Question on vintage jackets

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Bern1, May 5, 2019.

  1. Bern1

    Bern1 One of the Regulars

    Messages:
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    Location:
    West Coast
    Hi all,

    Now that I have acquired a couple of jackets from (I believe) the 50's and/or 60's, I am wondering whether to try and "restore" some color, lustre and additional suppleness to the leather, or NOT.

    This thread is not meant to bring up "which leather treatment or conditioner is "best", as I did a couple of searches and found more info than I could process. I couldn't really assess what was best for the jackets.

    The question I have for you, fellow vintage jacketeers, is who among you would choose to recondition the leather and who would choose to leave it "as is?"

    I notice that both the jackets I have received, from knowledgeable fellow Loungers, appear to be unmolested, that is passed on to me as found. However, I don't really know what was done to them before I got them. For the record, neither of them is as stiff as that Bates that Gamma was displaying the other day. Both my jackets are completely wearable and the leather may be stiff (the CHP), though they do of course show show their age. The Cal-Leathers has probably a little more suppleness.

    For the moment, I am inclined to just let them be. My background in vintage is guitars, and with those you really don't mess with the finish.

    I welcome your comments.

    Thanks.
     
  2. feltfan

    feltfan My Mail is Forwarded Here

    Messages:
    3,174
    Location:
    Oakland, CA, USA
    You also don't wear guitars as protection from the rain. If they seem dried out at all, I'd hit them with Pecards.
     
  3. Monitor

    Monitor I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    9,889
    From what I've gathered over the years... There's no answer to your question.

    First off, it all depends on what your jackets are made of. Some leather might benefit from a leather conditioner, others will not. You can't do anything to ruin them so at least you don't have to worry about that but it's impossible to say if any of the popular leather conditioners will have any effect at all. And personally, I'd wager they won't.

    Second, some leather is tanned to appear bone dry and stiff while it's actually perfectly okay. Maybe it's just the way leather's been processed? Who can tell..?

    If the jackets seem okay, leave them be. Chances are that by doing anything you'd just be wasting time, anyway.
     
    dannyk, Carlos840 and Bern1 like this.
  4. jacketjunkie

    jacketjunkie One Too Many

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    I condition all my jackets, new and vintage, after every season in which they have seen more than a few days of wear. The whole point of conditioning is not to fix damage done but to prevent (further) damage. All this "you don't have to condition a jacket for 30 years, just look at old jackets on eBay"-talk is inaccurate for what I'm concerned.

    a) Old jacket have seen much less actual wear and exposure to the elements than their age indicates, most of them were worn a few years and spent the rest of their time in a closet.

    b) Comparison between old jackets which have been treated properly and the ones which haven't been prove the point that proper treatment extends the lifespan of leather
    jackets.

    c) After 30 years of wear you will see damage which cannot be fixed but could have been prevented by proper care. By the time you see damage, treatment comes too late, therefore it's short-sighted to say only treat when you notice damage.
     
    Monitor and Carlos840 like this.
  5. Seb Lucas

    Seb Lucas I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,567
    Location:
    Australia
    JJ is right about old jackets - people often point to old A2's or half-belts and say 'Wow, they were so well made in 1940!' Not so fast. The good looking, near pristine vintage jackets may have only been worn for a year or two in 80 years and have been kept away from light. That more than anything keeps the leather in good condition.

    I would be interested in seeing evidence that conditioner makes any difference to jackets as JJ says. I'm not saying it doesn't, but I have never seen any verifiable evidence that it works.
     
    Last edited: May 5, 2019
    Monitor likes this.
  6. dinomartino1

    dinomartino1 One of the Regulars

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Perth, Australia
    Everybody has their own favourites, pecards is popular and I have used it.
    John Chapman of Goodwear uses vaseline and if thats good enough for the maker of the best A2s in the world it's good enough for me.

    "Q: Do you ever use any kind of conditioner on your coats?

    A: Not generally. New leather absolutely doesn't need any conditioning, for a very, very long time. Only with really worn and dry vintage jackets will I ever use a conditioner. With those I use Vaseline, which is pH neutral. It adds fluid to the leather, but doesn't make the leather gooey. What's that heavy leather dressing… Pecards? That always feels so greasy afterwards, I don't like it. Jackets conditioned with Vaseline feel dry to the touch afterwards, but it does evaporate after about 6 months. One thing to consider is the cotton thread in older jackets. If you put the wrong stuff on there, like mink oil, it won't do anything right away, but eventually, those threads will be rotten. I think it's the negative pH, it eats cotton thread. Not the leather so much, which after the tanning process is a non-biological substance."
     
  7. jacketjunkie

    jacketjunkie One Too Many

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Germany
    Seb makes a good point, it is kind of hard to prove conditioning actually makes a difference. It is ofcourse lnly my subjective impression of what I have seen. The only scientific way to prove its effectiveness would require two identical jackets being exposed for identical time to identical conditions; one being treated every now and then, the other one not. Since we don't have a time machine available (pm me if we do), the only way I see is for one of us to buy two identical jackets, hang them next to each other into the garden for 5 years, take one of them down every 6 weeks to apply conditioner and then wait for 5 years and report back. Anyone up for the task? :D
     
  8. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Staff Member Bartender

    Messages:
    4,818
    Location:
    South of Nashville
    I know conditioner works.

    I have been riding (horses) and cleaning and conditioning leather tack for over 30 years. My original bridle is still soft and supple, as are other items from that long ago. Some of my other tack has cracked and is on its way to turning to dust. The difference? Conditioner.

