How to Stretch a Leather Jacket? (4 Ways To Stretch It)

Photo of a bearded man dressed in a black leather jacket. How to stretch a leather jacket?

Does your leather jacket not fit you properly? Don’t panic; it’s easy enough to fix. Below are some suggestions on how to stretch a leather jacket without harming the leather.

There are a few ways to stretch a leather jacket if your leather jacket is too small or doesn’t fit correctly. The first and easiest way is to wear the jacket a lot. This will stretch it naturally to shift and adjust to your desired shape. Another simple way to help speed up the stretching process is to apply conditioner to your leather jacket. This softens it and allows it to take on the proper form. You can also use heat or water on the areas where you want to stretch your jacket, but you’ll want to do that carefully. Below is all of the information you need to know!

Do leather jackets shrink or stretch?

Since leather is an organic fiber (aka animal skin), it will naturally stretch over time as you wear it. A leather jacket shouldn’t shrink but soften and relax as you wear it. Leather jackets will adjust to your shape, and movement needs over time. The more you wear it, the better the jacket can “learn” what your body needs.

This is why a good quality leather jacket will be one of the best things you can have in your closet. Nothing can fit you better if you wear it (and stretch it) properly!

How to stretch a leather jacket

While it’s all well and good to have a perfectly fitted leather jacket, how do you actually get it to the point where it fits you perfectly? As mentioned briefly in the introduction, there are a few ways that you can do it. 

  1. Wear it a lot
  2. Apply conditioner
  3. Apply heat to the problem areas
  4. Apply water to the problem areas

1. Wear it a lot

Sure, it can be kind of uncomfortable to wear a tight and stiff leather jacket a lot, but that’s precisely what’s going to get it to soften and adjust its fit to your needs. It’s much the same as breaking in a new pair of shoes. 

If you just can’t face the idea of wearing it out anywhere, then wear it around inside your home! This will achieve the same goal and won’t take nearly as long as you might think (more on that later).

2. Apply conditioner

You’ll want to apply conditioner to your leather jacket at regular intervals to protect its integrity. You can also use this conditioner to encourage your jacket to stretch faster and easier. It works similarly to how conditioner works in your hair. Its sole purpose is to soften and moisturize your hair. Leather conditioner will soften and moisturize the leather. This moisturization allows for easier stretching without stressing or damaging the leather itself. 

You’ll want to make sure that you get the amount right and that you are using the right kind of conditioner for your leather jacket. 

3. Apply heat to the problem areas

You can use a hair dryer or an iron to specific problem areas with your leather jacket. This can work well if you are pressed for time. Here’s how to do it safely.

Stretching with a hair dryer

  • Locate the area that you want to stretch and lay it flat on a surface
  • Turn on the hair dryer and apply heat to the problem area
  • Put the jacket on before it cools to help the stretch “settle in”

Stretching with an iron

  • Locate the area to be stretched and lay it flat on a surface
  • Cover the area with cotton fabric
  • Apply and low-medium hot iron thoroughly over that area
  • Put on the jacket and wear it to help promote the stretch

It’s essential to use heat sparingly with your leather jacket! Too much or too high of heat will ruin the material and encourage it to break down and dry out much faster than the rest of the jacket. Since this area of the jacket will naturally be more stressed than other parts, the last thing you want to do is weaken it prematurely!

4. Apply water to the problem areas

Water also works well if you’re feeling tentative about using heat or want to hit a few problem areas at the same time. You can use a damp cloth to rub water over the surface of your leather jacket or use a light mister to do the same task.

Wear the jacket while it dries, and you’ll find it stretched much better than before you tried it. Make sure you don’t apply too much water, as leather isn’t naturally waterproof.

Fun Fact:

Did you know that applying vaseline to your leather jacket can help offer water resistance?

Do leather jackets stretch as you wear them?

Leather jackets will stretch as you wear them, whether you intentionally try to do this or not. According to wikiHow, a leather jacket should fit snugly to your shape but not too tight in the shoulders or arms — these are the areas that will get the most stress and movement. 

If you buy a leather jacket that is already loose on you, it’ll stretch out further as you wear it and be too big. So, remember to choose a snug-fit jacket so that it’ll loosen and relax to the perfect fit as you wear it and break it in!

How long does it take to stretch out a leather jacket?

If you’re impatient and want your leather jacket to be properly stretched, like, yesterday, don’t fear. It only takes 2-3 hours of wear (total) for a jacket to relax and stretch naturally. To help the process, you’ll want to do lots of movement, including swinging your arms around, hugging yourself, and more. The more you move in the jacket, the faster it stretches out.

How much will a leather jacket stretch?

The actual stretch capacity of a leather jacket will depend on the leather’s quality. Most leather in fashion will stretch between ¼-½ of its size, giving you a decent amount of stretch capacity. 

Fun Fact:

Did you know that the type of leather you choose also determines how easy or hard it is to stretch? WanderGlobe explains that leather from pigs, fish, and goats will be the easiest to stretch.

How to stretch leather jacket armpits

If your problem area is the armpits of your leather jacket, you can use one of the methods mentioned above to help stretch it out. You’ll also want to emphasize movement in your arms to help the leather relax in that area, specifically.

Another detail to note is that you’ll want to choose your leather jacket carefully based on how the arm holes fit. The height and width of the arm holes and shoulders will be essential to get right. This is because they can be among the hardest points to stretch and one of the most common stress points in the jacket!

How to stretch faux leather jacket

If you’ve chosen to purchase a faux leather jacket, you might assume that you can stretch it the way you would with authentic leather. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case. Faux leather won’t stretch the same way as authentic leather because one is made from plastic, and the other is made from authentic and treated animal skin. You’ll want to be extra careful to get the fit just right in the store if you buy a faux leather jacket!

You can try a few techniques if you want to learn how to stretch a leather jacket that is too small or tight in specific areas. First and foremost, wear it for several hours, and it’ll relax on its own. You can also try applying a leather conditioner, getting it wet, or applying heat to your leather jacket for a faster stretch. 

Know someone who is still trying to break in their new leather jacket? Please share this with them to help speed up the process!

Andre from leatherninja.com

Andre is a passionate leatherworker who spends his spare time working with leather. He loves the smell and feel of leather, and he takes great care in selecting the right pieces of leather for his projects. Read more here.