How to soften a vintage leather jacket


How to soften a vintage leather jacket

Vintage leather jackets make you look and feel great, they can bring your outfit together in any season and many would argue that they are an essential part of every wardrobe. Unfortunately, since leather is a natural material, it tends to stiffen up over time, especially if you don’t wear your jacket very often. Then again even leather that is fresh from the factory is also usually quite stiff and may need softening. We can all agree that a softer texture rather than stiff leather would be preferred however, leather is long-lasting because of its tough, rigid, and inflexible nature. Luckily, this is completely normal, and the issue has been well accounted for - just look at all the different products on the market specifically formulated for leather upkeep. While there are plenty of things you can do to fix and soften your leather jacket. In many cases, just wearing the jacket loosens it up. If this doesn’t work, then try any of these methods outlined in this article to soften and condition the jacket so it feels brand new again!

What makes leather stiff?

There are multiple reasons why a leather jacket can start off smooth and excellently crafted and then become stiff over time:

1. Storing environment

Most of us of us toss all our jackets together on top of each other in a storage cupboard somewhere until we need them because let’s be honest coats and jackets take up so much room. While this may be a simple solution for most of your outdoor clothing, the environment in which you store your vintage leather jacket needs careful consideration. Extra moisture, as well as extra dryness, can both be reasons why the leather becomes stiff. It is best to store your jacket in a humidity of 40-50%.

2. Stretching

Choosing a jacket that is skin-tight for that extra fitted look that looks cool in movies, is probably not the best decision in reality. Wearing a leather jacket that’s smaller than your size, causes the leather to stretch. This stretching can make your vintage leather jacket less flexible and lose its softness.

3. Using a tumble dryer

You should never place your vintage leather jacket in a tumble dryer for any reason. Dryers are too hot and aggressive for leather which makes your jacket dry out and lose its supple texture. If your jacket needs drying, perhaps after being caught in the rain, use a dry cloth or microfibre towel for the safest use.

Pro tips:

  • Try employing several different softening methods to get that perfect weathered feel in less time.
  • For complete care instructions, refer to the manufacturer’s recommendations as provided on the label.


  • Refrain from doing anything that might cause permanent damage to the leather. Once it’s done, you won’t be able to take it back.
  • These methods are intended for use on genuine leather and may not produce the same results on plant-based leather.
  • Chemicals like rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, etc, can cause the dye in your leather jacket to run, ruining the colour of the item.

Since there are a variety of ways to soften your leather jacket, choose the method which you feel is easiest to perform and most effective. Out of the following top, five methods using a hairdryer is probably your best solution.

Method 1: Using a hairdryer

Because leather jackets are also made from animal skin, they have similar characteristics to our human skin. When your skin feels dry you apply a moisturiser, a hydrator, or lotion to make your skin feel soft and supple again. This principle is also true if done with your leather jacket.
So, before you use a hairdryer to soften your vintage leather jacket, you should apply a layer of moisturiser to your jacket. Apply it using a towel and rub the cream evenly over the surface of the leather jacket, then gently rub it.

Turn on the hairdryer to medium heat (higher temperatures may harm the leather) Leaving the dryer 15 cm away from the garment, dry it in a back-and-forth motion to avoid keeping it in a fixed position for too long. Finally, once the jacket is soft and dry, use a clean, soft cloth to wipe it evenly over the surface of the jacket.

Method 2: Using coconut oil

Not only is this essential oil useful for skin care it can also help you soften your vintage leather jacket easily. Simply apply coconut oil to the entire surface of the jacket and leave it overnight for a soft and comfortable jacket. Coconut oil has a natural softening effect and retains softness for a long time.

Please Note: Although coconut oil or even olive oil can help soften the leather in a short time, these oils can penetrate deep into the leather and can lead to permanent discoloration or severe cracks and damage if this method is used too frequently.

Method 3: Using shoe polish


Ideally, using a colourless type of shoe polish you simply apply a little on a clean and dry towel, rub the surface of the leather jacket ensuring to distribute it evenly with a few coats. But don’t rub too hard as this will damage the outer leather of the jacket.

Method 4: Softening leather manually

Grab a rubber stick, a baseball bat, or a similar object and pound the item all over. Use a moderate amount of force and distribute your strikes over the entire surface area. The leather jacket will soften as would a piece of meat under the same technique.

Try not to whack the leather hard enough to damage it. Keep away from fragile spots like seams, pockets, buttons, straps, and zips. Then take part of the leather jacket in your fist and pull it. Gradually change your position to let the material be stretched in all different directions and then you will find that the entire jacket has become less rigid.

Method 5: Using leather softener

Unlike home remedies, leather softeners won’t reduce the durability of the material or leave any grease behind on your vintage leather jacket. If you’re willing to spend some extra money, you can also choose a complete leather care kit. These kits often include other useful products to extend the life of leather items, such as cow foot oil, leather milk, and beeswax protection to make them waterproof.

Do not pour the softener directly onto the jacket - not only is this the best way to cause a disaster, but it also makes even distribution more difficult. Follow the instructions on the leather softener if you’re unsure what cloth or towel to use with it. Then rub the entire surface of the leather jacket gently to make the leather a little shiny but not wet. There is no need to cover more than one layer, any excess product will only accumulate on the surface. Repeat the procedure at least every 2-3 months to keep your leather jacket and accessories in excellent condition and keeping their softness.


Finally, after all your hard work to soften and maintain your vintage leather jacket, assuming you aren’t doing so already, you should get into the habit of storing your leather jacket on a clothes hanger. While tossing your vintage leather jacket over a chair, the banister, your bed, or elsewhere in your home may sound harmless, it can leave your jacket susceptible to deformation. It will lose its original shape when not stored on a clothes hanger. Thankfully, though, you can retain or even restore the original shape of your vintage leather jacket by storing it on a heavy-duty clothes hanger, preferably one made of wood rather than plastic.

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