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Vintage Leather Jacket – Become a Pro Know What To Look For

There are clothing items you donate or discard when they get old, but not everything that ages should be disregarded.  Leather is a material that tends to get better with age, and vintage leather jackets are a great example of aged clothing that you should hold onto.  I will help you become a pro on what to look for in vintage leather jackets.

A vintage leather jacket is an old light coat made of tanned animal hide or faux leather. They are worn over clothing for warmth and fashion and are generally at least 20 years old in style.  Vintage leather jacket prices vary considerably depending on the material and manufacturer.

Vintage leather jackets can be expensive, but are they worth it?  Are vintage leather jackets available in a style that would suit me? Let’s check out the cost and benefits of vintage leather jackets and tips for choosing the right one.

What Is a Vintage Leather Jacket?

A leather jacket is considered vintage if it is roughly 20–100 years old in terms of style.  The jacket itself does not have to be decades old, just the style.  The distinct difference between vintage and modern leather jackets is that modern jackets have new styles that were not seen more than twenty years ago.  A leather jacket over 100 years old may be considered an antique.

What We’ll Explore

  • Clearing up Myths & Misconceptions
  • The History of Vintage Leather Jackets
  • Why You Might Like a Vintage Leather Jacket
  • Vintage Leather Jacket Overview Table
  • Popular Types and Styles of Vintage Leather Jackets
  • Common Vintage Leather Jacket Characteristics
  • Vintage Leather Jacket Costs
  • Pros of Vintage Leather Jackets
  • Cons of Vintage Leather Jackets
  • Vintage Leather Jacket Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made
  • Experienced Tips for Choosing a Vintage Leather Jacket
  • My Personal Research with Vintage Leather Jackets
  • Vintage Leather Jacket Care and Maintenance
  • Helpful Insights on Vintage Leather Jackets
  • Key Takeaways
Various Leather Jackets on Hangars - Vintage Leather Jacket - Liberty Leather Goods
Various Leather Jackets on Hangars

Clearing Up Myths & Misconceptions

There are several myths and misconceptions regarding vintage leather jackets.  First, vintage leather jackets are NOT just for men!  This look is great for everyone — it’s about finding one you love and enjoy wearing.  Another misconception is that every vintage leather jacket style looks great on everyone.  Every style is not for everyone, but at least one style fits everyone.  

One big myth around vintage leather jackets is price.  It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg to get a great-looking vintage leather jacket.  You can find them at second-hand stores, thrift shops, garage sales, and even online. 

Last but not least, there’s a myth that bigger is better when going for the “boyfriend” look.  Not true!  Vintage leather jackets should not be more than two sizes larger than your usual size to achieve the “boyfriend” look without looking frumpy.

The History of Vintage Leather Jackets

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Leather covers were first made and used by Native Americans and ancient societies for warmth and practicality.  The first actual leather jackets were made in the early 1900s as part of military wear.  They were later modified in 1917 to become flight jackets for pilots in World War I to keep them warm in open-air cockpits. 

After this period, vintage leather jackets became a fashion statement, especially in the 1950s and 60s when motorcycling was popular.  Then it was used for both protection from the elements and from falling off the bike.  Vintage leather jackets later became a trendy style that has persisted.

Why You Might Like a Vintage Leather Jacket

There are several reasons you might like a vintage leather jacket.  Here are some examples:

  • Vintage leather jackets have a classic look.
  • They come in several different colors and styles.
  • The feel is luxurious and warm.
  • Vintage leather jackets offer practicality and style.
  • The patina of a vintage leather jacket gives a distinct look.

