Shearling jackets & coats

Written by Bill Manning

shearling sheep jackets & coats

What’s going on everyone? I sure am glad it’s Friday! I guess I’ll have a stay at home weekend, gas is costing too much. Well today I thought I would dive into the whole shearling jackets and coats mess and try to explain just what your getting when you buy one. What is shearling? As always there is fake and real shearling, and good and bad ways to make it.

What is really surprising is the vast cost difference between good quality shearling coats and jackets and a lower grade one. A nice full shearling coat that is quality made can be over 1,000 dollars. A low grade or fake shearling jacket can be bought for 50 bucks! Most fall somewhere in between there, from 100 to 500 bucks.

The best thing is to start right from the beginning and explain just what real shearling coats and jackets are. Many seem to think it is a lambskin jacket, wrong. Some think it’s a leather jacket with wool attached, wrong, at least for real shearling coats. Some don’t even think it’s real wool, wrong again. So here’s how a real shearling coat is made, and the different variations of it.

The way real shearling coats and jackets are made is simple. They take a sheep, that is a full grown sheep. It can be a female or male, there’s not much difference. They skin the hide, which consists of pulling the hide from the body. They leave the wool on the hide, which is now a sheepskin. Then they tan the hide, trim the wool so it’s a nice even thickness, bleach the wool white, as natural wool is a mix of white and gray.

They then may dye the hide, which is now leather; work it so that the leather is very soft, maybe put a few more treatments in the leather, and that’s it! When they make the shearling coat or jacket they make it so the wool is on the inside and the leather part is on the outside. Depending on how big and long the shearling coat is it can take 2 to 3 hides to make a shearling coat or jacket.

Now, there’s a lot of “fake” shearling coats too, which accounts for the wide difference in price. A coat or jacket that says it’s a Sherpa, or has a sherpa lining, is made from artificial wool; that is it’s a synthetic material. Those popular jean jackets and vest have a sherpa lining. Some can have real wool, but it’s glued or stitched to the jean fabric.

Sometimes they take a leather jacket, then glue or stitch fake wool or even real wool to the inside. But that still does not make it a real shearling coat or jacket. They can even use a fake leather jacket, line it with fake wool and call it a shearling coat, but of course it’s not.

mens shearling sheepskin leather bomber jacket
Click here to see my new men’s shearling leather bomber jacket!

Now, just to make sure you know, a shearling coat or item is the exact same as a sheepskin jacket or sheepskin coats. It’s just more common to call them shearling. So sheepskin boots, sheepskin slippers, sheepskin seat covers, sheepskin rugs and all the rest are the same. It’s just that on some of those the wool is on the outside, as in sheepskin seat covers or rugs. Sheepskin jackets ARE shearling jackets.

Real shearling coats and jackets are very warm, as wool is a very good natural insulator. A properly tanned and treated shearling coat will last a long time and the wool will not fall out. If it has been badly treated and processed however there is a chance of the wool falling out over time.

Shearling is made into shearling slippers, shearling boots, shearling gloves, shearling hat and women’s and mens shearling vest, as well as many others. A shearling bomber jacket is very popular. Sometimes they dye the wool a brown or other color to make different colored shearling coats.

The leather part of a shearling coat or jacket is very soft. Sometimes it’s sanded very smooth, other times they leave it the natural fuzzy texture. So now you know a little more about what a real shearling coat or jacket is, what it’s made from, and how it’s made. Don’t pay more than you should for a womens faux shearling jacket or men’s shearling coats. :)

Comments

  1. wayne siegmund says:

    I bout my wife a real shearling jacket and she had gotten an ink pen mark on it about 1 inch long. How / who can get it out without damaging the leather, or ruining the texture or color?

  2. Ouch, that can be a really hard type of mark to get out. If you don’t mind spending the money I would suggest taking it to a professional cleaner. Call your local cleaners and ask first if they do leather, some know how to clean leather, others don’t.

    If you want to try it yourself, rubbing alcohol on a q tip may get it off, but it might leave a mark also. I have heard using hairspray also works, but I have never tried it. If you try to do it yourself and it leaves a bit of discoloration, go over the whole coat with conditioner and it may even out the whole color. But your local cleaner that knows how to do leather is your best bet.

  3. Don’t forget that first, the wool from the lamb must have only been sheared once in its life. This ensures the softness (by being only one), and richness (by shearing) or fullness. Second, the fuzziness (if any) on the jacket’s exterior would indicate that it’s suede. However, for more expensive coats, the full grain leather would be treated and made into nappa leather – as found in wallets, gloves etc. This is a better alternative as nappa leather is both more durable and practical for winter seasons (suede is usually damaged by excessive exposure to rain if untreated).

  4. If you buy an ‘expensive, decent brand’ shearling coat, ie Marc Jacobs, would it likely already be waterproof/snowproof? or should shearling coats follow the same rule as leather where your should never let them get wet?

  5. Hi there Joe, interesting question. You have to understand, leather is leather. No matter how fancy, quality or what the brand name is, all leather is the hide from an animal. In order to keep it from drying out and breaking down, you have to keep it from getting too wet.

    Now, a quality leather jacket will have conditioner and waterproofing, or more correctly sealer, already put on the leather. There is no such thing as a truly waterproof leather. Sure you could coat it with plastic or latex, but then it’s not a good quality pure leather.

