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The term “vintage leather” typically refers to leather products and fashions that pre-date the early 1980s. It often has unique characteristics, such as wrinkles, scratches, and other imperfections that are considered positive features that add to its aged appearance. Vintage leather may also be dyed with various colors, creating highlights and adding a rough texture. “Distressed” leather, which has been aniline dyed to create a worn appearance artificially, is often used synonymously with this term.
Throughout the 1980s and the new millennium, vintage leather jackets, boots, and other accessories have been popular staples in mainstream fashion. Bomber jackets were particularly popular during the 1980s and featured this look, complete with various shades of dye overlaid. Celebrities such as Brad Pitt, Kirsten Dunst, Jessica Simpson, and Justin Timberlake have all been seen sporting vintage jackets in recent years. Some animal rights activists consider vintage leather and fur to be acceptable clothing items versus new leather and fur. However, others feel that wearing leather and fur of any kind, regardless of its age, is an inappropriate promotion of cruelty to animals.
The unique imperfections of vintage leather make it more difficult to accurately duplicate its look compared to that of new leather, which can be more convincingly replicated using synthetic materials. Because of this, vintage is often a popular choice for covering furniture, such as chairs and couches. The feel, however, is not usually as soft as that of new leather or synthetic leather. Leather jackets and boots found in secondhand shops often feature a rough, cracked texture that can be uncomfortable to wear and may actually crumble over time.
To prevent vintage leather from deteriorating, special care needs to go into the maintenance of the material. The first step in preventing damage is to avoid getting the leather soaked or soiled. It should also be stored in an environment that is not excessively humid or dry. If the item is especially delicate, it should be taken to a professional leather cleaning facility before any restorative products are applied. Products made specifically for genuine vintage leather can be applied and left to dry naturally, leaving a matte finish. Or a treatment may be applied to the hide and buffed with a lint free cloth, leaving the leather glowing.