Vintage Leather Jacket Overview Table

Vintage Leather Jacket CharacteristicDetails
ItemVintage Leather Jacket
UsesMotorcycling, warmth, fashion, costume
Common MaterialsNatural leather, faux leather, Nappa, suede, Nubuck
Popular ColorsBlack, brown, blue, green, pink, red, white, multicolor
SizesXS-XXXL, chest/shoulder/arm length measurements
Popular StylesDistressed, quilted, bomber, aviator, motorcycle/biker
Cost Range ($)$20–$1,600
How Long it Lasts (on average)30+ years
Vintage Leather Jacket Characteristics

Popular Types and Styles of Vintage Leather Jackets

Distressed

The most popular style of vintage leather jacket is the distressed look.  This signifies the leather’s natural aging and is challenging to replicate.  The color fades slightly, giving it a certain patina that is trendy and beautiful.

Quilted

A popular type of vintage leather jacket is the quilted look.  This is often seen on the shoulders, inside, and sometimes all over the jacket.  This means there is extra insulation that keeps you warm but also looks very nice.

Bomber

The bomber vintage leather jacket is a trendy style, much like what you might have noticed in Top Gun and other movies with fighter pilots.  It’s classic with a wider lapel and a more fitted look.

Aviator

The aviator vintage leather jacket or flight jacket is a little less casual than the bomber jacket and can even be worn as business casual in the office.  These feature a sturdier raised collar, tighter cuffs, and a waistband that fits more snugly. 

Motorcycle/ Biker

The most common style of vintage leather jacket is the motorcycle or biker jacket.  These are almost always a slick black or dark brown, with wide collars and bright silver embellishments.  It is the epitome of the “tough guy” jacket and is reminiscent of “the Fonz” in Happy Days.

Check out this video from Terry Mitchell to see a really impressive collection of vintage leather jackets.

Common Vintage Leather Jacket Characteristics

Materials

There are many options available for materials from which vintage leather jackets are made.  Graduate student MKM Abbas from the University of Science and Technology informs us that the most common material is cowhide, then lambskin, Nappa, sheepskin, suede, Nubuck, and faux leather. 

Nappa leather is the highest quality, while sheepskin and suede are the softest.  True vintage jackets will have cotton lining, while more modern jackets will have a polyester lining.

Sizes

Vintage leather jackets come in standard and metric sizes.  For men and women, there are S–XXXL, chest 34–48 inches, shoulders 17.5–21 inches, and sleeves 25–27.5 inches.  It is best to find a vintage leather jacket that fits you comfortably and is no more than two sizes larger than your usual size.

Variations

There are several variations of vintage leather jackets.  Common variations include bomber, aviator, and biker.  These styles include quilting, distressed or aged leather look, and liners for warmth and protection.

Key Uses

Key uses for vintage leather jackets include protection from weather elements, fashion statements, and classic and modern looks.

Vintage Leather Jacket Costs

There is a great variation in vintage leather jacket costs.  Some things that can determine price are the type of leather used, the age of the jacket, and the brand.  Here are some examples of available vintage leather jackets:

  1. Poshmark has an Ellen Tracy green vintage leather jacket for $10 used with $8 for delivery.
  2. Mercari has a used women’s black vintage leather jacket for $25 with free delivery.
  3. Courreges has a black vintage leather trucker jacket for $1,590 with free delivery.

Pros of Vintage Leather Jackets

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Vintage leather jackets never go out of style.  Their style is versatile, cool, and easy.  Vintage leather jackets are made to last for decades.  With the proper care, a vintage leather jacket can be handed down for generations.

Cons of Vintage Leather Jackets

Vintage leather jackets require some maintenance to keep them looking great and maintaining their durability.  Some types of leather used for vintage-style jackets don’t last as long (e.g., PU or faux leather).  Their price tag can be fairly high in some cases, but they’ll last longer with the right material and care.

Vintage Leather Jacket Manufacturing Process – How They’re Made

Vintage leather jacket manufacturing begins with tanned animal hides.  The hide is tanned with chrome salts or vegetable tanning agents to remove hair, preserve the material, and add to its durability. 

Then, defects are removed through processing, the material is trimmed into sheets, inspected, and tanning is repeated.  The leather is then stretched, ironed, cut into the right shapes for leather jackets, stitched together, and shipped out for sale.

