Given the past year, chances are your shopping experiences are now almost entirely online. When buying from brands, this isn’t so much of a problem – most stores will deliver all their stock to your door, and if you don’t want something, returns are free.

But there is a notable difference when it comes to second-hand shopping. When going to a thrift store, it’s all about being open-minded, believing you will definitely not just look at black clothes this time, or you will only make one trip to the changing rooms. It’s the thrill of the chase, the excitement of the unknown, and the delight when a designer top fits perfectly.

Another great thing about buying second-hand is the savings you’ll make. You’ll be surprised what you can find – not everyone attributes the same value to the same item. It’s not an exact science, but you can expect to at least save 30% on the original list price, if not more, depending on your negotiating and/or bidding skills!

For obvious reasons, we’ve had to replace this real-life ritual with online marketplaces. Saving searches on eBay, liking items on Depop and sharpening negotiation skills is all in a day’s work for some. But, like jeans, the fit of leather is notoriously hard to gauge without trying it on. Despite this, there are some items worth seeking out in these cyber thrift stores, and if you know what to look for, you can replicate the kick you get from finding a gem on the rails.



You’re most likely to find success with these items when buying from a second-hand marketplace:

Belts – simple to measure, with colours and types of buckle easy to see in photos.

Bags – another easy-to-measure item which you can match against pieces you already own. Buying a known brand can also be a good guarantee of quality.

Wallets and purses – Similar to bags, but with more functional features you are likely to care about. For instance, the number of card slots, is there a coin pouch? And what size notes will fit. These can be a very personal purchases which should not be taken lightly, especially if you’re spending a larger amount.


Below are categories which may be more of a gamble:

Jackets – this is tricky. Leather jackets are expensive and, particularly if they are not made by an established brand, vary greatly in fit. Since there is usually a no returns policy for these transactions, you could be left with an expensive mistake.

Footwear – due to leather’s natural stretch over time, it’s sometimes tough to get the sizing right when buying shoes or boots. This is less relevant to women’s heels, for instance, but is true of sneakers – the same brand can also run smaller or larger depending on the silhouette.

Gloves – maybe not a purchase you would make second-hand anyway, but leather is a natural insulator so it’s great for gloves. However, the ill-defined world of hand sizing, coupled with stretch, means it’s almost impossible to know if a glove will fit without trying it first.



Authenticity – ensuring the item is real leather should always come first. Usually, the seller makes it very clear if it is.

Level of use – this goes for any second-hand item. It’s crucial you know how worn it is. The marketplace will require the seller to state this in their description e.g. ‘new without tags’, ‘used in excellent condition’, but it’s best to examine photos carefully too. Specific signs of use are also key, for instance, tears, stains or stretching. Often, they won’t be too noticeable but if they are, the price should reflect this.

Sizing & fit – the failsafe way of browsing is to ask for measurements. This way you’re not caught out by irregular sizing and can compare with pieces you already own.

Leather finish – sometimes photos can be unclear, so it’s useful to know how the leather feels, for instance, smooth, grainy or pebbled.

How much care is required – you might not want to be waxing down a jacket once a year, so check if any specific actions are required to keep the item looking good.

Handmade or hand finished – it can be a bonus to buy a handmade item, but it can also mean it’s less durable. This may matter less for an evening bag, but more for a wallet.

Customisations – the joy, and sometimes pain, of thrifting is when sellers have customised their wares. This could be anything from embellishments to tailoring, so check you’re happy with their tweaks before buying.



A few classic Luxury brands to watch out for, especially for vintage finds: Loewe, Coach, Mulberry, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Chanel, Gucci, Fendi, Saint Laurent/YSL

Some more affordable but still premium brands: Paul Smith, Rag & Bone, Ganni, Comme Des Garcons, Acne Studios, MM6 Maison Margiela, Ally Capellino, Longchamps, Furla

Finally, a few high street brands who do leather well: All Saints, Whistles, Reiss, & Other Stories



Remember – you don’t have to take the description as final. You should ask the seller if you’re still unsure about something. After all, if it means you’re more likely to buy it, they will be happy to help!

How often has it been worn? How long have you owned it?

Has it been maintained with care products?

Has it been stored in a smoke free home?

Are there any signs of wear (inner and outer) not shown in the photos?

Is this item true to size?

What are the precise measurements?

Would you accept a lower price? (Sellers expect a negotiation!)


I hope this guide helps you to shop more confidently for leather goods online – maybe you’ll make a purchase that sparks as much joy as finding a gem buried in the bargain bin.


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