Choosing Leather Jackets and BagsHow might patina effect my leather bag? is the sheen on any surface produced by age and use.  Many different kinds of leather will patina.  Darkening, shining and scratches are all common signs of leather patina. 

In this article I’d like to help you look ahead to how and why your leather bag may patina over the years you own it. The leather finishes i describe and bag photos shown have been provided by Saddleback Leather Company.

Most people find leather patina cool.  It’s like the distressing of a bomber jacket or the breaking in of a fine leather chair.  Because patina develops in response to your environment, it will make your leather bag a one of a kind. 

Others prefer their leather to look like the day they bought it for as long as possible. 

Part 1 of this artilce will teach you about which leathers will develop a patina and why.  Part 2 will share some tips on how you can slow down, or speed up the process of your leather bag developing a patina.  


Part 1: How and why will different leather finishes develop a patina?

Three factors cause leather to develop a patina;

  • when the fibers change as they absorb oil and other liquids over time
  • when the surface is buffed, scraped or rubbed repeatedly
  • when the leather is exposed sunlight, heat and humidity

Because leather can be finished in very different ways, the finishing process is the greatest factor in deciding the level and type of patina a bag will show.

For this article I will discuss 4 leather finishes and how how patina effects each.  They are finished leather, semi-aniline leather and two types of pull-up leathers.   

Finished Leather (Carbon Black in Saddleback)

Finished leather will show very little patina over time. 

The sprayed on color and topcoat of finished leather protect the leather fibers beneath  from absorbing liquids.  The color and clearcoat also limit scratching and sheen changes to this leather.  


Effects of patina: If you like your leather bag to look like new as long as possible choose finished leather.  Finished leather will patina very little over time.


Shiny Pull-up Leather (Chestnut in Saddleback)

Shiny pull-up leather will patina some over time. 

The wax or oil that is applied, or "stuffed", into the leather provides some protection for the leather fibers from absorbing oil and other liquids.  However, if a liquid sit on the surface of the leather for a long time it will absorb into the leather fibers.  This may evaporate away or may stain the fibers darker depending on the type of liquid.

Over time the surface can distress due to rubbing, scratches and fading.  Once the surface wax or oil is gone the fibers are exposed and the leather will then absorb liquids and may darken. So, re-waxing this leather will slow the effects of patina.

Effects of patina: If you’d like to be able to control some of the effects of patina on your leather bag, choose pull-up leather.  Shiny pull-up leather will show medium levels of darker and lighter patina over time.

Pull-up Leather Matte (Dark Coffe Brown in Saddleback)

Matte pull-up leather will also patina some over time.  

The same waxes and oils are stuffed into this leather to create a dark initial finish that will lighten significantly when stretched, scraped and scuffed. 

Because of the dark, matte finish on this leather, liquid spills will not show or create patina as quickly as the chestnut pull-up leather.  Rubs and scrapes will show lighter distress areas on the leather.

Effects of patina: Again, if you like some control over the effects of patina on your leather bag, choose pull-up leather.  Dark matte pull-up leather will show medium levels of lighter patina over time.

Semi-Aniline Leather (Tobacco Brown from Saddleback)

Semi-aniline and aniline leather will show the most patina of any leather finish over time.

This leather is usually dyed to a color but then little or no finish is applied to the surface of the leather.  Therefore, the fibers are exposed and will absorb liquids, change color with exposure the sun and lighten when scratched or scraped. 

The darkening and lightening that occur to this leather make it a great choice for those who like leather that becomes unique and distressed looking over time.  

Effects of patina: If you appreciate leather with a patina and want your bag to look distressed and unique, choose a semi-aniline leather.  Semi-aniline leather will patina significantly over time in most cases.


Part 2: How can you effect the patina of your leather bag?

It is possible to control the level to which your leather will show a patina. Here are a few ways you can either slow down or speed up the development of patina on your leather bag.

If you like patina you can speed it up.

Do you want your leather bag to look darkened, distressed and uniquely yours very quickly? 

First, choose an aniline or pull-up leather which will naturally change easily. 

Second, apply a good leather conditioning oil to darken the fibers of your leather and give it a darker patina.  Warming the leather with a hair dryer or in a warm oven will darken the bag even further. See the article Conditioning your leather bag to learn more about which conditioning oils you can use to change and protect your leather.

Finally, use the bag lots.  A well constructed leather bag, like from Saddleback, will withstand the rigors of daily use even as the leather itself develops a unique patina.  

If you like the look of new leather you can slow patina.

If you prefer your leather bag to look like new longer, you can take steps to slow the development of patina. 

First, choose a more finish protected leather that will not absorb liquids or change easily. 

Also, you can spray or rub a clear protective coating onto your leather to keep soil and liquids from absorbing into the leather fibers. 

Finally, you should clean and condition the leather regularly so it is free from dirt and grime.


I’m one who thinks leather with a patina is cool.  I’d love to see your leather bag or jacket that has developed a unique patina.  Send me pix to  Let me know if I can post em in this article for others to see as well.