50s Leather Quality; Rants & Raves

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by tmitchell59, Aug 22, 2021.

  1. tmitchell59

    tmitchell59 I'll Lock Up

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    I've written this thread in my mind a few times. A couple of recent jacket post got me going. I started this thread in another post and copied it here. This isn't a court and I'm just ranting. Curious what others think on the subject.

    Here is how I started.

    How about a a thread on 50s Vintage leathers? Big topic! Not all were Created equal as a subtitle. I have a variety of opinions on most of the major brands as I believes others do.

    Here is an example:

    I am always leery of 50s Harley Leathers especially the Steerhide. (I've got a Horsehide HD jacket coming on Monday)

    I am always leery of Schott Steerhide jackets from the 50s (I've been disappointed by all I've owned and most I've seen)

    I am always leery of Buco Steerhide jackets from the 50s. (I've owned one and it still survives here at another home, they have to looked at closely)

    I am always leery of Grais jackets. (they can surprise though)

    Leather quality during the 50s was all over the map. (heightened demand and production?)

    Appalachian Tanned & Tailored were lesser quality (And I love this Brand)

    OK, I'm going to bed.








     
  2. Blackadder

    Blackadder Call Me a Cab

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    Love to hear more.
    I have become a bit disappointed with the Grais and Californian HH after getting the surprisingly well made Rich Sher.
     
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  3. Marc mndt

    Marc mndt My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    How come? The one pocket HD Sportsters are steerhide right?

    Mine has a super thick topcoat and feels almost indestructible

    CF288D48-6AA7-4A91-9217-2B06C61EC6FF.jpeg

    This 50s steerhide Buco was one of the nicest leathers I've handled. Very dense, firm but not stiff.

    E35A41B2-AA86-4675-A3C0-CFB1A4FF529E.jpeg

    Maybe they used different tanneries through the years, or the quality differed between batches?
     
  4. Guppy

    Guppy My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    I've handled some true vintage jackets but I don't know enough to distinguish by decade for certain between a 40s,50s,or 60s jacket.

    I have a hard time wearing anything that old, because I'm conscientious about wanting to preserve something that old, and materials become delicate with age. For practical gear I don't want to trust my life to 70 year old stitching and leather. At some point they become something to look at rather than something to use.

    So I guess I'm leery about everything, although mostly due to the age and not due to the quality of the original new garment. I definitely prefer newer modern reproduction and jackets inspired by or paying homage to the past, by and large, but an exceptional example from period is something I wouldn't turn my nose up to. I do love my vintage Cal Leather and Langlitz jackets.
     
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  5. jonbuilder

    jonbuilder Call Me a Cab

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    "Maybe they used different tanneries through the years, or the quality differed between batches?"
    Exactly
    I believe Terry is talking about his experiences, the quality of steer hide varied with manufacturers like Buco. I had two steer hide I sold and own one steer hide Buco now with no complaints. HD contracted the steer hide jackets they marketed the quality would vary.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2021
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  6. handymike

    handymike I'll Lock Up

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    I find American jackets from the 50s to be thicker and more like CXL (without the wax). I’ve handled quite a few from Department stores (Sears, Penneys, etc) and I personally prefer other eras. This is also based on designs and not just hides. I think in the 50s things became less artisanal and more production line. There might have been some “modernizing” of tanning methods too. My favorite steerhide jackets are from the 60s- thinner, pliable, and great grain on my Kehoe and Bates jackets (Brooks not so much), but these were smaller makers.
     
  7. tmitchell59

    tmitchell59 I'll Lock Up

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    I've yet to be disappointed in a California Sportswear jacket. They are more of the "Gold Standard" for me. Grais often tempt me, but then I see another picture and there are issues. I've been a big advocate for Rich Sher quality.

    Yes, the HD Sportsters are Steer later than the 50s jackets.

    I thought this jacket would come up. It is a Beautiful Steerhide Buco. I think your question answers a lot of the differences.
    Maybe they used different tanneries through the years, or the quality differed between batches? Add the number of jackets produced to meet demand.

    I agree. No idea yet who made the 50s HD jackets. They seem to be the lest consistent to me in the 50s jackets. as @Marc mndt mentioned above, Different suppliers/makers.
     
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  8. tmitchell59

    tmitchell59 I'll Lock Up

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    Yes and Yes again. Each decade, 30s, 40s, 50s has their own unique characteristics. That would call for another thread Rant!

