How to Tell Vintage Leather Bags Apart From New Bags

vintage leather bags

Which vintage leather bags are the best? There’s no simple answer to that question. In fact, there are probably too many different styles, colors, and features in a given era of handbags to confidently say that any one is the “best.” Instead, it’s important to look at the quality of the materials that were used in making them, as well as their appearance, functionality, and age.

Probably the best vintage leather bags for men come with full grain leather, although many manufacturers now use machines to produce them. The good news is that leather is almost always stronger than its artificial counterparts, which means that full grain products will last much longer than their synthetic counterparts. Another advantage is the way that full grain leather maintains shape, unlike some of the cheaper leathers that end up cracking and wearing down after repeated use. Look for heavy hardware on genuine leather briefcases. (Does metal hardware also count as genuine hardware?)

Even if a company claims to have authentic vintage leather bags, it’s usually wise to avoid buying anything that’s clearly labeled “vintage” or with a vintage design logo. The only bags that should be labeled as such are bags with very intricate and detailed design work, including detailed stitching on the interior and outside of the bag. Those bags may be old, but they will also likely be made of inferior materials, and likely lack the proper lining. Look for bags that have classic lines and clean lines, without any visible stitching, and made from soft, high-grade leather.

Many modern manufacturers use machinery to manufacture their bags, so it’s difficult to tell the difference between vintage leather bags and modern duffle bags. Some examples of this would be textured canvas rather than stamped leather, nylon rather than leather, and plastic instead of canvas. Many companies also chemically dye their fabric, so you can’t always tell which bag is old and which is new. Check the stitching on the inside and on the outside of your bag, if possible, to see for yourself.

Leather conditioners used to be a popular way to differentiate between bags of different quality. A leather conditioner goes into the skin of the bag and helps the leather’s natural characteristics shine through. Unfortunately, today’s conditioners are too harsh for most leather types, making them nearly useless for distinguishing between bags of different qualities. Instead, look for bags with a full-grain leather exterior and natural brown or black leather interior. If the bag has a leather conditioner inside, it will be darker than a bag without the conditioner, but it should still maintain its natural characteristics.

Finally, the linings of vintage bags can tell you a lot about the bag’s age. Look for a thick lining, as the lining adds to the weight and bulk of the bag. In vintage bags, linings are made of old leather, fabric scraps, and even fabric that is ripped from previous bags. If the bag has a suede lining, it is more likely that the bag was made many years ago. Also, look for an acid finished lining, as this protects the bag against stains.