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What is Distressed Leather?

What is Distressed Leather?

As the name implies, distressed leather is leather that has been distressed-that is, too damaged or marred in a way that causes it to look older, worn or even damaged. In most cases, this means scrapes and scratches from wear and tear over time, but you can also distress leather by cutting or burning it, or even by soaking it in water. The process of distressing leather doesn't just make it look worn, but it also makes it more durable and less likely to crack or scratch along the lines of the damage.

Distressed, Antique & Vintage Leather

Shopping for an antique bag can be an intimidating experience. You can feel like you're in a foreign land just because so many terms are unfamiliar, and the lack of space means you can't take your time and really look at something. If you're lucky, you might be able to find a dealer willing to let you examine the bag for a while before you buy, but even then, you might not be able to get a feel for the weight and quality of the leather. The good news is that this is not one of those stores.

Distressed Leather
Distressed Leather Bag

Distressed Whiskey Leather

Our distressed whiskey leather straps are a casually rugged way to deck out your bag, and they're super sturdy to boot. The soft, grainy texture is natural to the leather and not a surface treatment, so there's no risk of rubbing off. We carry them with our growing line of bags and pouches, but they'll look great on anything.

Distressed Black Leather

When choosing the right leather bag, the look you're going for becomes an important consideration. For example, the distressed black leather bags are popular because they give off a genuine vintage, worn-in look, which might appeal to someone with a more rustic style. At the same time, if you prefer a more modern look, you might be drawn to the clean, glossy black leather bags that have a higher contrast.

Distressed Leather Hides: Main Features

Changing Colors

The color of leather bags often come down to personal taste. After all, there is no denying that a light brown looks very different from a deep black. One of the things that makes leather so popular is the fact that it ages and changes over time. This is particularly true of distressed leather, which is usually made from old leather that is then distressed to add unique character to the bags.

Glossy Patina

A leather bag that has a glossy finish is a fine piece of art. When the bag is distressed, the cracks and scratches give an overall distressed look to the bag. Distressing leather is one of the most popular ways to increase the value of a leather bag. The leather used in crafting a bag has to be different from the ones used in making a shoe. Shoes are made primarily of leather, but bags are not.

Magic Repairs

The first thing you need to decide when it comes to restoring or repairing your leather bags is whether you are going for function or fashion. Many bags spend their lives in closets or on shelves, so it's not always necessary to restore a bag to its original condition. Many of us don't need to haul groceries in an original '80s classic or schlep our laptop in a bag that's in mint condition. In this case, you can still restore the bag to its original strength and durability without worrying about original details like manufacturer markings or hardware.

Vintage Leather Hides: What are they?

Distressed Leather Backpack

It's a good thing that "vintage" is in the name, because that's a pretty good hint that these leather hide are a lot older than the ones you'll find at the local department store. Of course, that doesn't necessarily mean they're better; in fact, most are pretty weathered after years of use, and have been around the block a few times. But, if you have an eye for quality, you'll see that these hides have a smooth, soft feel that you just won't get from a new one.

Here's How to Distress Leather

When you buy a leather bag, you want it to stand out, but you don't want it to look like a piece of leather. Distressed leather is a technique that gives leather a rugged, worn-in look, with deep, dark creases. There are lots of ways to distress leather, but here's the easiest: all you need is some sandpaper and a stiff brush.

What is Distressed Leather Material and how is it produced?

Hand Distressing vs. Tannery Applied

One of the most common questions I am asked is which is better, hand distressing leather or tannery applied distressing. To answer this question, first you have to ask yourself why you want to distress your leather. If you want to distress the leather to make it look old and worn then you have to consider that you are not going to get that look by using a machine to distress your leather.

Antique & Aged Leather Bags

Just like fine wine, leather gets better with age. Antique & aged leather is a stunning look for leather bags, and it's achieved by slowly aging the leather over time. The process takes a lot of patience, but the results are well worth the wait.

The Dagny Weekender | Large Leather Duffle Bag

Some Things Get Better With Age

Sure, it might not be as trendy as some of the bags you can buy at your local mall, but leather lasts and lasts. And the older it gets, the better it looks. That's because good leather develops a richer patina over time. That's not to say you should keep your bag in the attic for decades before you bring it out-just that a good leather bag will only get better with age.

The Vintage Furniture Look

When browsing through the racks and racks of vintage leather bags at a flea market, you never know what you might find. Not only is the vintage market a great place to find odd and interesting accessories, it's also a great place to find vintage leather bags in the style you're looking for. From the leather motorcycle bag to the classic saddle bag, you can find a selection of vintage leather handbags and vintage leather messenger bags at a flea market that you might not be able to find anywhere else.

Worn Leather

Worn leather is leather that's been used for an extended period of time. It gives the leather a distinct look and feel. When a leather bag becomes worn, it becomes softer and more pliable, the way original leather should be. It's this softness and durability that makes used leather bags so popular. They are more comfortable to carry, thanks to the softness, and they last for years longer than a brand new bag.

Caring for Distressed Leather

The Olaf Rucksack | Vintage Leather Travel Backpack

Leather is a durable material that can last a lifetime with proper care. However, it requires some special attention to keep it in the best condition.

