on the cuffs. (Accelerate this process with a thick sweater or sweatshirt.)

Leather Conditioner Method

  1. Apply leather conditioner all over the leather jacket 
  2. Wear the jacket normally. 
  3. Move the arms back and forth in a hugging motion 
  4. Lightly tug on the cuffs

Leather Stretch Spray Method

  1. Spray on the target area to dampen 
  2. Lightly stretch by hand as it dries

Watch this helpful video from LJBC Productions demonstrating how he stretches a leather jacket in the shower.

How Much Will a Leather Jacket Stretch?

Not all leather jackets are made the same, and different types of leather (and faux leather) have varying degrees of flexibility. Cowhide is most commonly used to make leather jackets, and as the most durable, it will stretch less than other leathers.

Goatskin and sheepskin are also used for leather jackets; these materials are thin and more pliable than cowhide, meaning they are easier to stretch; plus, goatskin is the most fragile and could tear when stretched. With these characteristics in mind, some stretching methods fit certain leather types better than others to prevent tearing and damage.

Do Faux Leather Jackets Stretch?

Faux leather is made to be very similar to genuine leather in the way it looks and feels, with a few key differences. Faux leather is made with some natural or synthetic materials and a form of plastic, making it less stretchy than real leather.

Researchers Narica, Laizane, Pacejs, and Mezinska inform us that faux leather contains polyurethane (PU) or polyvinylchloride (PVC) and interlocking knit polyester or fabric, making it very heat sensitive. Therefore, it is more susceptible to damage when certain stretching methods are used. The best methods for stretching faux leather are with leather stretch spray and water.

Leather Jacket Stretching Tips 

Stretching a leather jacket isn’t difficult using any method, but there are a few things to be aware of before getting started. Here are a few tips for stretching a leather jacket:

  1. Don’t start with a leather jacket that is way too small. However, it should fit snugly before starting the stretching process.
  2. Avoid getting the leather jacket too wet with water, conditioner, or leather stretch spray. This can lead to staining and mold.
  3. Don’t use too high heat as this can lead to drying out and cracking the leather. Avoid using heat with faux leather, as this will break down the protective coating.
  4. Never pull too hard, as this could lead to leather tearing.

My Personal Research on Stretching Leather Jackets

I asked some friends and family if they’d ever stretched a leather jacket before and which method worked best for them. 

Leather Jacket Stretching MethodTimes Selected
Haven’t stretched a leather jacket25%
Regular wear33%
Water method17%
Hair dryer17%
Leather conditioner8%
Popular Leather Jacket Stretching Methods

Helpful Insights on Stretching Leather Jackets

How long do leather jackets take to stretch?

Leather jackets can begin stretching after about two to three hours of wear. It can take days, weeks, or months weeks to stretch a leather jacket, depending on your desired result.

Does a leather jacket shrink or stretch over time?

Leather jackets will stretch over time and with wear, so it’s better to start with a snug-fitting leather jacket than one that is slightly too big. Leather jackets do not shrink naturally over time, but methods can be used to shrink a leather jacket.

Do leather jackets stretch in the shoulders?

Leather jackets will stretch in the shoulders because a great deal of movement occurs in those areas. The pressure from the shoulders and heat from the body can naturally cause leather jackets to stretch in the shoulders over time.

Key Takeaways

  1. Real and faux leather jackets will stretch with use.
  2. Leather jackets can be stretched through water, heat, mechanical, conditioner, and stretch spray techniques.
  3. Heat stretching methods should not be used with faux leather to prevent damage.

In Closing

Leather jackets are a great investment for anyone, and they can last a lifetime or longer with the proper care. Stretching methods work well to create a custom fit if they don’t fit quite right. Whether it’s water or heat or just wearing it over time, a leather jacket looks great when it’s that perfect fit. Which method will you choose to stretch a leather jacket?

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