What Is Patent Leather? Exploring the Glossy and Stylish Finish

Patent leather is a type of leather that has been treated with a glossy, shiny finish. It is known for its sleek and smooth look, making it a popular material for shoes, handbags, belts, and other fashion accessories. Patent leather is also used in the automotive industry for car seats and interiors.

So what is patent leather? What are the benefits? Keep reading for the answer to these questions and more.

What Is Patent Leather?

Patent leather is a type of leather that has been coated with a high-gloss finish to give it a polished appearance. The coating is usually made from polyurethane (PU) or a thermoplastic polymer called polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This glossy layer gives the leather a waterproof and scratch-resistant quality, making it more durable than traditional leather.

The term “patent” in patent leather refers to the process of obtaining a government-issued patent for the technology used to make it. The patent was first issued in 1818 to Seth Boyden, an American inventor who developed a process for producing patent leather.

How Is Patent Leather Made?

Patent leather is made by applying a liquid coating to the surface of leather. The leather is first cleaned and prepared, and then a layer of primer is applied to help the coating adhere to the surface. After the primer is dry, the patent coating is applied using a spraying or rolling technique. The coating is then cured at a high temperature to create a hard, glossy finish.

Different types of PU or PVC coatings can be used to achieve different levels of shine and durability. Some patent leathers have a mirror-like finish, while others have a softer, less reflective sheen.

Characteristics of Patent Leather

Patent leather has several unique characteristics that distinguish it from other types of leather. These include:

  • High gloss finish
  • Waterproof and scratch-resistant
  • Durable and long-lasting
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Stiff texture

The stiff texture of patent leather is due to the coating, which can make the leather less flexible than other types of leather. This can be both a positive and negative characteristic, depending on how the leather will be used.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Patent Leather

Advantages of Patent Leather

  • Shiny Appearance: The most notable characteristic of patent leather is its high-gloss, reflective finish. This shiny surface adds a touch of sophistication and glamour to any outfit or accessory.
  • Durability: Patent leather is treated with a special coating that enhances its durability and resistance to wear and tear. It tends to be more resistant to scuffs and scratches compared to traditional leather.
  • Easy to Clean: The smooth, non-porous surface of patent leather makes it relatively easy to clean. Most stains and spills can be wiped off with a damp cloth, making it a practical choice for accessories and shoes.
  • Fashionable: Patent leather’s sleek and polished appearance often gives a contemporary and stylish vibe to clothing, shoes, and accessories.

Disadvantages of Patent Leather

  • Stiffness: Patent leather can initially be stiffer and less pliable than regular leather. It might require some breaking in to achieve optimal comfort.
  • Susceptible to Cracking: Over time, patent leather can develop small cracks in its finish, especially if exposed to extreme temperatures or if the leather is bent or creased frequently.
  • Limited Breathability: The glossy coating on patent leather reduces its breathability compared to regular leather. This can lead to discomfort, especially if worn for extended periods.
  • Less Natural Appearance: The high-shine finish of patent leather can appear less natural and more artificial than traditional leather. This might not be to everyone’s taste.
  • Maintenance: While patent leather is easy to clean, it may require extra care to prevent cracking and maintain its shine. Using specific patent leather cleaners and conditioners is recommended.

Uses of Patent Leather

Patent leather has a range of uses in fashion and manufacturing industries. Some common applications of patent leather include:

  • Shoes: Patent leather shoes are a popular choice for dress shoes and formalwear. The high-gloss finish adds a touch of elegance and sophistication to any outfit.
  • Handbags and Accessories: Patent leather is often used in handbags, belts, wallets, and other fashion accessories. The shiny finish gives these items a luxurious look and feel.
  • Automotive Interiors: Patent leather is sometimes used in the automotive industry for car seats and interiors. Its waterproof and durable qualities make it ideal for use in cars.

Comparing Patent Leather vs. Leather


Patent Leather: Known for its glossy and reflective finish, patent leather stands out due to its high-shine appearance. It has a sleek and modern look that can add a touch of sophistication to any outfit.

Leather: Traditional leather has a natural and textured appearance. It often carries a more classic and timeless vibe, with variations in grain patterns and textures.


Patent Leather: Treated with a special coating, patent leather is more resistant to scuffs, scratches, and moisture. It retains its shiny finish and tends to maintain its original appearance for a longer time.

Leather: Depending on the type and quality, leather can also be quite durable. However, it may require more maintenance and conditioning to prevent drying, cracking, and wear over time.


Patent Leather: Initially, patent leather can be stiffer and less flexible, requiring some breaking in to achieve comfort.

Leather: Leather tends to be softer and more supple from the start, conforming to the shape of the body and providing a more comfortable fit.


Patent Leather: The glossy coating on patent leather reduces its breathability, making it less suitable for prolonged wear, especially in warm or humid conditions.

Leather: Leather is more breathable, allowing air to pass through its natural fibers. This makes it a better choice for items that will be worn for extended periods.


Patent Leather: While easy to clean with a damp cloth, patent leather requires specific care to maintain its shine and prevent cracking. Regular cleaning and the use of patent leather cleaners are recommended.

Leather: Leather requires regular conditioning to keep it moisturized and prevent it from drying out and cracking. There are various leather conditioners available to maintain its quality.


Patent Leather: Often used for formal and dressy occasions, patent leather adds a touch of elegance. It may not be as versatile for casual settings.

Leather: Leather comes in various finishes, from casual to dressy, making it suitable for a wide range of occasions and styles.

Natural vs. Synthetic

Patent Leather: Typically made from leather that’s coated with a glossy finish, patent leather is a modified version of natural leather.

Leather: Traditional leather is a natural material made from animal hides. It’s valued for its authenticity and connection to nature.


  1. Is patent leather real leather? Yes, patent leather is real leather that has been coated with a glossy finish.
  2. How do you care for patent leather? To clean patent leather, wipe it with a damp cloth and mild soap. Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials, as they can damage the coating.
  3. Can you wear patent leather in the rain? Yes, patent leather is waterproof and can withstand rainy weather.
  4. Does patent leather crack over time? With proper care, patent leather should not crack over time. However, if the leather becomes excessively dry, it may begin to crack.
  5. What is the difference between patent leather and regular leather? Regular leather is untreated and does not have a glossy finish. Patent leather is coated with a high-gloss finish, making it more durable and waterproof than traditional leather.


Patent leather is a unique and durable type of leather that has been coated with a glossy, high-shine finish. It is commonly used in fashion accessories and the automotive industry for its sleek appearance and waterproof qualities. With proper care, patent leather can last for many years and add a touch of elegance to any outfit or product.