The Three “L”s… Leather, Lace & Latex

Hello there Clifton Forge!

Welcome to a new column for us… Tips Noir. That’s right, a whole column dedicated to learning a bit about the things that generally happen only behind closed doors… or in locked quarters in the back of seedy clubs. And no, I don’t mean evil. I mean those deep, sheltered, taboo parts of your brain that only you (or very few) know that you enjoy.

In these recesses of your mind, there’s a simple little closet… okay, maybe not so simple… that houses a variety of clothing you wouldn’t be caught wearing to your family holiday party. It is those beauties that you’ve bought from those shops where you’ve worn a wig and trench coat to go into or looked all ways before entering or simply ordered off the Internet? Yes those unique articles, I want to talk to you about those today.

Caring for – cleaning and storage that is – these items are key. That is, unless you’re super rich and can afford a new outfit every session. But for those of you that are looking to have your items last? Here’s a few tips to help you ensure your outfits won’t end up permanently on the floor.

Now… lets see about the three “L”s… Leather, Lace and Latex…

→ Leather ↘
While it’s tough as nails, we must also remember that leather is in fact skin. It can dry, crack, stain, warp, etc. So today I’ll walk you through the various options for treating and taking care of leather so that whatever form it takes can be passed down your family line.

The first task in deciding how to treat and care for your leather is simply asking what you want it to look like, and the role it plays in your life. It comes down to taste. Some men want a clean, polished look for their outfits, while others are okay with scratches, blemishes, and natural wear and tear. Dave Munson, founder of Saddleback Leather Co., prefers to minimally treat his own personal bags and allows them to have the beaten-to-hell look that tells tales of adventures (and sometimes misadventures).

So, lets start with polishing. Some of you want that clean, shiny look to your leather goods. On its own, it’s mostly about the actual shine of the product rather than protecting it from the elements. Having said that, many polishes have a moisturizing element, so you really have to look at the product description and user reviews to know what you’re getting and what it does. If this is the goal, be sure you’re picking a product that is both effective and appropriate.

Which brings me to conditioning and such. Leather conditioner or cream moisturizes the material so that it doesn’t dry out and crack. This won’t make your thigh high boots “shine,” but it will protect them. Note that in most cases conditioners don’t waterproof your leather (though some do include a water-repelling component). Leather conditioners are lotion-like, and are to be gently rubbed into the leather. The hide will soak up the conditioner, just like your skin would soak up a moisturizer.

How often you use conditioner, really depends on what you want. Most folks out there — everyday folks who haven’t founded leather goods companies — like to condition their goods every 3 months or so, sometimes more if they live in a dry climate.

Oh… and… Test first. When applying any polish or conditioner, always test a small area first.

Okay… on to Waterproofing. Waterproofing sprays or waxes provide a coating to your shoe to repel water, snow, baby drool, etc. These treatments generally only need to be done once a year, depending on your use of the product. Sprays should only be used in a pinch; they’re convenient, but create a lower quality effect. You’ll need to re-apply a spray several times over the course of a single winter or rainy season. Waxes (and sometimes creams) are much more durable, and can be applied with greater precision and control. With a spray, you’ll be coating laces, zippers, etc., perhaps unnecessarily wearing them and exposing them to chemicals.

Some more tips for leather…

Leather needs to breathe. Just like skin, leather needs some ventilation to prevent mildew and rot. Air can naturally pass through leather, leaving moisture to evaporate naturally. That can’t happen when your leather is all sealed up, though. So don’t ever store or transport it in a plastic grocery bag. Either use the storage/travel bag the item came with, or some type of breathable fabric — pillowcases are great for shoes, bags, and/or other accessories.

If your leather gets soaked or even waterlogged, it can be tempting to throw it in front of a heater or to use a hair dryer to speed the process. Don’t do that, ever. Just like skin and other fabrics, when leather gets wet and then heated right away, it can shrink and dry out too quickly. Rather, let it dry naturally, even if it takes a couple days.

Also, just generally keep leather out of direct sunlight when storing. The leather fades naturally over time, but sunlight speeds up that process. Drying and cracking can also ensue. Darker places with some humidity are preferred, although again, ensure air flow so that mildew can’t form.

Regularly clean with a damp cloth. As mentioned above, the most foolproof way to keep any leather product from prematurely aging, even if you do nothing else, is to give it a regular wipe-down with a damp cloth. Your jackets, shoes, bags — they all quickly accumulate dirt, dust, and all manner of other abrasive particles that lead to premature wear and tear. Preserve your leather by wiping them down weekly, or even after a single hard use in a winter storm, with a wet cloth or even paper towel.

To sum up, ensure that you have a good routine for caring for your leather goods. In many instances, it will look something like these 3 easy steps:
→ Wipe down leather with a damp cloth 1-2 times per week depending on use and accumulated dirt and grime. Store leather shoes on cedar trees.
→ Condition leather every 3-6 months, sometimes more depending on the environment and season.
→ Waterproof once a year, if desired, and if your lifestyle/environment calls for it.

→ Lace ↘
Delicate lace have a variety of effects on many people. After all, the fragile fabrics that are so alluring to look at and soft and smooth to wear, are the very same ones that give us so much stress and hassle when it comes time to turning our attention the washing, care and storage of these items.

The bad news: You can’t escape the need to do laundry, especially where underwear is concerned.

The good news: You can implement some small tips into your daily or weekly routine to streamline the overall process.

