Why Leather Jacket Sleeves Will Shorten With Wear?

So you purchased a leather jacket and the sleeves shortened as you wore it and now you are wondering if your arm grew an extra inch in just a short time. It didn’t. It’s the sleeves of your leather jacket that shortened.

Leather jackets clearly can give anyone a James Bond appeal. They not only bring out your best look but can act as a protective layer against wind or damage because of its characteristics.

But what’s mysterious about leather jackets is how, out of nowhere, they start looking too small or too big on you even when you did not gain or lose weight. In this article we will explore this mystery and answer similar questions you might have as a leather jacket fanatic. 

New Leather Jackets Will Shorten

“Wait a minute! I just purchased it a few days ago, why do my sleeves look shorter”? That’s right. Expect your newly bought leather jacket to shorten. But why does that happen?

Well, the most understandable science behind it is that genuine leather jackets come directly from tanning animal hides, and animal skins do stretch and shrink to adjust to different conditions. This characteristic of shrinking and stretching is not lost when the skin is processed to make your leather jacket. Another reason is that creases or wrinkles tend to form for several reasons which eats up a slight portion of the original length making your jacket appear shorter. This is why even your freshly bought leather jackets may shorten.

Now you may be planning to purchase a jacket with sleeves longer than you would need so that it shortens to just the perfect length. Well, here’s the catch- leather jackets can elongate as well! Read on to learn more about this.

Longer Sleeve Leather Jackets will Shorten

Obviously, the same style does not look “sleek” on everyone. Some like overfitting apparel while others prefer baggy wear. If you belong to the latter and are planning to get a long sleeve- on that will go beyond your wrist. Know this- the sleeves still will shorten even if it is originally long.

Through use, the wrinkles that form around the elbow area can settle as apparent pleats and you will have to go through stretching it down straight with your hand and frustrating yourself unnecessarily- because it will eventually go back to the same position. Why do wrinkles form in the first place? Well, there are multiple ways but mainly through poor packaging or hanging wrongly in the dryer for a period of time or treating it with the wrong elements or naturally as you bend your arms countless times. So do not be surprised if your sleeves which used to rest below your wrist now rests on your wrist.

Leather Jackets That Are “Too Short” Will Look Shorter With Wear 

If you have learned from somewhere that leather jackets eventually stretch out and so you plan to purchase a shorter leather jacket, you are making a mistake.Even if you are just someone that prefers sleeves lying above your wrist you will not want a jacket that will look like your younger brother’s. Because let’s get this straight- it does not matter how long the original length of your sleeves on your leather jacket are, you should expect some shortening.

With wear and rough use, the leather jackets are prone to shortening. But undoubtedly a serious enemy to your leather jacket is water.

DO NOT make the mistake of wearing a leather jacket on a rainy day. When a leather jacket gets soaked in water, and is not properly dried off, alongside dealing withmould and mildew issues, you will be left with a shrunken leather jacket. This is because water can wash away the natural oil making the leather brittle and full of wrinkles and cracks. This takes away a good portion of the length making your already short leather jacket look a lot shorter with wear. 

Type Of Leather Will Determine How Much Shortening Happens

Let’s look at this way: all leather jackets are not made from tanning hides of the same animal. The skin characteristics differ from animal to animal, from breed to breed and so does its ability to shrink or stretch. For instance, calf leather shrinks very slightly, hide from lamb shrinks and stretches moderately whereas horse hide leather shrinks the most, mostly when soaked in water. Additionally, all leather jackets are not processed the same way- the techniques differ for different companies and all play a part to determine to what extent your leather jacket will stretch.

Thus, leather jackets come in different types with different shortening capacity. Heck some of them are not even as genuine as they promise and can be pleather or faux leather which are not made from using animal skin at all. Our advice would be to buy a genuine leather jacket without worrying about which animal skin you are putting on.

Leather Jackets That Got Drenched Will Shorten 

First timers in leather jackets have to suffer from exposing their expensive jackets to water. Out of ignorance, or sometimes by accident, they get their jacket drenched in the rain. Not drying it the right way or letting the water sit in can bring misfortune. No matter how expensive the leather jacket is, once the water settles in, it can wash away the natural oil established in the leather making the leather vulnerable to cracking over time. This takes away much of the length and shortens your jacket.

Exacerbating the situation of a drenched coat is drying it the wrong way. Direct heat- from a dryer or scorching heat of the sun or the radiator can form cracks on your leather, shortening it as well as damaging it. The best way to dry it is to wipe down any water residue, use a wide shoulder hanger and leave it in a room with plenty of ventilation for 24 hours and it should be dry with minimal damage done. But try to check the weather forecast before you head out looking like David Beckham.

How Long Should Sleeves Be On A Leather Jacket?

Depends on your preference. The ideal fit for a leather jacket would have the sleeves resting right at the top of your wrist. If you prefer wearing it lower or higher, you might as well pick one according to your preference. But be warned. Do not simply purchase it when the sleeve length meets your needs. Remember that the hem, shoulders and chest size might be compromised to deliver the sleeve length you desire.

Ideally, the leather jacket should end at your belt, fit snugly to your chest more than a suit does but should give you enough room to zip it all the way up at ease. As for the shoulders, well unlike a suit, your leather jacket can come down your upper arm a few inches which allows room for layers but wearing higher than that can be suffocating.

Can Leather Jacket Sleeves Be Lengthened?

If you are suffering from short leather jacket sleeves or want to keep wearing your favourite leather jacket from years back and wondering if you can lengthen the sleeves. Well, you may try but it might not be worth it.

Lengthening the sleeves alone is challenging and it’s better to look for a leather professional. A professional would either find compatible leather to join it to the sleeves or replace the whole sleeve. DIY expansion uses reconditioner to soften the leather which causes it to stretch but this only comes at the cost of lengthening the whole jacket but most importantly, inflicting damage to your expensive jacket. 

Can You Shorten Sleeves On A Leather Jacket?                                             

A long-sleeved leather jacket may look as a hand-down from your elder brother. If the jacket you purchased has an abnormally long sleeve and you want to shorten it, DIY projects are here to rescue it. There are many methods to shorten your sleeve but all of them work to reduce the length only very slightly. The easiest method is by using water but this too will come at the cost of altering your entire leather jacket and not just the sleeves. The process is written below:

  1. Spray warm water on the leather jacket to soak the outside completely with water
  2. Put the jacket in a pillow cover.
  3. Air dry it for 10-20 minutes.
  4. Remove it when it feels supple and heavier than when it was wet.
  5. Put it on and go for a walk. This will allow your shortened leather jacket to air dry further.


To rock on a leather jacket, it must fit you the right way.   Leather jackets are versatile and look good with almost everything you wear underneath but the right fit is imperative. Processed from animal hides directly, it can undergo shrinking and expansion when worn frequently or when exposed to a few factors.

The article shed some light on the science behind this otherwise mysterious change of length and how you can do your part to try to avoid it with everything in your power. Leather jackets come at a pretty high price. But they are extremely durable when taken the best care of. We hope our article helps you make informed decisions on which leather jacket to get and how to avoid ignorant mistakes as an owner.  

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