Quality of vintage leather

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by regius, Jan 13, 2020.

  1. regius

    regius Call Me a Cab

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    There has been comments on the quality of leather jackets from back in the day (could be anywhere from 40s to 60s), from what I recall the comment was on stitch work. It came to my attention to get experiences & opinions on the leather choice & thread choice as well. I was taking apart the newly acquired 50s Excelled jacket. Excelled I believe was a Sears label. The visual quality of the horsehide is amazing, it checks all the boxes of how we want a black leather to look, lots of wrinkles, no plastic shine, pliable, & has a bit of a “leathery” texture. However, one seam started to rip slightly in a small panel & revealed a white paperish fiber consistency underneath the surface. I’d imagine the whole jacket could be easily torn & white fibers would pop out. This may be attributed to its age & dryness, although from the outside, this jacket would not be considered dry at all, no sign of disintegration or dry rot, only the beautiful wrinkles.
    now, this type of fragility also occurs in new leather, I bought some cowhide 4oz from a local tannery, thought its tough & new. But as I sew along it was torn & like a piece of cardboard, white fiber popped out. Tearing a horween leather or goatskin or even some deerskin, on other other hand, was quite difficult & I was convinced these are strong hides. I know it’s to do with tanning. My conclusion is Sears being a mass market store, just chose the cheapest material. Also, the thread is cotton so it fall apart with age.


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  2. tmitchell59

    tmitchell59 My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Excelled was never a brand name of Sears that I know of. Excelled jackets are not what I would call high quality.
     
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  3. rattlesn

    rattlesn New in Town

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    The horsehide from the 1930's,to me. is the ultimate in tanning perfection.Check out Amelia Earhart in her
    new flight jacket or look at the German cyclist jackets from the same time period by makers such as Urzo and Hartmann. I like Aero leather horsehide in black for modern, it has a better feel and is more flexible than most of the others at 3-4 oz.I had a Lost worlds custom Raiders in black horsehide that took 5 years to really break-in and it was a 4 plus oz., then again a roadmaster from them is much lighter and almost feels more like steer.It is interesting to imagine what they will look like in 50 years.I don't think they will age like the old stuff from the 30's and 40's because the tanning is done with different chemicals (safer now?). Sorry if this was off topic, just my 2 cents. The best thing about modern built quality jackets is that most are using better thread that should last longer. Marine-grade threads.
     
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  4. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Cotton thread doesn't fall apart, generally. Many use it today. Some used and did use cotton thread with a nylon or poly core. Harsh synthetic threads can also saw through leather and tear open stitching.

    Many of the older jackets used less heavy hides - 2.5oz.

    Excelled was always a pretty mediocre maker.

    In reference to Amelia Earhart's jackets - I read they were capeskin not horsehide.

    Like anything else made today or yesterday - there were high and low quality products.
     
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  5. AeroFan_07

    AeroFan_07 Call Me a Cab

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    This. Excelled has a small production facility in Kewanee, IL about an hour from where I currently live. They previously had a small store in teh factory, but in the past few years this has closed.

    Thier jackets were of a Mall-quality overall. They did supply some to the millitary, however many of those may have been the same quality or even less.
     
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  6. Will Zach

    Will Zach Practically Family

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    Might be a good thread to list what Loungers feel are vintage jackets with the BEST leather quality.

    I liked the couple of Taubers I handled, but I am sure more experienced Loungers will have their own favorites, including those "hands down" best!
     
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  7. Carlos840

    Carlos840 My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Define "best leather quality".
    I currently have around 25 leather jackets and i couldn't tell you which one has the best leather quality.
    I know some have characteristics that i prefer, but that doesn't make them better quality leather...
     
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  8. Will Zach

    Will Zach Practically Family

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    The ones that age the best... To me, poor leather quality is synonymous with thinness and sponginess. These leathers don't age, they sustain damage (abrasion at the surface goes beyond the topcoat). Good leathers to me acquire patina, certain "shine", the desirable tea core effect, with no damage to the deeper layers. May have to do with leather density, idk.
     
  9. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Bartender

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    I have an issued 1999 G-1 by Excelled, and it is a good quality jacket. Of course it is steer and faux fur, but that was the contract specification.
     
  10. jglf

    jglf Familiar Face

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    I received 6-7 samples from Aero around 2011 and I was able to rip one sample in half with just my hands. I can’t remember which leather it was, but suffice to say that I didn’t choose that leather for my jacket. I was unable to tear any of the other samples. I have a feeling that the tannery botched that hide.
     
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  11. regius

    regius Call Me a Cab

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    Abrasion & tensile strength tests can be easily performed. According to Bates, they actually run these tests before choosing to work with a leather. They said they drag a large piece across the ground/tar, with weight in it etc. anybody can run such tests, & it’s easily to tell the result. I’d say if the leather when new is tough to fear & resists abrasion, it’s remain as so for a long time to come. BUT, this has nothing to do with the aesthetic properties, new or later on. Like I said, my Excelled HH aged beautifully, it is the definition of what those Shinki try to achieve as new, but underneath it’s pretty crap.


