All About Leather Patina

Like many other items, you'll start to notice leather patina as a piece of fine leather ages, which many people consider desirable. Other people love the high shine of anything new, but there's nothing quite like the look of a well-worn leather jacket, a great pair of worn-in jeans, or a pair of quality leather boots that have clearly been around the block but are still in great shape. 

Some people scour eBay and second hand stores, looking to get items that have that distinctive leather patina. Other people invest in high quality items so that they'll one day have that well-worn look. 

However, the only way to really get it is to invest in quality materials to begin with, so that means you have to be willing to spend on quality goods to begin with. A pair of leather boots, a leather jacket or a pair of jeans is probably not going to last long enough to develop patina if it's sold anywhere that has "mart" in the name. 

What is leather patina? And why do people like it so much? 

Leather Patina Is A Wear Pattern

Leather patina, and indeed any organic patina on any item of any sort, is in fact a wear pattern. The exact nature, of course, depends on the item in question, but that's the gist of it. 

In the case of leather patina, what happens is that as the areas that get stressed as the item is used begins to show through. This is the lines where a pair of shoes or leather boots flex, where a satchel or duffel bag bulges or is pulled on and so on, as well as where the item is repeatedly handled. 

Mechanical stress, as well as dirt and oil from the hands, as well as the effect of sunlight put stress on the leather, whatever kind of leather product it might be. 

Additionally, the accumulated effect of oxidation (which happens to everything) as well as the stresses of being used begins to dull the finish on a piece of leather. The areas that are stressed darken, and begin to take on a dull shine of sorts. 

You can immediately tell when an older leather item has developed it, as it will have an uneven finish, but the areas that are obviously worn have a darker, softer appearance than the areas of the item that haven't been subjected to the same stresses. 

Why Do People Like Leather Patina? 

leather patina on work boots

A preference for leather patina, just like the patina of any object, is really a personal preference and something of a fashion statement. Some people like it, and some people don't; it also seems to go in and out of fashion. 

Distressed jeans, for instance, became something of a fashion item a couple of decades ago, which has come in and out of fashion since then. It will seem like everyone is wearing jeans with holes in them one year, and the next they'll have gone back to not doing so...usually after wearing them outside on a particularly cold day. 

Leather goods are hardly the only industry that caters to the preference. Distressed guitars - artificially aged and distressed by the factory - are a big market, obviously it's a trend with denim goods, and of course there are many more examples. 

Some people just prefer the look of something that's worn in, though in some cases the item is just made to look that way when it's manufactured! The idea is that it gives the item character, like it has a history. Whether it actually does, of course, is up for debate. 

The Best Way To Get Leather Patina Is To Invest In Quality Leather

You could buy used leather boots on eBay or in a second hand store (and treat yourself to someone else's foot fungus) but the best way to get leather patina is actually to invest in quality leather goods and then create it yourself. 

With regular use, your boots, belt or leather wallet will develop patina of its own. By investing in quality, you'll be getting an item that will get that beautiful wear pattern but will still be completely functional by the time it starts to show. 

If you buy a poor quality pair of boots or shoes, or a cheap leather jacket, it's going to start falling apart by the time patina would begin to show. If you can't get your boots or shoes resoled or rebuilt, you're just going to have to buy another pair by the time any patina has developed for you to enjoy.