    I think you said it well: "I think in the 50s things became less artisanal and more production line."
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2021
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  9. tmitchell59

    tmitchell59 I'll Lock Up

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    I have no axe to grind or have any personal distaste for any leather jacket Brand, they aren't worth that! I just spend a lot of time looking at, examining, researching, buying leather jackets from all eras. I end up with a lot of questions and observations which have little relevance to the greater World condition!

    I'm always learning through threads like this.

    This is probably is true for many folks here.

    I have no axe to grind or have any personal distaste for any leather jacket Brand, they aren't worth that! I have my favorties both Old and New, seen bad and good in most. I just spend too much time looking at, examining, researching, buying leather jackets from all eras. I end up with a lot of questions and observations which have little relevance to the greater World condition! Maybe I should go back to work!!

    I'm always learning through threads like this.
     
  10. roadking04

    roadking04 Practically Family

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    I always love watching your videos on old motorcycle jackets when they come up on my recommendations for youtube. I think videos do way more than the pics. I just love seeing the old m/c jackets and wonder what stories/where they have been.

    I was wondering why I never came across an old Perfecto on your videos. I was curious on your take.

    Please keep up the great work. I am a sucker for motorcycle jackets (old and new).
     
  11. tmitchell59

    tmitchell59 I'll Lock Up

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    I will getting my 3rd HD branded jacket early this week. I've owned two others, both Cycle Queens and one was a Closet Queen from the late 40s. I'm hoping for the best, but don't necessarily expect it like I would with other Brands.

    The 1950s was the Big Boom in MC jacket production. This is one area in the 50s where Leather jackets showed innovation. The more you make the more chances of a Dud! Remember Buco did not go hog wild with MC jackets until the late 40s and 50s. I'm not quite sure when HD starting labeling jackets. There are no Buco MC jackets from the late 30s early 40s I'm aware of. I'm thinking HD jackets go back to the early 40s?
     
  12. tmitchell59

    tmitchell59 I'll Lock Up

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    Thank you for the comment! MC jackets are the most popular and I need to do more. I've got plenty of MC jackets that have not Starred in a Video.

    I do have people ask me about the lack of Perfectos. I was burned on some Schott jackets, left a bad taste for their "older" jackets. I've come close only to back off. There are not a lot of true 50s Perfectos out there and less with their older jackets. I'm sure great ones are out there, but I think there hard to find. I have the Schott book with the early jackets, but they just don't show up today.

    The Schotts I think are interesting are the Civilian Styles from the 60s, 70s. Get the Schott book and see them! They are never as popular as there MC jackets and usually don't bring that much money. Lot of great bargains.

    I agree. I try to get as much back story as I can. I have a few that I have documented with their age, owner, and a couple of pics. Usually there is very little information so we are left to our imagination. I've found some notes, receipts, wrappers, and other pieces in jacket Pockets!
     
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  13. Blackadder

    Blackadder Call Me a Cab

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    All these jackets are in fact in some state of deterioration and that depends heavily on the previous owners so I only take into account the weight/thickness and not the proneness to dry, crack and fade that are difficult to gauge. I find my Grais and Californian to be about the same in that regards while my Rich Sher is easily thicker.
     
  14. navetsea

    navetsea I'll Lock Up

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    is it possible that in that 50s era after the war, young people then who bought these jacket were not as sensitive as their parent generation toward leather outerwear, since they wear similar quickly put together leather jackets as part of the uniform during the war , and only see these new jackets they bought as tool to ride their new found hobbies like biking or road racing in the weekend after working hard and raising family with many kids so the idea of beautiful yoke or preciseness in details. etc were not appreciated, as they only need dependable leather jacket.

    while jacket from the 30s were owned by the parents of these young guys, and probably already start being seen as old jacket even then and only worn occasionally by their aging parents and so these older jacket survives in better shape since they never truly ridden on hard during post war biker culture. probably a decade later as life get more stable, people get more sensitive again toward music and art, and experiment again in style they came up with style again in 60s and 70s

    before turning for the worse with futuristic80s and baggy of the 90s and then internet happened, all things goes global, cute animal pictures, and horrid slaughtered animals video, hating on leather as the world slowly turn vegan as people nowadays are triggered by anything... only time will tell when they would realize plants too have feeling being munched on raw or thrown into a boiling pot is actually a cruel act.
     