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  12. tmitchell59

    tmitchell59 My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    This video show a few vintage jackets. The Hercules barnstormer is dated March 18, 1933. The Windward and Sportclad are from the later 40s. All are in remarkable near new condition.

     
  13. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Then, as now, quality will have varied. Certain basic business approaches that have been commonplace ever since the industrial revolution paved the way for consumer capitalism work back then as they do now: who is my target market? How much will they spend, and how much of that do I want to be profit? What is my unit cost?.... and so on. What I suspect has changed within our specialist niche is that expectations are higher. I dread to think how low a percentage of wartime production Irvins, B3s, A2s especially, would meet the expectations we have of jackets nowadays when they're not being churned out by the thousand for combat use by guys with a short life expectancy, but instead we expect very high end quality based on what we're paying. Partly, of course, we are paying the big bucks in expectation of higher quality - we're also paying for other intangibles such as a fair wage for the craftsmen and women who make our jackets (inevitably higher in the economic 'first world'), the expertise, know-how and research time it has taken to figure out how to make not simply a generic version of a period jacket, but one accurate to a specific pattern, and so on and on it goes.
     
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  14. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    A lot of that is very subjective, of course. How do we evaluate 'aging the best'? I would agree that we can objectively analyse abrasion and damage in terms of wear to the leather. Where we start to part company is, of course, with teacore. The teacore effect is very much like Fender's 'relicing' of electric guitars. If you want a guitar, or a leather jacket, that looks like that really cool fifties original you saw last week... You know, the one which is seventy odd years old now, carries the scars of those seventy years and looks great, then you'll love teacore. Those of us, on the other hand, who don't want to look like we're wearing a seventy year old jacket in 2020, who would rather look like we'd stepped out of 1958, say, when the jacket was just a few years old, are less likely to appreciate a hide which is tanned and dyed in a way that make it look decades old after six months of wear. The great thing about the market these days, of course, is that it caters for both.

    In terms of leather thickness, there was a time when I would have only wanted thick, hefty leather myself. I still like that - I did, after all, cut my leather teeth on eighties bike jackets. But really, it's subjective. These days, I tend to like different hides for different jackets. I might be the way a particular hide drapes with a certain pattern, or that it's physically lighter to wear and so better in warmer weather. I'm a big fan of goat: light yet, as memory serves, beaten only by kangaroo leather in terms of abrasion resistence. One of my Aeros is Horween bison, which is a bit spongy and it's a fantastic hide, so I wouldn't rule it out (funnily enough, its' also quite teacore, which in that jacket I rather like, but I'd never want it in an 'only' black jacket. It helps that it has worn only on key spots, and still, at five years or so, doesn't look ancient). The noe hide I don't like personally is lamb - too fragile for me - though other folks find it great for Summer. I try not to dismiss it too readily evne if not to my tastes on the basis of hordes of low-end stuff I've handled. Lamb often gets a bad rap because it's used on a lot of low end stuff because it's easier to work with, but that would be a bit like dismissing a certain shade of beige as meaning a car must be rubbish because it was widely used on Ladas.

    Abrasion testing is certainly a big part of the EU's ECE safety standards required for motorcycle gear here.
     
  15. nick123

    nick123 I'll Lock Up

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    My fondest leather was a 1943 Willis & Geiger An-6552. Goatskin, probably chrome tanned to death with dubious chemicals, but it had that "warm, rich glow" to it seldomly seen in repros or later G-1s. If anyone knows where it went, let's talk!
     
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  16. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Terry - I love your videos, your calm delivery, your knowledge and your amazing jackets. And sometimes when you are outside I can hear the evocative sound of a freight train in the background. I get a wonderful, strong vibe of American culture and hospitality. It's heaven. What town are you near?
     
  17. tmitchell59

    tmitchell59 My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    Seb,

    Thank you for those kind words. I live in Galesburg the State of Illinois. I'm about 3 hours south west of Chicago. It is a rural area, corn, soybeans and the railroad. The city is around 35,000 population. The railroad has a huge switching yards here. I don't always notice the background sounds until I hear the video. I've had some intense bird sounds on the video I don't even notice when I doing them.

    I do have many international Viewers on my youtube channel. I get many comments from folks around the world. It is special. I hope they learn something about our country/culture not seen on TV news.

    I have a lot more jackets than I do knowledge! Each of them inspires me in some odd way and I try to dig into their history. Sharing that information is important to me.

    I always hope that my videos are not seen as bragging, but sharing.

    thanks, Terry
     
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  18. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

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    Brilliant. Keep doing them just as you have. They are a whole package of joy to us.
     
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  19. Imuricecreamman

    Imuricecreamman Practically Family

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    After a stressful week, nothing makes me chill out more than putting up my feet and put on a random Terry video...and one more...and one more :)
     
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