Punk Leather Jacket Rehabilitation
September 10, 2009 2:46 PM   Subscribe

Back in the day, I had a black leather motorcycle jacket painted up in the usual punk style: Big back patch, studs, spikes, chains, the works. I'm older now, and I'd like to keep the jacket while getting rid of the youthful excess that covers it. How do I rehabilitate my old leather jacket?

The spikes, chains, and studs aren't the problem, as they come out/off pretty easily. I can deal with the scars their extraction will leave.

The bigger issue is the paint. The back patch is spray enamel and acrylic, and there are enamel bits over the rest of the jacket. The two options I see are stripping off the entire outer covering and starting over or simply painting over the whole thing. I see some potential problems with either option: Acrylic paint doesn't strip off without a major fight, but it's lumpy enough to show through any over-coat I might apply.

I'm sure there has to be a solution, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to see it. I'd like this jacket to slide, semi-gracefully, into middle age with me, scars and all.

Long question short: Have you ever rehabilitated a leather jacket, and if so, how? Any input cheerfully accepted.
posted by lekvar to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (11 answers total)
Try isopropyl alcohol with a rag. Finish it off with Lexol conditioner (the orange bottle).
posted by bravowhiskey at 2:58 PM on September 10, 2009

Keep the jacket as a relic of the era. Even display it. Then buy yourself a new one.
posted by zadcat at 4:29 PM on September 10, 2009 [4 favorites]

Take it to a dry cleaner and see what they say.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 4:31 PM on September 10, 2009

I think it'd be a bit easier to offer advice if you could describe what was painted on the back, or perhaps link to a photo.
posted by Flashman at 4:40 PM on September 10, 2009

I have no personal experience with this product, but it looks like something you might consider after removing paint/patches/spikes/etc.

good luck.
posted by jimmereeno at 4:58 PM on September 10, 2009

I agree with zadcat, you should hold on to it as a sort of personal archaeology and then buy a new one.
posted by Think_Long at 6:27 PM on September 10, 2009

Mineral spirits will dissolve the enamel (mineral spirit borne) and the water borne acrylic, but it might lift the color out of the jacket. There's a product made by Winsor Newton called brush cleaner and restorer that is made for dissolving artists dried brushes. I would try some of that---you have to let it sit for a while. Use a glass container and dispose of mindfully , since it will also eat any plastic container and the seals in your drainpipes.

I would lift off the paint film by scraping vertically with a palette knife---the conservationists method.

The skin of the leather should be able to withstand more swelling and flexing than the top paint layer.

Good luck!
posted by effluvia at 6:56 PM on September 10, 2009

Not the exact same problem, but here is a link to related question: lostburner's sad problem.
posted by SLC Mom at 7:05 PM on September 10, 2009

In the same vein as zadcat above, buy a new one and pass this one on to a child/relative/cool neighbor kid who would dig it.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 8:11 PM on September 10, 2009

keep it for the memories or give it away to a protogé. punk jackets get better as they get older. by gifting it to a young punk you are giving them an amazing thing.
posted by The Wig at 9:33 AM on September 11, 2009

Isopropyl alcohol did the trick, or at least started the process. I still have to get the enamel off, but that should be easy enough.

I've gotten a lot of suggestions, on and offline, to keep it how it was. The problem is, the lekvar who painted the back patch doesn't exist anymore, he was a product of his era and other factors, which have long since passed. I'm not very sentimental, not much of a materialist, and I have limited closet space. The jacket itself has more value to me than the painting. It's hard to describe, but it's similar to the difference between the signifier and the signified. Maybe someday my daughter will want the jacket, but shell have to paint her own mural, just as shell have to walk her own path.
posted by lekvar at 12:19 PM on September 11, 2009

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