  15. ton312

    ton312

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    Somehow I missed this thread and I have a rant of of my own. I will never, and I do mean never, buy another reproduction jacket. I have been through enough. Some great, some mediocre, and some just plain bad. The overwhelming feeling I’m left with is absolute boredom. Another punched out piece, imitating something it’s not and looking like it. Repros are beautiful. No doubt about it. They almost always fit better. Nevertheless…

    Now vintage originals are their own animal. They are fragile, often smell like shit, busted seams, grubby liners, inconsistent build and hide quality. Total crap shoot gamble on fit..And yet…They are so much more interesting.
    For me buying a vintage leather is like buying an old car. It’s going to need some work. Lots of work and that costs money. You can easily dump a repros worth of coin into rebuilding an original. The diminishing returns go totally off the charts. A money pit of what most would consider junk. The end result though…it just can’t be matched. If you get the fit you want and invest in shoring up the foundations, there’s just no comparison.

    I know I’m painting in broad strokes here. I can’t realistically confine my vintage quest to strictly 50’s era jackets (I love my 80’s/90’s Vanson hard). I can’t seem to get past the joy of breathing new life into a vintage piece that fits. It’s where I started in this hobby, and it’s where I’ll end. It’s a tougher nut to crack. Lots more gamble and loss. I just can’t see going back.
    Bottom line for me is that despite the wild variation in build and hide quality, old jackets pay more dividend (for me) when they work as hoped.
     
  16. JMax

    JMax I'll Lock Up

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    35400A81-EE42-47DA-91EA-31712C807935.jpg
     
  17. AbbaDatDeHat

    AbbaDatDeHat I'll Lock Up

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    I couldn’t agree more with your perspective. There’s just something special about continuing the story, furthering the adventure, taking another spin around this rock with a piece of the past. Doesn’t matter if it’s a resuscitation or a resurrection of a Phoenix out of ashes, new life is a proud journey.
    This is why some/i drive cars that don’t get lost in the parking lot, care for and savor old things that others pay no mind and wear what i dig and “style” be damned.
    I love wearing a vintage piece out knowing i won’t see ten at the mall and i love knowing a lot of those “looks” are folks wishing and wondering where in the hell that old guy got that jacket. And if not...they can kiss my a**.
    Vintage mentality is an attitude of preservation and appreciation and this dude’s happy to abide.
    B
    Ps: Amen
     
  18. AeroFan_07

    AeroFan_07 I'll Lock Up

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    This is great advice and something I wish I could live up to. It is true there is considerably more character in these old vintage pieces than any reproduction piece.

    There are two strikes for me regarding vintage jackets overall that keep me from diving in further:
    • Fit to my lanky - 6' 1" 195 lb broad shoulder frame with rather long arms
    • I am highly smell-sensitive.

    When I can smell a new CXL FQHH jacket from clear across the same floor in my house, you have an idea how sensitive my "sniffer" really is. This is a blessing indeed, but anything with musty/smoky/moldy smell would not even make it 24 hours in my house. I am not exactly allergic to that much, but I just do not like much of anything with the "vintage" smell.

    This goes for cars/homes etc as well. I really like vintage cars, but I do not have time to work on them, so I tend to stick with cars that are low maintenance yet still have a measure of character.

    Terry to your original post & thread - I heartily agree, there are indeed differences in both leather as well as stitching from the 40's 50's and '60's - production controls were likely much less robust in those days.

    Bear in mind that many items from this time period produced in the United States "looked" really neat, but had inherent issues, such as lead paint being used on metal toys. In addition, this was the time of "Bakelite" plastics. Which looked neat but were actually quite fragile and shattered easily. Therefore, it was not just leather jackets that had a "planned obsolesce" built into them.
     
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  19. Metatron

    Metatron One Too Many

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    I love classic and in particular mid 20th century clothing design (30s-50s). I own a lot of vintage clothing, but mostly cotton and wool. Not so much leather. The reason being, I find for example a tweed jacket can be repaired, washed, pressed, and then feels fresh again, not quite good as new, but ready to be 'my' jacket. In contrast, it seems to me that a vintage leather jacket will always feel like someone else's jacket. Someone else thoroughly broke it in fifty plus years ago, lived his life in it, gave it an appealing patina but also his b.o and tobacco smoke. So while I an enamoured by the designs of vintage leather jackets, and agree with the posts saying that many of the quirks of a real vintage item cannot be easily replicated, I am not sure if I would be able to enjoy them as much as something I can break in myself. Open my opinion being changed, but at the moment I think only something old but close to unworn would work for me!
     
  20. JMax

    JMax I'll Lock Up

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    Not all smell bad. Most that do can be made odorless. And they can be cleaned. By the time I break in a new jacket and it looks like my vintage ones…I’ll be dead. Ha.

    I understand the appeal of reproductions. I do have a bunch.
     

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