Leather jackets are the epitome of cool and have been an essential part of every fashion-conscious wardrobe for decades. Known to be tough, timeless and durable, a quality leather jacket can last for years. That being said, over time the leather can become stiff or hardened. Read our guide on how to soften leather jackets and discover the different types of leather, the different grains of leather, what makes leather become stiff and how to care for and maintain your leather jacket.
Different Types Of Leather And How They Differ In Stiffness
While many believe that leather goods are produced solely from cowhides, there are in fact several different types of leather including lamb, goat, sheep, deer and even buffalo. Each type of leather comes with its own texture, suppleness and stiffness with cowskin being the toughest and lambskin being the softest. Here is an overview of some of the most common leather types, ranging from toughest to softest:
Bovine leather is one of the toughest and most durable leathers. Bovine leather can come from various animals, including cows, bulls, calves, buffalos, and bison. Bovine leather is tanned in a way that makes it tougher and it is most commonly used for leather shoes, motorcycle jackets and furniture.
Cowskin leather is the most common type of leather used. It is one of the strongest, most durable and toughest types of leather, which is why it is typically used for furniture. Due to the tough texture and stiffness of cowskin leather, it is traditionally not used in the clothing industry.
Goatskin is slightly softer but as tough as cowhide. It is economical, durable, thin yet strong and has a smooth, fine grain. It is also flexible and resistant to water and abrasions. Warm and breathable, it is often used for leather jackets, shoes, furniture and slippers.
Deerskin leather is also very durable but is much softer than cowskin leather. It has a stretchiness to it which is why it is often used to make leather gloves. Deerskin leather also has the ability to keep you warm in winter and stay cool during the summer.
Sheepskin leather is extremely soft and comfortable. It is a lightweight and versatile leather that works for both cool and hotter climates. Sheepskin is also waterproofed for the most part and has a soft non-greasy texture. Warm and breathable, sheepskin leather is an excellent choice for leather jackets, slippers, gloves and furniture.
Lambskin leather is one of the softest leathers available. It has a finely grained texture and a buttery smooth texture that is soft to the touch. That being said, it is not as durable as other leather and is more prone to wear. With proper care, lambskin leather can last just as long as other types of leather jackets.
Different Types Of Leather Grain
In addition to there being different types of animal leather, leather also has four basic types of grain. This includes full-grain leather, top-grain leather, corrected grain leather, and bonded leather.
Full Grain Leather
Full grain leather is the strongest and most durable part of the hide of an animal, which is just below the hair and has not yet been sanded, buffed or snuffed. Full grain leather shows all its natural markings and blemishes which many argue adds character to the material. Due to its long lasting and appealing appearance, full grain leather is the most popular leather used.
Top Grain Leather
Top grain leather is the second highest quality leather. Top grain leather is sanded, buffed and shaved off to create a smooth and flawless look. Durable yet flexible, top grain leather is most often used for leather jackets and bags.
Corrected Grain Leather
Corrected grain leather is made from the layer that remains after the top layers of the skin are split and processed. It is sanded and buffed to remove imperfections such as scars from the surface of the material. However, an artificial grain can then be imprinted on the leather for a more authentic look.
Bonded leather is made from the leftovers of other leather making procedures. It is then mixed with a polyurethane binder also known as faux leather. These fibres are then rolled together using adhesives to bond them onto a paper backing to create bonded leather.
What Makes Leather Become Stiff
Leather can be stiff for a number of reasons. It could be that the leather is stiff due to the type of leather it is made from, what grain it is, how it was produced or it could become stiff over time.
Most of us are probably guilty of carelessly hanging our leather jackets in our wardrobes without a thought or care, but as leather is a natural material it needs to be stored in the correct way. Extra moisture, as well as extra dryness, can both be reasons for damaging the leather. It is best to store your leather jacket in a cool dry place and on a good solid coat hanger.
Choosing a leather jacket that does not fit well, especially when it’s smaller than your size, causes the leather to stretch. This stretching can make your jacket less flexible and lose its softness.
Using A Dryer
You should never use a dryer to dry your leather jacket. Dryers are too hot and aggressive for leather which makes your jacket dry out and lose its supple texture. If your leather jacket needs drying, use a dry washcloth to soak up any moisture.
