Fashion Forecast: Will Leather Still Be In Fashion in 2023?
Leather is a staple item in the best-styled wardrobes across the world. It was one of the first materials used to make primitive clothing and recorded as far back as 500 BC, though it was likely worn by early man long before that. The ancient Greeks are credited with the first methods of tanning leather, making it suitable to wear or make into bottles, buckets, shrouds, or gloves. Hardened leather was also made into saddles and even armor to fight in. Over the years, more methods of tanning, dying, and softening leather emerged, and leather became a staple in the average wardrobe. Women’s boots, chaps for riding, motorcycle jackets, pants, handbags, hats…you name it, and they can make it in leather.
The many uses of leather in the modern wardrobe come in and out of fashion the way most trends do, but leather as fashion is so much more than just a trend. The question of whether or not leather will be in style next year, the year after that, or the year after that is a very easy one to answer because the answer is always yes. It’s a timeless material that is hardy enough to be passed down from generation to generation as an heirloom garment or piece if it is looked after well enough. Now that we know for sure (we promise you, we’re not lying) that leather will be in fashion next year and every year to come, let’s take a look at how leather has morphed into one garment and another over the years and how leatherwear has changed since its inception.
When the first humans migrated from warmer areas on the planet to colder ones in search of new lands, food sources, and places to live, they had to make clothing that would keep them warm. Back then, animal skins and furs were the only options for them. The skins would be boiled with tree bark and later treated with fat to keep them pliable. This was less fashion and more necessity, but it was the beginning of leather as clothing.
Mesopotamia and Sumeria
As early as the 3rd and 5th centuries, there are drawings from cultural hubs like Mesopotamia and Sumeria of women wearing preserved leather loincloths. Gazelle skin preserved almost entirely from between 15 and 1300 BC was found in Egypt, and the trend spread fast. Before long, many countries up and down trade routes began tanning and wearing leather. The Native Americans wore leather not only out of necessity but also as decoration for their traditional dress. Their tanning methods were the best of the day; they even managed to produce white leather, an incredible feat and highly prized for garments and accessories.
The 19th and 20th Century
In the late 1800s and the very early 1900s, leather became a fashion item outside of traditional dress or working functions like gloves and chaps. The aviator jackets worn by pilots in the war became a fashion statement for men and, far more recently, for women. The leather motorcycle jackets (worn since 1928), worn previously because the leather was so thick and hardy, became something to wear to a night out clubbing. These formerly hard-working garments became the essence of cool and let anyone who saw the wearer know that they were edgy and adventurous. When fashion made the leap to the big screen, and these jackets were seen all over the world, they rocketed to further fame and desirability.
From these early examples, it was natural for designers to see leather as both functional and beautiful, and luxurious. In the 60s and 70s, leather jackets became a symbol of the freedom achieved by living life on the road, usually on a motorbike. Leather pants took inspiration from chaps and became the perfect bottoms for a rebellious man or woman. In the 80s, leather clothing was only worn in large amounts by the rock ‘n’ rollers of the time, but the 90s brought it into the spotlight again as a chic option everyone should have in their wardrobe. Everything was skin-tight and tied up with leather or suede, but comfort was not key in those looks.
Leather has returned both to the runway, and the closets of the world’s fashionable people season after season, year after year. We don’t see any fashion future in which leather is completely gone from the world’s most beloved fashion houses and their seasonal collections. Just take a look in any well-dressed person’s closet and see how many leather items they have in there, and you’ll see how right we are.