Leather jackets are warm, durable, and they make you look extremely cool. Once synonymous with the punk and biker aesthetic, these jackets are now regarded as the quintessential bad boy clothing item.
The only problem here is that leather jackets are really expensive.
This means that if you have a leather jacket that is slightly bigger or smaller than you’d like, it is very important for you to know if your leather jacket will stretch or shrink over time. So, here’s the answer.
Do leather jackets stretch or shrink?
Leather jackets stretch in size over time. The amount of stretch often depends upon the type of leather used to make the jacket. Cowhide and horsehide jackets do not stretch a lot, while jackets made from goat or lamb leather stretch a lot.
However, leather jackets do not shrink over time (naturally). There are a few ways to make a leather jacket shrink though if it is too big for you.
And that’s what we’re going to explore further in this article. I will be answering all your questions regarding the shrinkage and stretching of leather jackets, in a step-by-step and informative way.
Do Leather Jackets Stretch or Shrink?
Leather jackets stretch over time if they are being regularly used. They do not shrink naturally, but can be shrunk using a few different methods.
Leather is not like other fabrics. It is made from animal hide, or the skin of an animal. Therefore, the molecules of a leather jacket act differently than say a cotton jacket or a linen jacket.
A new leather jacket tends to be very stiff, and breaking it in requires a lot of wear. As the jacket starts breaking in, it starts adapting to the unique proportions of the wearer and changes itself according to their body.
This “breaking-in” often stretches the jacket by a small amount. And depending upon the animal from which the leather is made, the stretch can be a lot or next to none. For example, goatskin leather jackets tend to stretch a lot while jackets made from horsehide barely stretch.
As a rule of thumb, the bigger the animal from which the leather is derived, the lesser stretch you can expect. But there is no such leather that shrinks over time. There are a few ways to make this happen, and that’s what we’ll explore in the end.
How to Stretch a Leather Jacket?
Stretching a leather jacket increases its size by a small margin. Remember, you can’t convert a size 40 jacket into a size 44 jacket. However, small changes are still possible, and here’s how you can stretch your leather jacket:
1. Condition the leather
Conditioning a leather jacket can help in making it feel softer, and thus, stretchier.
Make no mistakes – conditioning will not increase the size of your leather jacket. However, it will make your jacket much more supple and soft. And as we’ve established, softer leather stretches more easily than thick tough-as-nails leather.
To ensure that you don’t do any harm to your jacket, don’t use a department store product; instead, go for a quality conditioner.
Apply it to your jacket a couple of times over the span of a month, and you would start noticing changes in how your leather jacket fits you.
2. Use your fists and some water
Okay… this method is slightly crazy. But it works really well when breaking in a new leather jacket.
Hang your leather jacket on a sturdy wooden hanger. Use a spray bottle to lightly spray some cold water on the jacket. Don’t make the entire thing dripping wet though.
Now it’s the time to use your fists.
Start punching the jacket. Try to stretch it by hand, use your fists on it, roughen it up. Basically, we’re trying to emulate the process of breaking in a leather jacket, but we’re being rough in order to get the job done quicker.
Do this for 10-15 minutes, and then immediately apply some conditioner to the jacket. This will make sure that your leather jacket has enough opportunity to stretch to its true size.
3. Wear the jacket as often as possible
After a point, it becomes very difficult to mimic usage – you just have to wear your leather jacket in order to break it in.
It might be uncomfortable in the beginning if the jacket is a bit too small for you, but over time, the leather will start adapting to the natural curves of your body. The breaking-in process is going to be over once your leather jacket will start feeling like a second skin.
The more often you wear your jacket, the faster this stretching process is going to go. If nothing else, try to at least wear your leather jacket on rainy days. Doing so will be equivalent to what we talked about in the previous step.
The combination of the three methods that I have mentioned is going to be able to stretch any leather jacket.
Are Leather Jackets meant to be Tight?
