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Vintage Leather Jackets - How To Find A Great Piece

May 30, 2021

Vintage Leather Jackets - How To Find A Great Piece

by Sarah Makhluf

Sarah is a freelance content writer from Boston, MA. She loves traveling, fashion, and the beach.


Leather jackets are a wardrobe staple. Men and women around the world have been after great leather pieces for decades. While every new season, a new interpretation of classic leather styles hits the shelves, sometimes looking to the past is the key to finding your perfect leather jacket.

In the 2000s, vintage goods were more covetable than ever before. Many praise high-quality vintage leather jackets for their sustainability and proven ability to stand the test of time (and fashion). The truth is that many of today's leather styles often turn to vintage pieces for design inspiration. But how do you find those one-of-a-kind vintage leather pieces? We're covering everything you need to know about hunting for the perfect vintage leather jacket.

What is Considered Vintage Leather?

Leather comes in all shapes, sizes, and textures. From cowhide to sheepskin, leather jackets began hitting retail shelves in 1928 as a fashionable garment leaving us with 93 years of ever-changing themes, styles, and textures. Vintage leather in regard to clothing refers to items 20 to 100 years old. Did you know anything after 100 years old is considered antique? When it comes to leather jackets, vintage usually refers to pieces that were produced before the early 1980s. Not sure if your dad's old jacket is considered vintage? Ask him what year he bought it!

How Leather Changed Over The Years

Leather jacket styles, materials, and production methods have drastically changed since Schott introduced the Perfecto in 1928. Much like other consumer goods, technology plays a big part in today's leather jackets. Vintage leather jackets or jackets that were created before the technology boom we know today were likely handmade.

The materials were probably of higher quality as well. Vintage leather is very rarely mixed with synthetics, making them more long-lasting and durable. Plus, as high-quality leather gets older, it usually becomes softer and more comfortable rather than wearing out. If you've ever shopped for new vintage-style clothing, you'll probably notice they have that lived-in look. While vintage-style jackets may offer the same look as a classic from the 50s, 60s, or 70s, you own a piece of history when you own an authentic vintage leather item.

Not to say there's anything wrong with how manufacturers produce leather jackets today, but you have to keep in mind most of today's garments are machine-made. Mass-produced clothing doesn't have the same unique charm as something handmade - but that's something that we can't avoid in 2021. We can, however, hunt for vintage items!

Vintage leather jacket

How to Find a Good Vintage Leather Jacket?

You can buy leather jackets online or at a local brick & mortar store like anything else today. Each has its own perks and downfalls. Also, depending on where you live, it may be hard to come by second-hand or thrift stores.

Buying Online:

The internet is packed with millions of online shops that will sell you just about anything you can imagine. But if you're looking to e-commerce to find your perfect jacket, there are a few key places you should shop at. Some online stores are just after a buck, while others may be the treasure chest you've been looking for.

Check out these reputable online brands below to shop for your perfect vintage leather jacket.

  • The Leather Makers- The Leather Makers is an excellent stop for online vintage leather shopping. They have a good selection of rare vintage finds that the company authenticates for you.
  • eBay- While you may be able to find rare finds on the world's largest marketplace, we will say that you do adequate research on an item if you choose to buy from eBay. The site is filled with incredible, unique gems, but there are also plenty of flops!
  • ASOS Marketplace - Online giants ASOS released their own marketplace a few years ago. This is a great place to look for vintage men's leather jackets. The cool thing about ASOS is they tend to get new stock quite often. The marketplace isn't just for vintage finds though. They also sell pre-loved clothing for less to help reduce waste!

 

Buying Local:

Another great way to search for your dream vintage leather jacket is to head to your local thrift shops, second-hand stores, or even yard sales.

Check out these top places to help you on your search for the best vintage find.

