Vintage Leather Jackets: Are They Worth It?
Let me tell you about one of my biggest clothing purchase letdowns:
The Disintegrating Leather Jacket
It was 2011, and I had my eagle eyes on a leather jacket I’d seen on a TV show. Because if there is one thing I am, it’s easily influenced by the aesthetic clothes of fictional characters.
This specific leather jacket was from a fast-fashion brand, not that I really knew what that meant back then. They were a high street favorite worn by celebs and models, and they sold themselves as better quality than the cheap stuff. This leather jacket was definitely expensive at retail price, but it was justified for the quality, right?
So, on my student budget, I decided it would be best to buy secondhand. It was always my favorite way to hunt down special items anyway.
After trawling thrift shops and online auctions for months, I eventually tracked it down. Not only the exact style I was after (a sort of mash-up between aviator and biker), but in my size too! Perfect!
Wearing my leather jacket in 2011
But I was 20, packed with poor decisions and a striking lack of common sense. So, when it was too cold in the winter months for my cropped coat (despite my best efforts, as you can see), I simply stuffed it in a clothing storage bag and threw it on top of my wardrobe.
Some seasons later, I decided it was time to wear my leather jacket again. Digging into the storage bag, I was already planning my next outfits with it. But instead of pulling out my supple leather jacket, I pulled out a rigid brown board.
Peeling apart the folded leather, I started to panic. As I ran around in a vain attempt to find something to help, I left behind a train of brown flakes that were endlessly falling from the thing that used to be my jacket.
Wherever the leather had been folded, the material had dried and cracked. The surface layer was peeling from the lining, the peeling layer then flaking off in a shower of brittle dust. The entire outer leather just disintegrated in my hands.
Sadly, it was beyond repair.
Modern fast-fashion leather
Yep, new fast-fashion leather jackets might seem like a good choice at first. They’re cheap, and on-trend. But the affordable price comes at a cost to your wallet and the planet.
Because fast-fashion leather is often not really leather. It can be made from low-quality leather with layers of coating on top to give the appearance of the real stuff. Or, it can be made from bonded leather, a sort of chemically reformed leather mush that’s melted down and reprinted into something that looks real.
Both of these have the potential to begin peeling off from the fabric underlayer. Especially when stored incorrectly.
And after a while? Well, you get the magic disintegrating leather coat trick.
Faux leather: the better choice?
Faux or vegan leather is the ethical choice when buying new leather.
And it can be decently durable. Being plastic, it’s naturally more waterproof, so it isn’t as susceptible to water and humidity damage.
But when it comes to sustainability and pollution, it’s often even worse. Synthetic leather is usually made from plastic, and if you don't know what happens to plastic when you're done with it? Well, nothing. It doesn't decompose, and cannot be recycled. So it sits in landfills or is burned and releases toxic pollution.
Buying new when it comes to any new type of leather jacket is a lose-lose game.
So, is a vintage leather jacket worth it?
Quite the opposite of the disintegrating leather jacket, I was gifted a vintage leather jacket that was destined for the dump. The leather was deeply cracked, and several seams were busted. But it was a bit of a rough gem under that.
Despite being heavily worn and then neglected in the back of a closet for decades, the leather was still in decent shape. With some leather conditioner and maintenance, it would be wearable again.
This was a jacket that had lasted someone decade already, and could definitely last me some more.
Vintage leather jackets are higher quality
- Vintage leather jackets were made with a purpose. To be durable jackets that would last you years of wear.
- With higher quality comes materials that won't fall apart on you.
- Decades ago, there wasn't a concept of disposable and quickly replaceable fashion. So clothes were made to last. These days, fast-fashion is made to be replaced next season instead.
They're an investment piece without the investment price tag
- The price of a good quality leather jacket is always high, but with a vintage lether jacket you're getting even higher quality at a lower price.
- The material quality and craftsmanship are far higher than anything you can buy at current retail prices.
- It's often possible to buy a vintage leather jacket for fast-fashion prices.
Vintage leather jackets just don’t go out of style
- Modern leather jacket designs are still repping the classic bomber, blazer and biker cuts without many changes.
- They just don’t get outdated.
- So you know it's going to be a safe investment choice you'll wear for years, rather than a fleeting trend.
Take a look at this selection of vintage leather jackets from the 80s that look just like the fast-fashion one I bought:
They're the ethical choice
- And importantly, buying vintage or secondhand leather jackets gives you all the benefits of high-quality leather without supporting unethical practices.
Whether you’re choosing a real or faux leather jacket, you’re always making a better choice if it's vintage.
Where can you buy vintage leather jackets?
Check out our online collection of vintage leather jackets in styles from the 70s to the 00s.