Before you decide if your leather jacket needs to be stretched or shrunk, it is important to know how tight should your leather jacket fit.
Leather jackets are not supposed to be tight. They are supposed to be snug. If your jacket is so small that you can’t zip it up, then it’s too tight for you. However, if the jacket hugs your chest when zipped up, then it fits perfectly.
Because of the skinny fit trend that started around 2016-17, many people have a skewed understanding of the fit of a leather jacket.
Classic motorcycle jackets have always been a bit boxy for ease of movement when riding. However, if you are buying a jacket for fashion and style purposes only, then you can go for a more snug fit.
But your leather jacket should never be “tight”, as that would just be uncomfortable. A good rule of thumb is to bang out a few push-ups after zipping your jacket all the way up. If you are able to do this comfortably, then the jacket is perfect for you. If not, then you may need to size up.
How to Shrink a Leather Jacket?
Shrinking a leather jacket refers to reducing its size in a proportionate manner so that the jacket ends up fitting you even better. There are three primary ways to shrink a leather jacket:
1. Tailoring for a better fit
The best option for reducing the size of a leather jacket is to take it to a professional tailor who will alter the garment to fit your particular needs.
This is my recommended option for you, especially if you bought your leather jacket brand new or spent a lot of money on it. Tailoring gives you exact control over the proportions of your garment, which the other two methods will not.
However, there is a big downside to tailoring a leather jacket – the price.
Finding a good tailor is hard. Finding a good tailor who deals with leather is even harder. So if you happen to find one, just communicate the changes that you want to be made in the jacket, and they will get it done for a fee.
2. Wash it in the washing machine
The second method for shrinking a leather jacket requires the use of a washing machine. So if you don’t have a washing machine, skip to the next section.
Take your leather jacket and put it in the washing machine. Use hot water and select the “high” agitation setting. Depending on the material of your leather jacket, going through such a wash cycle can reduce its size by around 5%.
In my experience, this method tends to work best for those jackets that are made from softer leathers such as lambskin. When I tried it with my cowhide Perfecto, there wasn’t much of a noticeable change.
One more thing – As soon as the jacket is out of the wash, wipe it dry with a towel and apply some conditioner to it. High heat can strip the leather of its natural nutrients, so it is essential to use a proper leather conditioner after putting the jacket through hot water.
3. Soak the leather jacket in a bathtub
The final method for shrinking a leather jacket requires just two things – hot water, and a bathtub.
Fill your bathtub with extremely hot water. We’re talking about temperatures near-boiling. Submerge your leather jacket inside and leave it for an hour or two, or if you can, leave it overnight.
When you take out your leather jacket, it should have shrunk by at least 2-5% of its original size. And again, because we’re using heat, it is very important that you condition your leather jacket immediately after this process in order to avoid long-term damage.
This method should be treated as a last resort. It is much better if you can find a tailor who’s comfortable in dealing with leather.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about stretching and shrinking a leather jacket:
Leather jackets can shrink in the dryer if they are left in for a long time at a high temperature. Therefore, leather jackets should not be put in the dryer.
Leather jackets can shrink in the washing machine. Lighter leathers such as lambskin shrink a lot, while thicker leathers such as cowhide or horsehide don’t shrink a lot in the wash.
Depending on the animal hide from which the leather is made, a leather jacket can stretch another 10-15% of its original size.
Motorcycle jackets stretch more than any other type of leather jacket. This happens because riding a motorcycle automatically breaks in a leather jacket, which helps in the stretching process.
Leather jackets are a staple in the wardrobe of both men and women. But with leather jackets, getting the fit right is extremely important. And if you have already bought a leather jacket, then it is very likely that you are looking to know about the potential stretching/shrinking it may see.
That’s what we covered in this article in depth. If you want more information about leather jackets, you can check the tag at the bottom of this page for more such in-depth guides.
My name is Alex Higson and I am the founder of Magic Of Clothes. I have worked in the fashion industry for many years, and clothes and style are a huge part of my life.