    Every several years I gather my tack that isn't regularly used and condition it. I use different conditioners I have around the house (and I have a lot), but usually I stick with Lexol and a glycerine saddle soap bar as that is what I started with on the leather tack. When I start the conditioning process, the tack is often a bit stiff. When finished it is soft and supple—good for another 4 or 5 years in storage.

    Over the years my wife and I have collected so many bridles, reins, martingales, saddles and girths that it is difficult to keep up with them all.* Sometimes I don't keep up with all of them. I have several martingales that were broken and kind of forgotten about. They are the ones I see with the dried leather and cracks. Never do I see any cracking on the tack I condition on a regular basis.

    I know there are those out there who will say tack and leather jackets are different. Well of course they are. Tack is used under more adverse conditions. It gets wet and sweaty on a regular basis, whereas a leather jacket may only occasionally get wet. But once the tack is cleaned and conditioned it has the same or similar properties as leather jackets.

    Now I'm not saying you should take your leather jackets out every five years and condition them. I have 15 of them, and the only conditioning they get is a bit of conditioner to the inside of the collars on the one or two worn the most during the year.

    My oldest leather jacket is a 17 year old Pakistani MC jacket. The leather is thick and supple. It is my beater jacket for those times rain is in the forecast, and I am going to wear leather. It has been wet a few times and fully soaked at least once. I think I may have conditioned it once. It just doesn't need anything. Nor do the others. But when I feel them getting a bit stiff, out will come my conditioner of choice (probably Pecard) and I will have a go at them.

    Our friends from Aero tell us leather jackets shouldn't need any conditioner for 20 or 25 years. Based on what I have seen from my jackets, I think that is accurate. But once they start to dry out, the prudent course would be to condition them. Otherwise, in my experience, the drying out will get worse, followed by cracking. Once leather cracks, there is nothing that can be done to restore it.

    So, my advice is nothing needs to be done to leather until it starts to dry out. Once leather is felt to be a bit dry, have a go at conditioning. After that it will probably require it every several years. The jacket should outlast the original owner if properly maintained.
    ________
    * I have three custom saddles (long legs) including a French Devoucoux which is the most comfortable saddle I have ever ridden in. I keep up with my saddles, but sometimes don't use one of them for several years. Mostly all they need is to be wiped down so mold doesn't form.
     
    Peter Bowden likes this.
  9. Peacoat

    Peacoat Bartender Staff Member Bartender

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Please let's not have this degenerate into yet another thread on which conditioner is the best. I have seen so many of them over the past 13 years I can recite the brands and the pros and cons of each brand by memory.
     
    HoosierDaddy likes this.
  10. handymike

    handymike I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    6,369
    Location:
    SoCal
    I stumbled upon a place that does leather repairs AND fixes cracked leather jackets too!

    1C8E94A7-CCA3-4184-A260-D13B3D84C3F3.jpeg

    I follow them on Instagram.
     
  11. breezer

    breezer Practically Family

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    to restore or leave alone is a question that cannot be answered by anyone other than you! Its your jacket, do as you please.
     
  12. tmitchell59

    tmitchell59 Call Me a Cab

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Illinois
    My back ground is in Vintage guitars too. I understand the finish issues on guitars. I typically don't put anything on them, but keep them humidified.

    I've got vintage jackets in all sorts of leathers, from 30s on. There is good quality leather and not so good. Just because a jacket is old does not make it a good one. Many jackets were never taken care of and others just wore out.

    I only condition a vintage jacket that is dry, much like an acoustic guitar. Dryness cracks in vintage guitars can be repaired. I'm not aware of any techniques or products that can effectively restore cracked/dried out leather. Well, other than replacing the rotted leather. Few jackets are worth that expense, although I have consider it on a few.
     
  13. zebedee

    zebedee One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,157
    Location:
    Bristol, UK
    I use Renapur on my jackets every once in a while. I did have a really old, dry jacket that I bought from a vintage store that Renapur really helped- it became supple and looked a lot better. I've also Renapur-ed everything else (but have no clue whether it made a difference or not as the jackets concerned weren't technically old enough to need it, but it gave me peace of mind...).
     
    Benny Holiday likes this.
  14. Gamma68

    Gamma68 One Too Many

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Detroit, MI
    @tmitchell59 is correct in the way he compares acoustic guitars and jackets. I also have some acoustics. Just as you want to keep them humidified during dry winter weather to keep them from cracking, so too do you want to keep your leather from becoming dry and cracked. Unlike wood guitars, there are no real fixes for cracked leather. That’s why it makes sense to replenish leather that is drying out with leather dressing.

    One of my favorite jackets is a G-1 from 1968. It was dry and crispy when I got it, especially in the sleeves. Pecards made a huge difference and made it much more pliable.

    I see myself as the present caretaker of this piece of history and I want it to last beyond my lifetime. So I’ll continue to nourish it with leather dressing as needed.

    I also use leather dressing on my other jackets as needed.
     
  15. Bern1

    Bern1 One of the Regulars

    Messages:
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    Location:
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    Thanks all for responding and providing your viewpoints. It helps me with correct course of action.
    Cheers!
     
  16. Ernest P Shackleton

    Ernest P Shackleton One Too Many

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    1,000
    Location:
    Midwest
    If you use Lexol, don't forget to shake the hell out of it before use...AND DURING USE. Keep shaking that sucker. I believe it says it right on the container, but just in case you're one of those "I never shake anything, and I've been fine all these years" people. Uh...follow directions.
     
    Peacoat likes this.
  17. Bern1

    Bern1 One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    207
    Location:
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    Thanks!
     

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