Your Jacket Is Too Old
Taking good care of your leather jacket ensures its longevity. A leather jacket can live for a very long time if cared for properly. If your jacket does not receive the TLC it needs, it may over time lose its softness.
How To Soften My Leather Jacket
Leather jackets are the ultimate timeless accessory that can be worn with anything and all year round. Unfortunately, over time it can become stiff, especially if you don’t wear your leather jacket that often. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to soften your leather jacket. Read our guide on how to soften your leather jacket.
Breaking In Your Jacket
Leather can become stiff over time and you can soften the leather of your jacket by simply wearing it more often. Or to speed this process up slightly, you can put the jacket on and try to move around and stretch while wearing it. Carefully bend your elbows, raise your arms and twist back and forth to loosen up the leather. Simple yet effective, you can achieve a soft leather look by just getting more wear out of your leather jacket.
Apply Rubbing Alcohol And Vaseline
You can use rubbing alcohol and vaseline to soften your leather jacket. Rubbing alcohol penetrates the fibres of the leather, opening up the pores. You can then use a leather sponge or cloth to apply Vaseline to the jacket to soften the leather. As the alcohol evaporates quickly, you will need to immediately apply the vaseline to get the best results.
Get Your Leather Jacket Dry Cleaned
A leather jacket can be softened by dry cleaning it several times. As a result of dry cleaning, the leather will become humid, and humidity makes the leather pliable and flexible. Dry cleaners will also often apply conditioners and oils to the leather which will make it much softer and easier to wear.
Apply Leather Conditioner
Leather conditioner can be used to quickly soften the fabric of your jacket. The emollients and polymers in leather conditioners help to penetrate the leather’s surface, reducing its stiffness. In addition, a leather conditioner can also help add a smooth finish to the overall appearance of the leather.
Apply Olive Oil
You can soften your leather jacket by applying olive oil with a leather sponge or cloth. Using olive oil is a great natural way to soften your leather jacket as the natural saturated and unsaturated fats in olive oil can be used to soften leather fibres. It can also help protect the jacket from peeling and cracking by lightly conditioning it.
Apply Coconut Oil
In addition to olive oil, you can also use coconut oil to naturally soften your leather jacket. Coconut oil is best used when it is either room temperature or warmer. You can apply small amounts of coconut oil to the leather using a leather sponge or cloth and rubbing in gentle circular motions until it has been absorbed.
Apply Mink Oil
Mink oil can be used as a conditioner for leather as it contains unsaturated fatty acids. Its lightweight and creamy texture is perfect for deeply penetrating the fibres of the grain without being too greasy. Mink oil is particularly good at softening new or dried out leather due to the natural fat found in the oil. That being said, you should never apply mink oil directly to the leather and instead should apply small amounts to a leather sponge or cloth as it can stain the leather.
Wet Your Leather Jacket
You can also soften your leather jacket by getting it wet or spraying it with water. This method requires you to only dampen the leather not drench it. Once the exterior of the jacket is wet, put it on and stretch your arms and torso. As the leather dries it will soften and naturally stretch and mould to match your shape. You could also wear your jacket out in light rain to achieve the same effect.
How To Protect And Care For Your Leather Jacket
A quality leather jacket is an investment piece and as such should be cared for as one. Not only will it help protect your investment but if cared for properly a leather jacket can last a lifetime. Here are our top tips on how to protect and care for your leather jacket:
- Keep the leather jacket dry
- Hang the jacket correctly
- Keep the jacket away from heat
- Use a leather conditioner
- Don’t clean at home
- Use professional leather cleaning services
- There are many different types of leather available on the market. Depending on how soft or stiff you want your leather jacket to be may determine which type of leather jacket you go for.
- No matter the type of leather you should make sure you are properly caring for your jacket to increase its longevity.
- To protect your leather from drying out, you can use a range of products. Conditioners, natural oils, and beeswax are all basic ingredients in all leather-protection products.
- It is always advised to try any conditioner on a small area of your leather jacket as some conditioners may darken or stain the leather.
Here at Palaleather, we offer a range of different types of leather jackets for both men including goatskin and lambskin. Shop quality men’s leather jackets and women’s leather jackets today.