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What Is Vintage Leather?

What Is Vintage Leather?

We all know what leather is. It is a very versatile material with many qualities. We know that leather is strong as it is able to carry heavy things. Likewise, leather is durable as it withstands high levels of stress. Furthermore, the leather is beautiful. Vintage leather to be more specific. However, what is vintage leather? Is vintage merely a name for the aesthetic or could it be something more?

Vintage Leather Bag
The Welch Briefcase

What Exactly Is Vintage Leather?

To state it simply it is old leather. Specifically, old leather that is of high-quality like full-grain or top-grain leather. This is because high-quality leather unlike low-grade leather develops a beautiful patina as it ages. To explain briefly, the patina is the process in which leather ages. Leather ages beautifully, the longer it lasts the better it looks. It, therefore, gets its name from its age and how it looks as well as it ages. Technically, if the leather is 20-100 years old it is considered vintage. However, some sources refer to vintage as those made before the 1980s.

Turning Leather To Vintage Leather

There are a few ways to achieve a vintage look. It can either be natural by letting leather be as it is. The other is by using chemicals such as dye to give leather an artificial vintage look.

The Natural Process (Developing the Patina)

The first process is by aging the leather naturally. This requires a lot of time and patience in order to develop that beautiful patina. Furthermore, you need to properly maintain your leather for it to last as long as you need it to be. Despite its strength and durability leather will break as all organic things do. Therefore cleaning is necessary for developing the leather’s patina. Likewise, conditioning the leather is also equally important to keep the leather strong and durable and withstand any exposure to nature.

Vintage Leather Backpack
A leather backpack with a beautiful patina

The Perfect Leather for Developing Into A Vintage Leather

Only high-quality or high-grade leather will develop a patina that gives off the vintage look. Crazy Horse Leather is an excellent example of high-quality leather. It is made of 100% full-grain cowhide. However, what makes it so special is that it is treated with a special wax that protects the leather fibers from drying and hardening. This wax also ensures that the leather is always healthy even without frequent conditioning. This high-grade leather might be expensive but it makes up for a good investment.

Distressed Leather aka vintage-inspired leather

The second is to dye the leather to look like vintage leather. One example is distressed leather. It uses the process of dyeing leather with aniline dye. The dyeing will give the leather an artificially worn and aged appearance. It also gives the leather the positive characteristics of any naturally aged leather. These positive characteristics include the appearance of healed scars, scratches, and wrinkles.

Any grade of leather can be used for artificially aging leather into distressed leather.

The Raoul Backpack

Maintaining Your Leather/Vintage Leather

For leather to last long and develop a patina it must be properly maintained. Cleaning, conditioning, and preparing the leather is therefore essential to the process of achieving the vintage leather look.

Proper Way To Clean and Condition Your Leather

This is relatively easy. Leather however is a delicate material to clean. First is you will need the right tools for the job. Such as soft dry cloths, leather soap, and leather conditioner. Next is to pre-clean your leather by wiping it off with a dry cloth. Then moist your leather with a damp cloth and add the soap. Make sure to be gentle in rubbing the leather with the cloth. After you apply the soap rinse it off with another damp cloth. Never submerge the leather fully in the water! Let the leather dry overnight then you can apply the conditioner.

Conditioner is great for keeping your leather healthy. A healthy leather is strong leather. Likewise, strong leather will live longer and will help you get that vintage leather look. A well-conditioned leather will also prevent any cracking especially when it is frequently exposed to the sun.

Repairing your leather

We have to face the reality that leather will have some scars. This is what makes vintage leather beautiful. However, no matter how strong leather it is still vulnerable. Most common are cracks on leather. This is because, like many organic materials, leather will crack when it becomes dry leather. The cracks are the result of a microscopic change in the material. This is why conditioning your leather is very important. Does this mean that this is the end of your vintage leather dreams? Absolutely not. The goods news is there is a way to fix it. The trick is to blend the cracks with the leather. There are a few methods one how to blend the cracks.

For Light Leather Cracks

Lighter cracks are easy to fix. Simply apply the leather conditioner to rehydrate the leather. However, when you need to clean the leather especially the craked area. Use a fine-bristled brush to clean the cracks thoroughly. After cleaning apply the conditioner by smoothing it in until the crack blends with the leather. Remove the excess and let it dry off overnight. This is crucial because the leather needs time to absorb the conditioner. If you are not satisfied with the blend you can repeat the process. Remember however not to over-oil the leather because it may ruin the leather’s structure.

For Deep Leather Cracks

There are two methods to fix deep cracks. Cleaning the crack and letting it dry overnight is necessary for both methods.

By using cracks fillers

The first is to gently smooth the cracks with super-fine sandpaper. Wipe off any dust and then apply the leather filler with a palette knife until the crack appears filled. Remove any excess fillers then let it dry for at least six hours in a properly ventilated room. Avoid exposing the filler to direct sunlight and heat.

The fillers might shrink once it dries. Repeat the process if required.

By using leather dye

This method is similar to the first method but with extra steps. Once the fillers dry sand and smooth out the area with ultra-fine sandpaper. Next is to wipe it clean and prepare the surface for dyeing. Apply the dye with the color that matches your leather’s color. Spread it then and then let it dry. Repeat the step until the color blends or if satisfied. Finish the process by treating the cracks with a leather sealer. Use a sponge to apply the sealer evenly.