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Patent That

Patent Leather, Then & Now

Patent leather has been making appearances all over the streets and runways, from sleek, shiny accessories to full out patent ensembles. The glossy, wet-looking leather is certainly eye-catching and demands attention. Here is a brief look into the wonderful world of patent leather.


Patent was created in the UK in 1799 and reportedly gained its name due to being recognized by the patent office. The initial stages of preparing the leather are the same as for many other leathers, it is the finishing steps that differ. The earlier methods of creating patent included several different techniques: dyes and boiled oil finished off with an oil varnish; application of linseed oil, whale oil, horse grease and lamp black (a black pigment made from soot). Patent leather became quite popular due to its shiny, water-resistant attributes. As demand spread, it finally made its way to the United States in 1818 and was commercially produced in 1822. Since then, it has come in and out of style, as most fashion trends tend to do.

The patent leather we know and love today is primarily made with a blend of polyurethane and acrylic. Polyurethane creates a hard, durable, glossy finish, while acrylic allows for more flexibility. The combination of both creates a harmonious finished product that is both durable and flexible. The varnishes used today can be used on almost any quality leather and is most typically used with cattle hide. Patent leather requires 3 coats: the first coat is formulated to penetrate the leather; the second coat includes dye to color the leather; and the final coat is a clear coat that dries shiny, hard and waterproof.


Designers have been using patent in their collections for decades. Many of their staple styles come in patent versions. Below are some of the most recognizable patent handbags that you’ve surely seen on your favorite celebrities, on the streets and in the magazines.

Chanel Classic Double Flap Proenza Schouler PS11 Crossbody Louis Vuitton Alma
Fendi 2Jours Christian Louboutin Sweet Charity Christian Dior Lady Dior


If you want to play it safe, try pairing a patent handbag with jeans and t-shirt. It’s a fun way to add texture to your outfit without taking too much of a risk.

If you are ready for a walk on the wild side, go all out with full patent from head to toe!


Patent leather may seem like an easy material to care for because of its water resistant exterior, but it requires special care to help preserve it, ensuring many happy years of wear! Here are some tips for keeping your patent leather handbags in tip top shape:

  • CLEANING: Minor dirt, dust, and smudges can be removed by wiping with a damp cloth or paper towel using water or patent leather cleaner. For tougher smudges, use windex to help buff away the grime. If using cleaning products on your handbag, always make sure to test a small inconspicuous area first. Alternatively, you can take your bag to a professional to ensure it is cleaned properly.
  • STORING: Preferably, always store in a dustbag. When stored for a prolonged period of time pressed up against other items, color transfer is highly likely to happen. Storing in a dustbag not only prevents color transfer, but also protects the bag from dust, moisture, and light.
  • WEAR: As with many bags, color transfer can be an issue so be careful when wearing your handbag against dark or color saturated clothing, such as jeans. Prolonged exposure to sunlight can also cause significant discoloration and fading that is irreversible.


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