A brief introduction to caring for distressed leather:


The cleaner you keep your bags, the longer they'll last. They should be cleaned regularly with water and mild soap. Try to avoid using harsh chemicals (like bleach, acetone, rubbing alcohol, or ammonia-based products) because they can damage or discolor the leather. Use a soft cloth or sponge when cleaning, and remember to be gentle when wiping. When you're finished, it's a good idea to condition the leather with a moisturizer or a leather conditioner that will help restore moisture to the leather.


Most folks know they should moisturize their skin, but few of us do a good job of it. Even fewer of us realize that leather needs moisturizing too. But the leather industry is changing, and brands like Steel Horse Leather are making sure their leather goods are prepared for decades of use. With that in mind, they have created a leather care kit, complete with pre-conditioner, conditioner, and a leather protectant.


Just like real life, life with leather bags isn't always perfect. While we try our hardest to make sure each and every leather product is without blemish, accidents do happen. You may spill a glass of red wine on your leather wallet, get some coffee on your laptop bag or drop a piece of fruit on your brand new briefcase. How you treat the resulting stain will depend on the type of leather or fabric your bag is made of.


Most people know that it is important to have a place to keep your stuff. But, where should it be? It is also important to have a place to keep your stuff that is both easy to get to and safe. If you just stuff your bags in a corner of your room, you will lose them, or they will get ruined, or someone might try to steal them, or if you just put them in a closet they might get ruined or stolen, and if you just throw them under your bed, you will forget where they are, and then you will lose your stuff.


When winter starts, it becomes important to take care of your leather bag. For instance, if you live in an area that is prone to heavy rain, you should take appropriate measures to protect your bag. Puddles and snow can seep through your bag's seams, and then if you leave it in the same position for a long time, the moisture will probably cause mold to grow. If you can't avoid it, you should try to protect your bag with a plastic bag, as the moisture might be absorbed by it better than by your bag.

Distressed Black Leather
The Endre Weekender | Vintage Leather Duffle Bag

Leather FAQ's

What is distressed leather material?

The leather used on most bags is called top grain leather, and it is the strongest, highest quality leather on any bag. This leather is also treated to be more durable and resistant to stains, making it a good choice for most bags, even the ones that don't get as much use as others. However, top grain leather isn't a perfect material. It isn't very flexible, and it can tear easier than leathers with other traits. This means that bags made of this leather should be treated more carefully than others. If you want a bag that is durable and flexible, you can find bags made with full grain leather.

What is the best leather?

The best leather is full grain leather as it develops a great patina and uses the full hide thickness.

Why does distressed leather often look better than ordinary leather?

Leather is a natural material, and nothing ages quite like natural materials do. And so, what is now known as distressed leather has become all the rage in recent years. It has certainly been the subject of many discussions and is something that many leather enthusiasts are divided on. Many long-time leather craftsmen and enthusiasts believe that distressed leather is actually a form of leather abuse. They argue that it is an attempt to mask flaws and the less-than-honest reflection of what fine leather should really look like. Most of these people believe that distressed leather is a trend that will soon pass. On the other side of the coin, however, are the more modern leather enthusiasts who love the distressed leather material trend.

What is distressed full grain leather?

What is distressed full grain leather you ask? It's a kind of leather that has been carefully crafted to give it an aged, vintage look. To achieve that look, the leather is treated with special chemicals and dyes that are heat and pressure-applied. The result is a leather that is less glossy than traditional "full grain" leather and that looks as if it has been used and worn for years. (In fact, many people buy it specifically to imitate the look of worn leather).

Is distressed leather real leather?

Yes, distressed leather is real leather. Distressed leather is a technique used to alter the visible texture of the leather, which is a material made from the skin of an animal. The leather used in most bags is the same kind used in furniture, shoes, and jackets.

What does vintage leather mean?

What does it mean when a leather bag is described as "vintage"? First, ask yourself what this word brings to mind. The word makes you think of something classic, something from an earlier time. (This is why vintage cars can command higher prices than "new" cars.)

The Asmund Backpack | Genuine Leather Rucksack

Is distressed leather expensive?

No doubt, distressed leather material is all the rage right now, and whether you're into "vintage" or not, you'll be hard pressed to find a high-end bag brand that doesn't employ some form of distressed leather on a regular basis. So, what is it? Distressed leather is just a fancy way of saying that the leather was left to age naturally, causing the surface to crack and fade. Distressed leather is typically featured on purses and accessories, although some brands also feature it on their leather jackets and other leather clothing pieces.

How do you make leather look distressed?

There are many ways to distress leather. The most common is a chemical process to make the leather porous and more absorbent, but you can distress leather in a number of different ways. You can rub it with sandpaper, brush it with a wire brush, burn it with a lighter or heat gun, or even poke holes in it with a sewing needle. (And yes, doing any of these to real leather will damage it; you're working with faux leather in these examples.)

Buy Genuine Distressed Leather

You may have seen a few companies selling distressed lv leather material lately, but not all distressed leather is created equal. The right distressed leather can give your bags a stylish, worn-in look, while an inferior treatment can make your leather look cracked and damaged. To ensure you get the best distressed leather for your leather bags, check out Steel Horse Leather. With an experienced staff and a focus on quality, choosing Steel Horse Leather means you're getting the best in distressed leather.

Handmade Leather Bags

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