There are so many different types and styles of vintage leather jackets available, and many price points to fit just about any budget.

Experienced Tips for Choosing a Vintage Leather Jacket

Frequency of Use

If you plan on wearing a vintage leather jacket often, be sure to choose quality over price.  Higher-quality leather will last much longer than low-quality or faux leather.  Choose a natural finish over a high gloss or PVC coating to prevent premature cracking in the elements and with frequent use.

Environment/Conditions

Based on the environment you plan on wearing a vintage leather jacket, you’ll want to look at the jacket’s quality and the lining.  For colder climates, consider cotton or shearling lining to keep you warm.  For wet climates, consider a coated vintage leather jacket to protect from moisture better.  For warm climates, consider a thinner lining for breathability.

Cost

There is a broad range of vintage leather jackets available at many different price points.  Remember that the most expensive one may not be of the highest quality, just as the cheapest one may not be of the lowest quality.  Choose a vintage leather jacket that you can afford but also fits your style, personality, and frequency with which you choose to wear it.

Trends

Vintage leather jackets have remained fairly trendy for decades, so trends should not be a major deciding factor when choosing.  

Personal Preference

Last but not least, consider your personal preference when selecting a vintage leather jacket.  If you like how it looks, try it on and see how it feels.  If it makes you feel good, buy it!

A Vintage Red Leather Jacket With Belt - Vintage Leather Jacket - Liberty Leather Goods
A Vintage Red Leather Jacket With Belt

My Personal Research on the Cost of Vintage Leather Jackets From Popular Retailers

Vintage Leather Jacket RetailerCost
Kohl’s$180–$350
While Hills Knives$299–$458
JC Penny$252–$440
James Leather$209–$329
Angel Jacket$259–$285
Wilsons Leather$125–$195
Patrick James$698
USA Leather Jackets$127–$167
Vintage Leather Jacket Retailers and Prices

Vintage Leather Jacket Care and Maintenance

How to Clean a Vintage Leather Jacket

Cleaning a vintage leather jacket is more about spot cleaning than anything.  A soft-bristled brush, microfiber cloth, or a leather cleaner can be used for spot cleaning.  Avoid getting the leather too wet, and if a commercial cleaner is used, be sure to follow their instructions for use.  Test products in an inconspicuous spot like the inside of the collar or cuff to ensure colorfastness.

How to Maintain a Vintage Leather Jacket

Maintaining a vintage leather jacket includes proper use, cleaning, and storage.  Do not store a vintage leather jacket in direct sunlight, in an area prone to temperature fluctuations, or near any moisture.  Spot clean when needed and condition the leather regularly to keep it looking great.

How to Store a Vintage Leather Jacket

Vintage leather jackets should be stored in a temperature-controlled area away from sunlight and moisture.  Cover them with a dust cloth or garment bag to protect them from dust.  Clean and condition a vintage leather jacket regularly.

Helpful Insights on Vintage Leather Jacket

How can you tell if a leather jacket is vintage?

Vintage refers to the age of an item; in this case, it’s 20–100 years old in style.  The jacket itself may not be 20–100 years old, but the style is. A leather jacket that is more than 100 years old may be considered antique rather than vintage.

What is genuine vintage leather?

The term vintage refers to the age of the item, while genuine refers to the type of leather.  Genuine vintage leather is a type of material that contains natural animal hide and is 20–100 years old.

Key Takeaways

  1. Vintage leather jackets are always on trend.
  2. Quality is the ultimate deciding factor for which vintage leather jacket to buy.
  3. Vintage leather jackets can last very long with the proper care.

In Closing

You can never go wrong with purchasing a vintage leather jacket.  From aviator to biker jacket styles, there’s a look for everyone.  Take the time to try some on, invest in quality (and comfort), and enjoy a vintage leather jacket.  You’ll find it’s worth the price, and even your children and maybe your grandchildren will be able to enjoy it as well!

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