How to age a leather jacket

John Wayne had one, so did Indiana Jones and Doctor Who. An aged leather jacket adds immediate character to a person. Purchasing the jacket Wayne wore in "The Flying Tigers" may not fit most people's budgets, but there are practical methods to age a leather jacket and achieve the same look. Depending on the jacket features, such as pockets and buttons, one method may be better than another. If one technique doesn't produce the desired results, mix and match methods until the jacket has the feel of a vintage version.

Sleep in the jacket. This exposes all parts of the jacket to weight and creates wrinkles, adding the look of age.

Place the jacket in dryer with a pair of clean sneakers. Turn the heat setting to "off" and let the tennis shoes do the work of weathering the leather. Check the ageing progress every 20 minutes. Never add any heat.

Use the extra fine sandpaper to lightly rub colour from the leather at normal wear locations. Start with a small area on both elbows, top of the pockets, and the insides of both sleeves where the arm, near the wrist, rests on surfaces. Start lightly and then use the leather conditioner to soften the area. Stand back and look at the jacket. Ask someone to try on the jacket while the jacket is examined to determine that the areas of wear look natural. Don't forget the bottom hem on the back of the jacket.

Rub some clean dirt on the wear areas, such as the inner sleeves. Begin with a small amount of dirt. Rub it lightly, using large circular motions. Take a clean towel and rub the area where the dirt was applied. Continue until a rich dark patina has been achieved.

Wear the jacket non-stop. Wearing leather provides the best ageing. The wrinkles from the elbows and folds from bending show human wear in a natural pattern. Ask friends to also wear the jacket so that it is worn as much as possible.

Scrub the normal wear areas (elbows, hems, pocket flaps) with saddle soap. This will add a nice patina to the leather, as if from hand oils.

Knead the leather in the traditional wear spots. This method borrows the technique of breaking in a baseball glove, only without the oils. Use the hands to "massage" areas of the jacket to add wrinkling and soften the leather. Natural oils from the hands will add rich colour to the leather.

Use the jacket as a car seat. Turn the interior of the jacket to the car seat and the exterior leather facing out. The continual pressure and rubbing of fabrics against the leather will age the jacket. Be sure to rotate the side that faces the door each day so that the ageing will be even. The side closest to the door, where the driver exits, will receive the greatest wear.


Avoid adding chemicals to age the jacket. These will fade the leather dye but do little to actually wear the leather.

Things You'll Need

  • Leather jacket
  • Clean tennis shoes
  • Clothing dryer (with air dry only feature)
  • Extra fine sandpaper
  • Towels
  • "Clean" dirt
  • Saddle soap and wax
  • Soft nylon brush
  • Soft lint-free clothes
  • Padded hangar
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About the Author

Lee Grayson has worked as a freelance writer since 2000. Her articles have appeared in publications for Oxford and Harvard University presses and research publishers, including Facts On File and ABC-CLIO. Grayson holds certificates from the University of California campuses at Irvine and San Diego.