With our relentless drive towards sartorial excellence and the furious development of that timeless, capsule wardrobe, it becomes very easy for the fashionably inclined male to forget certain aspects of clothing maintenance that are crucial in becoming the perfect gentleman. We will often spend hours choosing the right pocket square, making absolutely sure that our expertly crafted quiff has not a hair out of place or dithering over our sometimes vast selection of shoes, but more often than not, a great deal less care is paid to how we care for our clothes.
In this age of throwaway fashion and cheap high street style the emphasis is on buying, using and moving on; spend £3.99 on a t-shirt and chances are you won’t think twice about throwing it away. The same can be said of shoes, shirts, knits or anything else deemed essential and this seems to have led to a rather relaxed attitude towards caring for yourself and your clothes. Becoming the archetypal, aforementioned man requires much more than an outstanding wardrobe; you’ve got to love the clothes you wear, because some of them need more care than others.
In the past we’ve shown you how to look after your knitwear, how to polish your shoes, how to care for suede and we’ve even told you how to tuck in your shirt and stand up straight – so now it’s time we covered caring for your leathers.
In this instance, the cleaning products you need are much the same as what you use on your shoes. These products are essentially being asked to do the same thing on the same material, so look for leather creams and weather protectors – just don’t use the polish.
As with pretty much everything else in life, prevention is better than cure. You want to protect your clothing as best as possible so that you can wear your jacket without fear of stains or cracks. We here at FashionBeans are big fans of investing in particular items – leather jackets being one of them – but adequate maintenance and care isn’t just for the most expensive.
If you have a real leather jacket then chances are you’ve probably spent a large amount of money. However, it doesn’t matter if it cost you £150 or £550, it is a true investment and you want it to last, be protected and look its best; proper care is the only way to ensure you achieve this.
Before you wear your jacket apply weather and stain protector, this will work in much the same way as a suede protector and will most likely come in a spray. Pay attention to the garment labels, this will tell you what you should and shouldn’t do – the information is there and it would be silly to ignore it.
Make sure you test your spray on a small area first; you really don’t want to find that you’ve damaged the leather or distorted the colour after you’ve sprayed the whole thing.
After you wear it, particularly if it has been in the rain, wipe off any dirt or salty deposits with a damp sponge. Leather is a porous material and it needs to breathe – wiping away dirt will not only keep it cleaner but help to unblock the pores.
After wiping away the dirt, always store on wide padded hangers. This will help the jacket retain its shape and ensure creases drop out of their own accord.
ALWAYS leave to dry naturally, as any external heat source will dry out the leather and lead to cracking and imperfections.
If you want to store it for any length of time, use a breathable garment bag – plastic covers will prevent the leather from breathing naturally.
Just as with your shoes, the leather needs treating regularly. Leather cream will help to keep the jacket soft and supple (especially softer leathers like nappa) and prevent it from drying out so much.
Once you have wiped off the dirt after use, work a bit of leather cream into the jacket before it completely dries to help it remain soft. Go back once it has dried thoroughly to give it a proper treatment.
When choosing your protective products, avoid anything containing alcohol or silicone and leave anything overly heavy or waxy well alone – these will only impair the leathers ability to breathe.
It would also be worth noting that this process is perfectly suitable for jackets that aren’t wholly leather; Varsity jackets with leather sleeves or part leather jackets would also benefit from some regular maintenance and protection.
Proper care will mean you have something that could last for years and will only get better with age. Truly great leather jackets are the ones with history – they have followed you for years and become a central part of your wardrobe.
Leather care doesn’t only apply to shoes or jackets. If you stopped and thought about it, you would probably find that you own quite a worryingly large number of leather accessories – all of which would benefit from some TLC now and again.
Messenger, satchel, tote or holdall, I’m sure that we all own at least one leather bag. When you consider how much use they get, it’s clear that good maintenance is essential. As with leather jackets, leather accessories will only get better with age. A messenger or satchel full of creases is full of history and character, but water marks or salt/dirt deposits will never be a good look. Whilst we want to achieve that sought after vintage look, we also want maintain the condition of the leather.
With this in mind, you might want to consider spraying it with some protective spray, as well as giving it regular conditioning and cleaning. Try filling it with newspaper when it isn’t used or when it needs to dry out (always naturally remember), to help keep the shape.
It is also worth thinking about possible colour transfers. Whilst I love my leather messenger bag, I cannot wear it with light coloured trousers or chinos because the dye from my jeans has rubbed off onto the back of it. In this scenario there is very little you can do to remove it, bar regular and vigorous cleaning, so it is something to bear in mind. Remember, prevention is better than cure.
Everyone needs a belt, and some of us probably have vast collections for every occasion. However insignificant they may seem or however practical a role they appear to have, they will still need care – especially if you have invested in something a little more expensive.
Whilst weather and stain protection is slightly less important, leather conditioning would still be a good idea, especially when you consider that the leather will be stretched and pulled through normal movement. This is particularly true around the buckle and buckle holes, as the material will be twisted to fit the buckle; conditioning the leather will help to reduce the wrinkles around the buckle holes and keep the belt softer and more supple.
In this instance it is worth highlighting the need for a properly fitting belt. As we should all know by now, your trousers should fit perfectly without the need for a belt. If they don’t, then you will find yourself pulling your belt too tight to keep them up, causing you to stretch the material and ruin the belt quickly. On the opposite end of the scale, if you buy a belt that is slightly too small for your waist, you will have to force the belt to fasten, again ruining the leather quickly.
With belts, investment is the way forward. By spending a bit more the material will be better quality and as a result will be much more resistant to stretching and creasing.
In this section my aim is simply to highlight particular accessories that might benefit from some attention now and again.
How often do you take your wallet out of your back pocket to find it stuck together, with worn corners and unsightly creases? Some simple and quick cleaning could help to prolong its life. The same can be said about your phone cover or your card carrier, watch straps and any number of little things that are made of leather but you wouldn’t think to clean or condition.
When the little things in life make all the difference, it’s worth keeping them clean; see steps above.
Dressing well is just one aspect of achieving sartorial excellence. Taking good care of all your clothes, your shoes and your leathers is just another lesson the modern gentleman needs to learn. Hopefully, armed with the right information and perhaps a gentle jogging of the memory, you will be more inclined to give your leathers the attention they need and deserve.
As always, let me know you thoughts in the comments below, ask me questions and offer up some of your own leather care tips.
I’ll see you next week,
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