Sunlight and leather don't mix quite as well as you would hope. Whether that's the leather on your back when you're riding around on your motorcycle or a leather couch in your living room - the sunlight is not your friend.
This short article is going to cover not only how sunlight affects leather but how to protect it. And, if you find yourself in the unfortunate predicament of having to deal with sun damage to your nice leather jacket, what your options are. Leather isn't cheap and the vintage stuff isn't replaceable so it's very important to keep protection against sun damage at the forefront of your mind.
How does sunlight affect leather
The first thing to consider when thinking about how sunlight affects leather is why it does in the first place. Leather is a natural material, it's made of animal skin/hide which means just like our skin it is at risk of being damaged by intense or ongoing sunlight.
Just like you or I, if leather sits in the sun too long it's going to get burned. It won't turn red as we would, but it'll burn just the same. Leather, like skin, is porous (full of tiny little holes) which draw moisture in. When under intense sunlight, moisture is drawn out drying the leather and causing it to contract and stiffen.
The effects of sun-damaged leather
So, sunlight dries out leather and causes it to stiffen, how does this affect us? Well, dry leather is likely to split and crack as well as lose a lot of its charming coloring. Black leather jackets tend to become slightly sun-bleached when exposed to constant sunlight.
Once your leather cracks, if it's bad enough, the jacket almost becomes unusable. If you are lucky enough to enjoy the frayed look then good for you, but it's hardly going to be suitable enough to protect you from a nasty crash if it's beginning to fall apart.
The reason it's advised you shouldn't leave your leather couch by a window is that constant sunray over 6 months will almost certainly cause your couch to lose color. Unfortunately, if you are concerned with the leather of your jacket, this doesn't really work. Who wants to avoid riding their motorcycle if the sun shining? That's the best time to ride!
How to protect your leather
Just because your leather jacket doesn't enjoy the sunlight quite as much as you do, doesn't mean you can't still wear it! There are plenty of options on the market for leather protectors. They are almost like sunblock for your jacket instead of your skin.
Applying a generous layer of these kinds of wax to your jacket every 2-3 months should be enough to fight off most of the damage the sun's rays are trying to cause.
When applying the wax to your jacket it's important to consider which parts of the jacket are in the most need. For example, your shoulders and the small of your back are likely to see the majority of the sun's rays. Whereas, the front of the jacket (especially the pockets if you have them) is going to be much less exposed.
If you stop to take a break from riding try to keep your jacket in the shade. If you're at home, keep it in the house out of direct sunlight. It's all about minimizing the leather's exposure to sunlight in any way that you can.
At the end of the day, part of you will just need to embrace the fact that your leather jacket will begin to lose its color. It will start to stiffen slightly. It's part of the character of the jacket, it's impossible to avoid the signs of aging entirely.
There are some steps you can take that will be covered in the next section. But, that being said, you will be much happier simply taking what precautions you can and embracing the inevitable changes. Besides old jackets look cool. They have character, and leather history, there's a reason people still go for the vintage look.
What can I do to salvage damaged leather
Now, yes we just said that you have to embrace the change in your leather a little. But, there are some options available to you if you start to notice that your jacket is becoming a bit stiff. First, there are leather conditioners readily available on the market that can be super beneficial.
Apply this conditioner the same way you would apply the protective wax. It should add moisture back into the jacket and allow it to become a little more supple and flexible again.
If your jacket is suffering from sun bleach or just general fade of the original dye, you can simply just re-dye the jacket again. It's a great way of extending the life of your jacket and can even allow you to reinvent your jacket by changing its coloring completely.
If you care for your leather jacket properly by avoiding sunlight and applying wax protection as well as a conditioner and re-dying when necessary your jacket could last a lifetime. Or at least long enough that you really feel you got your money's worth!
Hopefully, this article has given you a little more insight into why leather is so susceptible to sunlight as well as how to best protect it and even bring it back from the brink. Genuine leather jackets are made of sturdy stuff, with the right care there is no reason your jacket can last a lifetime.
The sun is not your jacket's friend so minimizing contact and maximizing protection is the way to go. There are plenty of great leather protectors on the market so shop around to find what's best for you.
Keep in mind, that couch leather protector isn't designed to stand up to intense wind and rain like jacket leather protectors are. Good luck with your leather and don't be afraid to wear your jacket while riding in the sun - that's what they were born to do!