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How To Break In A Leather Motorcycle Jacket (or Vest)

How To Break In A Leather Motorcycle Jacket (or Vest)

I am going to list out the ways in which you can break in a leather jacket (or vest) and order them from best to worst in term of what I have seen done and the result. This post is for informational purposes only and doing any of these things even what I consider the “best” method is done at your own risk. It should also go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyways, that you should take into account the quality of the product you are breaking in and the purpose of the product. You wouldn’t treat a custom Aero Leathers jacket that costs over $1,000 the same way you would treat a $99 vest. The quality of the materials is different and the craftsmanship is different. The vest and the jacket each have their place in my closet but I use them for completely different purposes and so wouldn’t break them in the same way.

We are going to start this post with a couple assumptions. The first assumption is that you are dealing with motorcycle leathers. Many articles out there explain how to break in a fashion jackets and that’s great but Heritage Moto doesn’t sell fashion jackets. If you want to know how to break in your new Burberry you have come to the wrong place. The second assumption is that you the reader know what kind of leather you are dealing with and that your jacket is actually leather. It is getting increasing hard to spot pleather these days as the factories are becoming more sophisticated. Even ‘bonded leather’ would not break in well using the techniques I am about to post. The product you are dealing with must be “genuine” leather or better but not suede as I use water in some of my methods and one does not mix water and suede.

Method 1: Wear your jacket

I know this one is a given but I would like to expand on what I consider normal wear and tear. Some people buy a leather jacket and add it to their closet for normal rotation. If that leather jacket is motorcycle specific and they ride once a week you are looking at 52 wears per year. Most people in the Northern states do not ride 52 weeks per year but for the sake of this article let’s say that they do. When you go out riding you are seated in more or less the same position so the jackets break in for that activity is quite low. I have had people see me at motorcycle expos 3 or more years after buying a jacket and they tell me how stiff it is or worse that they sold it because it never broke in. Now we do sell stiff leathers as well as supple leathers depending on the animal it came from but all of the leather jackets I sell are made to be worn for more than just riding. Sure they are motorcycle jackets but the more you wear a leather jacket the better it becomes. Furthermore, the more activities you do in a leather jacket the quicker it will break in. I would encourage everyone to wear their leather jacket/s as much as possible. Do you walk the dog every morning? Wear your leather jacket. Do you sit on your couch and watch television? Wear your leather jacket. This may sound strange to some but I encourage you to give it a shot and you will not be sorry. The average rider that, we talked about in the beginning of this method, wears their jacket 52 times per year can easily wear it 250 times per year even if you subtract the summer months. That’s five times more break in opportunities and the diversity in wear will be significant.

Method 2: Unorthodox Tagalong

To break in your jacket even quicker than wearing it alone I recommend you also take your jacket with you and treat it like you would a fleece or a softshell jacket. If you think about it a high-end softshell and a good leather jacket have a lot in common; they block out the wind, do well in the rain, are notoriously black, and look great. So why do people opt for the softshell over the leather? Sure, the synthetic fabric is lighter but the leather is building character if you bring it and that’s what this post is all about.

Method 3: Warm Bath

Here is where the break in methods start getting a little more intense so please continue with that in mind. The ‘Warm Bath’ method involves soaking your jacket for a few minutes to several hours in a warm tub of water. I usually use the washing machine and leave the lid open so the agitator doesn’t move. You can also use a large plastic tub but be careful using your bathtub as pigments can seep out of the leather and stain it. As the jacket soaks the warmth helps relax those natural fibers as the water penetrates them. After the jacket is soaked to your liking put it on and go for a walk or a motorcycle ride. The jacket will mold to your body as it dries and any activity you do in the jacket while it is wet will break it in much quicker. With that in mind do not simply lay the jacket in the sun to dry. If the jacket is laid flat to dry it will end up looking it’s best when flat which is not what you are shooting for. Also, pay close attention to what the jacket is touching besides you. If you sit on your motorcycles and the jacket bunches up around your waist and against a back rest you can expect those wrinkles to last the life of the jacket.

Method 4: The Washer and Dryer

The washer and dryer method is exactly what you think it is. You wash the jacket in warm water, no detergent, and dry the jacket in your dryer on low. I have seen this method completely destroy jacket liners so think long and hard before you try it. The one benefit of this method over any other is that you can expect the jacket to shrink approximately one half to one full size. If you have a jacket that is a little big and not worth very much this might just be the ticket but it’s a gamble; you might get the perfect fit or you might get a ruined jacket.

Method 5: Abrasive Treatment

This is officially where I will see you on the other side as I have not tried to mechanically or chemical wear a leather jacket but as they are methods people use I will write about them here. The abrasion method is when someone takes steel wool, sandpaper or a wire brush and roughs up some or all of their leather jacket. This method looks most natural when the parts of the jacket you choose to mechanically wear down are parts that would naturally wear down with age. Where the sleeves contact the jacket, the ends of the sleeves and elbows are common areas to focus on. This method can also be used with one of the soaking methods above as the damaged fibers will leak more pigment and exude a vintage look sooner.

Method 6: Chemical burn

The chemical burn method is when someone takes acetone, denatured alcohol or ammonia to a jacket to fade and dry the leather. This method does a tremendous job of stripping out the pigments from a jacket but the effect is unnatural and should be considered cosmetic as the leather will remain its original texture. This method is often combined with one of the above methods to fully break in a jacket and change its appearance.

Method 7: The Paint Splatter

Much like the chemical burn method the paint splatter method is cosmetic only and usually added to the end of a different method. For the paint splatter method you get the jacket how you want it is terms of wear and color then take a paint color of your choice and flick and or splatter it on the jacket; think running your finger over your tooth brush and the mist of water and fine drops that creates. I was going to try and find a picture for this method but I highly recommend no one try this and that it quickly falls to the forgotten parts of history. Outside of YouTube I have seen one jacket in real life that had paint on it and I never once thought the person had been painting their house in a leather jacket.

If I have missed any methods you would like to know more about please let me know. And I will update the article. If you have any questions about what break in method would work best for your purchase please email me at

3 thoughts on “How To Break In A Leather Motorcycle Jacket (or Vest)

  1. These are some awesome methods you have illustrated in this blog for taking good care of your leather jacket. I’m impressed and I’m going to follow some of these tips to maintain my leather jacket. Thank you for sharing this information.

  2. I bought my new motorcycle gear leather vest just a week ago. Got a stain on it. Used vinegar, leather conditioner but the stain is not coming off. please help!

  3. […] to condition leather is dependent on many variables, including; hide thickness, hide species, age, break in, usage and climate. A safe rule of thumb is to lightly condition your leathers once or twice per […]

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