What is Distressed Leather?

What is Distressed Leather?

Distressed leather is a type of leather that is treated in different ways to give it an impression of aged leather. The scarring and discoloration of leather are done purposely to add a worn-in look and durability to it. The resulting material acquires splendid characteristics, such as a highly appealing weathered look, incredible durability, softness, and beautiful color dimensions.  

The significance of leather due to its ruggedness, comfort, and long life is unparalleled. Many people opt for a type of leather that gives a rustic look rather than new leather's glossy, smooth look. Distressed leather is thus considered valuable, owing to its eye pleasing aged appearance and unmatched durability.  

If you, too, are intrigued by the exquisite look and characteristics of distressed leather, we are about to give an in-depth answer to "What is Distressed Leather." 

What is Distressed Leather? 

As the name suggests, distressed leather is superficially aged leather made with top quality full grain leather. As the process strives to achieve a broken-in quality through manual distressing or chemicals, using full grain leather to make distressed leather makes sense. Faux or inferior quality leather won't be able to endure the techniques used to make it look worn out.  

Speeding Up the Aging Process of Leather 

As leather ages, it keeps acquiring a natural patina, marbled color, scars, wrinkles, and pliability with use. After several decades, the look of the leather that was once glossy and smooth is changed to a lived-in appearance. The imperfections and the battle scars resulting from being used for such a long time are highly sought after.  

By distressing a leather jacket or any other leather product or by pre-distressing leather in a tannery, the number of years it takes to get these qualities naturally is cut down. 

How is Distressed Leather Different from an Ordinary Leather? 


Unlike ordinary leather, distressed leather has imperfections and color changing appearance, where the color is light in some areas while darker in other colors. Regular leather has a clean and lustrous look and is less soft and supple than distressed leather. The techniques used to give the leather its worn down look add character and durability to it, which other types of leather may not match. 

What is Distressed Leather Material, and How is it Produced? 

Leather can be pretreated to achieve a broken-in look before manufacturing a product. This distressed leather material is termed pre-distressed leather. All the ways used to distress leather can be sorted into two categories: hand distressed (distressed by hands) or tannery applied (distressed in tannery).  

Hand Distressing Vs. Tannery Applied Distressing 

People who love the look of mileage on the leather use various methods on their leather products to bring that aged look. At tanneries, leather undergoes a series of processes during tanning, creating a weathered look on the material. Leather goods such as leather garments, leather bags, and furniture are then made with this pre distressed leather.  

In the case of pre-distressed leather or leather distressed at a tannery, the natural blemishes, scratches, and flaws in the animal hide are further augmented using pigments and chemical agents. Leather is sometimes scraped to create a specific color dimension to it, while several methods are applied to build creases and wrinkles. 

After these steps, finishing is vital to bring an appealing character to the leather.  

How to Distress Real Leather & its Products?  


To distress a leather jacket, leather bag, or any other leather product, it can be soaked, dried, cut, or burnt in some areas for a distressed appearance. Some people use rubbing alcohol on the item and scrub it to achieve faded color, scars, and wrinkles.  

Note: Ensure the leather is full grain before subjecting it to such methods, as it will likely sustain the distressing techniques. Faux leather or low grade leather will get ruined beyond repair if you attempt to distress it.  

How to Distress Real Leather?  

Frequently wearing it is the basic way to distress leather, but it will take quite a long time to achieve the desired worn leather look. Therefore, hand distressing techniques, such as soaking, bending, or cutting leather, accelerates the process.  

How to Distress a Leather Jacket? 

Distressing a leather jacket can be done by spraying rubbing alcohol on it and scrubbing it with hand, sandpaper, or a stiff brush. 

Another popular method to distress leather by hand is to soak it in water, crumple it and flatten it out repeatedly.  

How to Distress Leather Shoes & Boots? 

To distress leather boots and shoes, soak them in water for some time to soften its sole. Afterward, bend and tie your shoes and leave them to dry. Once dried, they would give an aged, worn out appearance. 

How to Care for & Clean Distressed Leather & its Products?  

Distressed leather bags, garments and other products requires care to maintain its aesthetic appeal. High quality distressed leather usually doesn’t have a protective coating which means the approach to cleaning it differs from other types of leather.  

We advise against using cleaning products not meant for leather, soaps, harsh detergents, and water to clean distressed leather furniture, garments, and other leather goods.  