  • The Salvation Army and Goodwill - Often, charitable organizations like The Salvation Army and Goodwill have some incredible finds. Plus, they are found all around the country. The Salvation Army and Goodwill also use the profits from thrift store sales to put toward community programs and services for those in need. Another cool thing about Goodwill is their online shop! They have an eBay-style auction site. Buyers can place bids on an item and win if they have the highest bid by the end of the auction.
  • Savers- Savers is another great local shop to look for vintage leather jackets. Savers is another thrift store in the US with over 300 stores nationwide. Savers is a for-profit, global thrift retailer. Shopping there may take a little time and effort, but if you have some time to browse the racks, it's worth checking out a Savers near you.
  • Local Thrift Shops- This will all depend on where you live, but a quick online search and you can find all of the thrift stores in your area. Take a look at what your town has to offer. You might just find some hidden gems in those small, mom & pop shops.
  • Yard Sales- Estate sales and yard sales are more great places to look for truly unique vintage finds. While there's no guarantee the next yard sale you go to will have a vintage men's leather jacket, if you're really on the hunt, it's a good idea to check.

What To Look Out For

Even though a jacket may technically be vintage, that doesn't mean it's good quality. You always want to take a good look at the leather and make sure it's not cracked or super dry. You might want to do a quick sniff test as well. Remember, these jackets have had a lot of different owners. If something smells a little funky, you probably can get it professionally cleaned. Be sure you never use water or soap or put a vintage leather jacket in the washing machine.

Another good tip is to look at the tags. Is the jacket made by a brand you recognize? Does the tag say what type of leather the jacket is? Some branding tags may even tell you what year the piece was made. Also, if you find a tag that says if the garment was made outside of the US, that's something to take notice of. Most brands didn't outsource production to other countries until the 1990s. If you find a tag that says it's American-made, it's a good sign the piece is genuine.

It's also worth looking at the jacket's lining. Oder leather jackets are more likely to be lined with cotton rather than shiny polyester. Remember, if you're at a vintage shop, it's perfectly acceptable to grill the dealer or sales associate on the jacket's origin, era, and how long it's been on the shelves in the shop.

Should You Go Custom?

Sometimes shopping for a specific garment like a vintage leather jacket can be a hassle. It does take a lot of time, energy, and resources to find that one piece. While having a jacket custom may not give you the street cred you'd get if you were rocking a perfect condition 1970s Schott leather jacket, custom pieces can be a quicker and more convenient alternative.

Custom leather jacket

When to Go Custom

Custom leather jackets are ideal for anyone who knows what they want but can't seem to find it in a retail shop or for guys that don't fall into the typical sizing categories so many brands abide by. Having a custom leather jacket means getting to choose exactly what you want. Everything is in your hands, from the type of leather, the color, the style, fit, even down to the stitching and buttons. Custom leather jackets are handmade using your exact measurements, meaning there's no need for a tailor or trying on multiple pieces to find one that fits in all the right places.

Another perk of going custom is having the chance to create and design your dream jacket. If you're looking for that vintage-style look with worn-in leather, a soft buttery texture, and a classic silhouette, you can have one made. With today's technology, leather manufacturers can produce leather that looks like you've had the jacket for years.

Storing Your Leather Jacket

Taking care of any leather jacket is crucial for its longevity, regardless of whether it's a vintage find or made in 2021. Check out our top tips below to help keep your leather jackets looking better for longer.

Tip #1. Never Fold Leather Jackets

It can be tempting to fold up your jacket at the beginning of summer and place it in the back of your closet. Once the cool air comes and you go to pull it out, you'll be left with a wrinkled, creased mess.

Tip #2. Keep Away From Heat

Sunshine, leather, sweat, and heat don't mix well. If you're going to store your leather jacket, always try to hang it up in a cool, dry place. It's also not the best idea to throw it in the back of your car on a hot day. The heat can dry out and damage the leather.

Tip #3. Don't Clean Leather

If you're thinking about giving your leather jacket a good clean before placing it in storage for an extended period, you might want to think twice. Unless your jacket has a stain or dirt on it, there's no need to clean it. Over cleaning leather can compromise the color, look, and feel of it.

Final Thoughts

Thanks so much for reading. Are you on the hunt for the perfect vintage leather jacket? There's something so fun about wearing an item made 40, 50, or even 60 years ago. Imagine all the places that jacket has been! I personally love vintage fashion. It's a sweet reminder of the way life used to be. While you're probably thinking I'm way too young to have any idea what life was like in the 70s, well, you'd be right. But as the daughter of a total hippie, I think I have a pretty good idea.

If you enjoyed this article, please pass it along to anyone else who may enjoy it. Happy hunting. Your perfect vintage leather jacket is out there!

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