Leather has been used in the fashion industry for decades. Leather jackets are an essential part of every wardrobe. Since leather is a natural material, it is subject to wear in time. Leather that is fresh from the factory is also usually quite stiff and may need softening.
Leather is tough, elegant, and is known for its longevity. This would also mean that leather can sometimes be rigid and not very flexible. The tougher the type of leather is, the stronger it is. However, when talking about a leather jacket, most people would prefer a softer texture. This is why we need to understand how to make your new leather jacket softer without affecting its quality or causing any damage to it.
Leather comes in different types depending on the animal it came from. There are over 5 types of leather available in almost every leather industry. The different leather types come in different softness, durability, textures, and may require different care and maintenance techniques.
What are the different types of leather and how do they differ in stiffness?
While you might think that most leather comes from cowhides, this is far from the truth. Lamb, goat, pig, buffalo, and deerskin are also very common sources of leather. Bovine leather is considered rough and is mainly used for protection, such as the leather jackets worn by motorcycle riders. Calfskin, on the other hand, is very soft and fragile but wears slowly. Goatskin combines both softness and durability and is a great alternative to both bovine and calfskin. Goatskin is also water-repellent to a large extent which is a very unique and valuable characteristic. However, the leather most valued by luxury designers and high-end brands is lambskin leather.
Here’s an overview of the most common hides and how soft they are:
- Cowhide: the standard average leather mainly used for furniture is made from cowhide. It is the strongest type of leather and hence the toughest. It is not used much in the fashion industry due to its heavyweight and tough nature.
- Deerskin leather: It is a very commonly used type of leather and is much softer than cowhide leather. Deerskin leather has the ability to trap air between its particles giving it a softer texture. A unique property of deerskin leather is that it has the ability to keep your warm in winter and to stay cool during the summer. Like most types of leather, it is abrasion resistant and highly durable.
- Lambskin leather: This is the softest type of leather on the market. Since lambskin leather originally comes from lambs, the fact that they come from an animal that hasn’t yet matured is the reason behind its softness. It is the softest leather with the most buttery texture. This fine-grained smooth texture makes it stand out among all other types of leather. This softness means a higher liability for wear and scratches, which is why taking good care of your lambskin leather jacket is essential for its longevity. Lambskin has been used in the manufacturing of leather jackets ever since the industry bloomed in the early 1900s.
Another common classification that would help you better understand the physical properties of leather is the layer of the hide that is used in its making. According to that, leather can be divided into:
- Full Grain Leather: This comes from the top layer of the hide and contains all the grains and hence the name, full-grain leather. It comes with minimal surface alterations and therefore, it is the toughest type of leather. It is also the most expensive one and is sought by leather enthusiasts.
- Top grain leather: When buying a leather jacket, top grain leather is your best choice. This is obtained by splitting the top layer of the skin and sanding the top, giving it a soft and flexible nature. It can then be pigmented into elegance. This type of leather has high strength and durability. However, it has been found to have a tendency to stretch continually over time. It is used in most of the high-end leather products.
- Corrected Grain Leather: this type of leather is made from the layer that remains after the top layers of the skin are split and processed.
- Bonded Leather: it is made from the leftovers of all the previous procedures. It is the lowest leather quality and the cheapest and is not used for making clothes.
What makes leather become stiff?
Other than the fact that some leather is manufactured in better quality by better craftsmanship which in turn makes it softer than others, there are multiple reasons why leather can become stiff over time.
Most of us toss our leather jackets in the closet without considering the storing environment in which it is stored. Extra moisture as well as extra dryness can both be reasons for damaging the leather. It is best to store your leather jacket in the humidity of 40-50%.
Choosing a leather jacket that does not fit well, especially when it’s smaller than your size, causes the leather to stretch. This stretching can make your jacket-less flexible and lose its softness.
USING A DRYER
You should never place your leather jacket in a dry for any reason. Dryers are too hot and aggressive for leather which makes your jacket dry out and lose its supple texture. If your leather jacket needs drying, use a dry washcloth for the safest use.
YOUR JACKET IS TOO OLD
Taking good care of your leather jacket ensures its longevity. A leather jacket can live for a very long time if given special care. However, this is not always the case. This makes your jacket lose its softness over time.
How to soften my leather jacket?
Rubbing a conditioner into your jacket is the best option to keep it soft and supple. You need to use a conditioner on your jacket once every few months. Conditioners are water-based and provide just the right amount of moisture for your jacket.
ALCOHOL + VASELINE
Dab alcohol on the leather surface using a cotton pad. When it dries up, apply Vaseline over it and leave it overnight.
Place your jacket in the sun for less than 10 minutes until it heats up, then apply coconut oil evenly. Be careful that this could cause your jacket to turn a shade or 2 darker than it originally was.
Apply 2-3 layers of mink oil to your leather jacket and give it 2-3 days for absorption.
- There are many types of leather present on the market. They can be classified according to a lot of factors. The most common classifications are based on the original hide the leather was obtained from and the layer of the skin that was split to make it.
- There are many causes behind the dryness and consequent stiffness of the leather. Unfavorable humidity in the storing environment, stretching over time, using a dryer, etc. can all damage your leather and ruin its softness making it very harsh and cracked on your skin.
- To protect your leather from drying out, you can use a lot of products. Conditioners, natural oils, and beeswax are all basic ingredients in all leather-protection products.
- Leather conditioners are available in the market in many forms. Choosing the right leather conditioner for you will mean you have to look up the ingredients used in each of them and choose the best for you.
- It is always advised to try your new conditioner on a small area of your garment because most conditioners can darken leather.