    You can get it wet, like going out in the snow, getting a little rain on it and so on. If it’s been properly conditioned and sealed it will repel the moisture, as long as you hang it up to dry after. You can wear a leather jacket or shearling coat all winter, going out in the weather and so on.

    But you can’t keep getting it soaked, like going out and wearing it like a rain coat, or wearing it as a work jacket where you always get water thrown on it. Plus you still need to add conditioner and sealer every so often, or it will start to dry and break down.

    Just think of a down parka. You expect to use in in the snow, and maybe run through a rain storm now and then. But you know that if you get it really wet or use it for rough outside work it’s going to get ruined from the wetness after a while.

  6. Can I use a steamer on a shearling coat? I bought a used (vintage) coat and it has some stains on the leather. Also, would the steam be ok on the shearling? Is there a leather protective product that you would recommend that I could purchase after cleaning?

  7. HI there. Well, if it’s a used coat you have no idea how good they treated it. Your doing the right thing by trying to clean it first. Then I would put conditioner on it followed by a sealer. There is a good chance the leather is dry.

    As for a steamer, I don’t think that is a good idea on leather, especially an older one. Chances are you can’t get those stains out if they have been on there a long time. I know it sounds like a cop out, but your best bet is to take it to a cleaner that knows how to clean leather.

    Cleaning the wool with a steamer is fine, just use it very sparingly with little steam. Then make sure you dry it thoroughly. As for a brand of sealer, I hate to recommend any one product. Many are good, I have some in the sidebars on this site. Good luck.

  8. Can anything be done about discoloration in a shearling .

  9. Hi there Vetty! I assume you mean the wool, not the leather? You can clean the wool just like any type of carpet, with bleach or a coloring agent. The trick is using very little and being very careful to not let the liquid seep into the leather.

    Of course don’t get any on the leather or it will make a lasting stain. Just do a little area at a time using bleach to get the wool white, or a coloring agent used for carpets. Using a washcloth and doing it by hand is best, then use a hairdryer to dry it fast so it does not get into the backing and leather.

    Of course as always, the really best way is to take it to a professional leather cleaners!

  10. Not sure this is smart – but it worked for me. My daughter had a pair of shearling boots that were so worn and dirty they might as well be thrown out. I wanted to give them one last try and clean them, and hey, they were wool so… I soaked them in Woolite. It worked great. Soaked in cold water and woolite, rinsed by hand with cold water and put them in the washer just to spin dry. They dried out beautifully, with clean fluffy shearling insides and consistently clean outside. Not sure I’d try it with a $1000 coat, but it did work for the Uggs.

  11. Hi ,
    I was just gifted two Holt Renfrew Shearling coats, one a 3/4 length dark brown with hood (never been worn), the other a full length tan colored with leather accents (only worn once). They are previously owned, and were stored properly. The owner has allergies to the wool, hence the gift. I am wondering the value of the generous gift, the quality of this brand, and how to care for them best. I tried to Google the coats, but not much came up. Thank you:) Joanne

  12. Hi there Joanne. That’s a high quality brand, very upscale based in Canada. The value for each coat could be from $300.00 to over a thousand, it depends on what it is. Here’s the main factory url:
    http://www.holtrenfrew.com/holts/en/home/

    As for the care, I have several articles in here on the care of leather. Do a search in the search box in the left sidebar and you’ll get articles about it. For now you don’t need to do much as they are good quality and treated well.

    Just try to keep them from getting wet, and hang them up and dry good if they do get wet. Keep them in a cool place hanging up, without plastic around them. You have some great coats there!

  13. Hi, I just bought a new shearling coat and notice that in one area of the hem, the glue has come apart from the fabric/interfacing. What can be done to repair the hem? I’ve read about rubber cement but want to make sure before I touch the coat. Thanks for any help! Pam

  14. Hello there, sorry it took me a while to get back to you. You can use leather glue or leather cement to fix it. You can find it on Amazon or good leather stores. If it’s just the fabric liner to liner, you can use any type of fabric glue. Hope that helps. :)

  15. Hello I was wondering if someone can help me. I have a sherling leather of good quality that was stored in my parents house and sat in a closet for about a year. Now it has a mildewy smell and I’m afraid it might have had mold in the closet. Is there a way I can clean it. I’ve cleaned the leather and it looks good but still has a smell to it. I also am not sure how to clean the inside wool part. Any help would be appreciated.

  16. Hi,
    I recently bought an amazing fur coat from a vintage market which i assumed was faux fur – but on getting in home and inspecting it more closely, i’ve realised it is actually sheepskin/shearling! (the wool part is on the outside, the leather on the inside, and it has a heavy satin lining)
    Unfortunately, the coat stinks! It smells very musty, and slightly of old sweat/body odour! There are a few little stains but nothing that i’m too bothered about – it’s mainly the smell that i’d like to eliminate.
    What is the best way to do this?
    I have a good qaulity clothes steamer, but not sure if this would be the right thing?
    Thanks!
    Rosa (UK)

  17. Hi, let me give the last two people above who commented my advice. In both cases the jacket has a very deep smell that has permeated the whole jacket. Deep down there might be mildew spores that have started to eat away at the leather.

    So, as much as it sounds like the easy way out, I highly recommend taking it to a pro leather repair or cleaner shop. They will know how to give it a mildew treatment down deep, plus really clean the whole jacket.

    They will also make the color of the wool more sharp and vibrant, condition the leather so it’s not dry and give it a protective overcoat. Good luck.

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