How to Clean Distressed Leather?  

One of the first and most essential points to remember is not to let any sort of stain and spills sit longer on distressed leather products. We do not want the staining object or liquid to seep into the creases, ruining the distressed look of leather.  

Unlike ordinary leather, for which it is advised to wipe the spill or stain off, distressed leather should be cleaned by dabbing onto the stain. Wiping or rubbing the stains will permeate the scars and creases, darkening the leather in that area.  

Blot the spilled liquid as much as possible and let them dry completely. If using a leather cleaning product, read the label to make sure it is suitable for distressed leather.  

How to Clean a Distressed Leather Jacket? 

To clean your distressed leather jacket, use a microfiber cloth to wipe off dust. For food stains, grime, and sticky stains, pick up the gunk and blot the stain with a paper towel. Dampen a cloth with a leather cleaner recommended for distressed leather and dab on the stained area. After drying, the stain will get obscured in the distressed leather over time.  

How to Clean Distressed Leather Boots? 

Use a soft bristled boot brush and a barely damp cloth to treat mud stains on your distressed leather boots, and use a distressed leather conditioner afterwards to keep them nicely moisturized.  

How to Prolong Life of Distressed Leather ? 

A leather conditioner suitable for distressed leather can be used once or twice a year or after cleaning to prolong its life. 

Comparing Distressed Leather Vs Other Types of Leather 

People who love the endurance and nostalgic feel of aged leather may opt for distressed, vintage, antique, crackled, or pull-up leather. Let's learn how these differ from each other. 

Distressed Vs Vintage Leather  

As opposed to superficially aged distressed leather, vintage leather is authentically more than 20 years old. This means that the aging signs present on it have been acquired naturally. It is not possible to mimic the authentic appearance of vintage leather. 

Vintage Vs Antique Leather  

Unlike 20 to 100-year-old vintage leather, any type of leather older than a century is called antique leather. Age itself is proof of antique leather's quality. 

Distressed Vs Crackled Leather  

Crackled leather has a surface that appears cracked. A specific manufacturing technique is used to make it using a unique finish that cracks upon drying. On the other hand, distressed leather is made using pigments that cause partial discoloration, blemishes, and wrinkles on it.  

Distressed Vs Pull-Up Leather  

Pull up leather is manufactured using a special finishing technique. Abundant use of oil and wax makes pull-up leather soft, supple, and highly durable. Oil tanned leather also lightens in color if you pull or stretch it. It also acquires the worn out look with time, as opposed to distressed leather, on which the look appears faster with distressing techniques.  

What are the Products made from Distressed Leather?

  • Jackets
  • Shoes and boots 
  • Pants
  • Leather bags (tote, satchel, messenger, handbags, backpacks, purses, etc.)
  • Wallets 
  • Belts
  • Gloves
  • Furniture (couch, sofa, chairs, recliners, etc.)
  • Guitar straps


    Are Distressed Leather Products Expensive? 

    Due to the aesthetic appeal and durability of distressed leather, it has a higher price point than regular leather. Full grain leather jackets, boots, and furniture with a vintage look are considered high value, much sought after even with their higher price tag.  

    Many people choose to distress a leather jacket or other products using the above mentioned methods.  

    Is Distressed Leather Durable? 

    Distressed leather is highly durable and less prone to cracking due to the arduous processes it undergoes. Also, distressed leather is made with high quality leather, proving that wear and tear it can endure.  

    Is it Possible to Repair Distressed Leather? 

    Using a leather dye can minimize the appearance of superficial cracks and discoloration. If you want to repair the deep cracks, it is better to try a leather filler and dye solution.  

    Is Distressed Leather Real Leather? 

    Distressed leather is real leather, as the methods used to damage leather purposely can only be sustained by leather with top quality grain. Faux leather cannot be distressed. 

    What is Distressed Full Grain Leather? 

    Premium quality full grain leather that has been treated in various ways to make it look worn is called distressed full grain leather.  


    Leather enthusiasts consider the nostalgic appeal and strength of distressed leather quite valuable. As you now know what is distressed leather, it is definitely an appropriate choice of leather if you want to go for something that gives a rustic look and stands the test of time. Make sure you take the suggested measures to care for your distressed leather product to maintain its splendid appeal for long.