If your care labels have started to feel a bit like the menacing thorns that spear treacherously through the beauty of the roses, never fear. These handy tips, tricks and hints, will keep you covered!

Machine washing lace or silk is never recommended, as it exposes the fabric to harsh agitation that increases the risk of damage and reduces the longevity of your clothes. Nevertheless, if you absolutely have to machine wash your delicates, you can take as much precaution as possible by:

→ Using a front-loader washing machine, which tends to be gentler on clothes than a top-loader.
→ Washing items of like colours in delicate-specific laundry bags to prevent snagging.
→ Fastening hooks/clasps and tying down loose embellishments to prevent fabric tears.
→ Choosing a cool, gentle cycle.
→ Opting for delicate-specific laundry detergent.
→ Removing items from the washing machine immediately after the washing cycle.

This is the best option when it comes to caring for your delicates, as it’s gentler on sheer fabrics and thus reduces the risk of tearing and other damage. Hand washing is also the best way to preserve elasticity, keeping your clothes looking new and feeling fresh, many washes in. Hand washing, however, is not without its perils, so be sure to wash as efficiently and safely as possible by:

→ Separating your clothes into like colours.
→ Washing light garments first so you can use the same water for darker garments later.
→ Using cool or room-temperature water.
→ Minimizing the amount of detergent to prevent residue from building up on your clothes.
→ Abandoning scrunching, twisting and pulling actions in favour of gentle swirling motions.
→ Leaving to soak for only a few minutes.

There’s no point putting in the effort to properly wash your delicates, if you’re not willing to show them a little love during the drying process, so to get the most out of your garments, be sure to:

→ Avoid the dryer, which can shrink and breakdown fabrics, and bend wires.
→ Keep your items out of direct sunlight to help preserve colour.
→ Place wet garments on a towel and gently pat them down to expedite the drying process.
→ Use a drying rack for super delicate items that you don’t want to pat down.
→ Reshape items or dry flat when the care label instructs you to do so.
→ Avoid ironing where possible.

As far as storage. Of course, direct sunlight will cause fading of the colours. Lucky for lace, depending on the materials used, warmer, drying, more humid, cooler? Those tend not to be factors unless you’re dealing with a lace made with a specialty material. So, be sure you know the material to ensure you are giving it the best care for the longevity of the piece.

→ Latex ↘
Lots of people enjoy the feeling and look of latex, and with the proper caution, care, and maintenance, your latex clothing can last for a very long time. How about we start with how to wear your latex… Latex clothing can be tricky to put on and take off, but if you keep the following tips in mind, this won’t be nearly as much nuisance!

Pulling on latex clothing – which tends to be tight and fit snugly – can easily damage it, leaving permanent finger marks, stretching, or even rips and tears, in the material. Have patience, and use baby powder generously on the inside of your garments. Another option is to use a silicone-based shining product or a NON oil-based lubricant to make putting on your clothing easier.

Instead of grabbing the latex material with your fingers, which increases the likelihood of leaving finger indentations or causing damage, use your whole hand to pull. Use your hand to shift the latex and gradually shift until the garment is in place properly and you are comfortable. Use as much baby powder or lube as you feel you need; excess can always be wiped off once everything is in place! And lets be honest… extra lube rarely hurts anything.

Be sure to watch your fingernails and any sharp edges on jewelry or watches, as these will catch the latex and possibly cause a tear.

Then, to remove your clothing, follow this same ‘pull and shift’ method to remove garments with care.

Washing and Cleaning Latex Clothing…
Be certain to wash your latex garments after each use. When wearing latex, sweating is common and can be increased by the constriction of this type of material and snug fit. Use a small amount of soft soap in lukewarm water to rinse your garments thoroughly by hand. Do not scrub them, as this may damage the latex, but wipe with a soft cloth inside and out and rinse completely. Do NOT wring out your clothing; it is more than sufficient to gently shake the garment to shake free excess water, pat with a towel to soak up remaining moisture, and hang to air-dry in a room temperature setting. Any remaining water streaks can be gently wiped away with a soft cloth as your clothes are drying. You may also want to lightly shake some baby powder inside your garments as they are drying to prevent sticking.

Properly Storing your Latex…
It’s recommended to store your latex clothing in a cool, dark, dry space. A garment bag is perfect. Use a broad plastic hanger to help your garment keep its shape; wire hangers, thin hangers, or hanging an outfit from the straps may cause the outfit to lose its shape. DO NOT store your clothing in direct sunlight; the sun’s rays will cause the latex material to rapidly deteriorate or even turn white. GASP White? okay, I know some come white, and that’s perfectly fine. But the other effects of direct sun light still remain.

Latex is a very sensitive material, which burns easily. For this reason, you may wish to carefully avoid storing or hanging your clothing near heaters or heat sources, avoiding fire, flame, and cigarettes/cigars. Similarly, avoid storing clothing in damp spaces or fluorescent light to avoid fading and deterioration of the latex material. Metals such as copper, brass, and bronze will stain your clothing if permitted to come into contact with one another. Makeup and perfume may stain or even break down the latex material and should also be avoided. Lastly, avoid oil-based products when wearing your latex clothing and opt for non-harmful water-based ones.

↘ Alright, I hope that helps you keep those precious, expensive secret-time articles fresh and long lasting. Next week, lets see what other little secret love we can talk about. Until then… Always use your safe word!