Have you, perhaps in your travels, enjoyed the pleasure of a leather luggage set, vintage suitcase or other personal item made from leather? Evocative, now that’s a word. A vintage leather suitcase or briefcase evokes days gone by, probably before most of us were born, days of travel and romance. Can you imagine boarding a steam train with a nylon holdall? No, nor us. It just has to be leather. You are probably not going to use a small leather suitcase for a weekend in London but you might use it to keep memories in, at home. We have even turned them into dog beds (suitably modified so they couldn’t close on the dog!). So why not dress your home in vintage leather? A case on the back rack of a classic sports car, yes please!
Q: Clean carefully!
The older the leather piece, the more gentle the cleaning is required. This is particularly important if the case has old travel labels on it. If it has, fill a bowl with warm water, add washing-up liquid and stir. You can then, with a soft cloth take the suds only (not the water) and gently clean the labels. This should ensure that the labels become cleaner but not sodden so they peel off. If the label has a cross through it, the cross should remain as it signifies that that journey has been completed.
Whether small or large, a vintage leather suitcase will benefit from a thorough cleaning with saddle soap, but again do not overwet the leather.
Q: How do I nourish the leather to keep it in good condition?
Leather needs to be nourished and a number of commercially available products can do this. We favour Lord Sheraton’s Leather Balsam. Try to avoid modern aerosol spray products that may shine but will not nourish the leather and may dry it out. Once nourished try not to store too close to a radiator!
Q: How to deal with damage
Be careful! If your old briefcase or suitcase is of value please be wary of attempting to fix any problems yourself and seek expert help. You know those TV repair programmes where the expert receives an item and her first comment is along the lines of “First I will have to undo all of the amateur repairs before I can start restoring this!”. Enough said. Examples of items to consider getting help on are stitching, new handles, patches and replacement corners. If the item is only for your own use at home then have at it!
In the UK, vintage leather briefcases, whether men's or for women (different styles) are now considered to be classics. They are sturdy and stylish and you can pick a vintage style to match an era that you favour - we like 60’s versions - think Bond!
What briefcase did your father or grandfather use - wouldn’t it be cool to use the same one?
Our leather goods selection forms part of our broader collection of vintage wood boxes, trunks and leather vintage items. Come and browse through this part of our store if you enjoyed what you saw here.