A beginners' guide to leather

A beginners' guide to leather

13th September 2017

Our beginners' guide to leather provides a swift overview about the world’s second oldest fashion material.

First there were fig leaves. Then came leather. Skip a few hundred (or thousand) years and the introduction of the tanning process helped leather become one of the most loved natural materials. We see leather everywhere. In our homes, our cars, on our favourite celebs. Some of us even remember kicking a real leather football. Leather has incredible versatility, and this makes it such a wonderful material for the fashion industry.

What are the different types of leather?

Well, the first notable difference is the animal. Cow, buffalo, sheep, pig, goat, and of course some rarer options. They have different properties and therefore lend themselves to different end products.

  • For everyday-use handbags – think cow.
  • For holdalls, you need strength – so buffalo.
  • Sheep – the most popular leather used in the jackets you’ll find on the high street.
  • Goat and pig – difficult to get right, unless in the hands of an expert, but we’ve got a couple of beauties made from these soft supple leathers.

What are the different leather grains?

If you’ve looked around our website, you may have noticed that we don’t really talk about grains. This is because we only use the best grade of leather in our products. And, grains tend to be a way to distract people from the original raw material and the leather finish. Using the full grain, or top grain from a thin skin, or the flank of a hide, won’t give you a great quality jacket. But grains allow manufacturers to up-sell their products. Add a suitable amount of pigment, or plastic coating and any piece of leather may look great initially. If the jacket is made from the flank, they’ll have limited flexibility and quickly lose their shape.

But, as you asked and this is a guide to leather, here’s a picture…

Guide to Leather Grains Image via Formica

The different grains have their uses. If you’re producing a soft, supple, lightweight suede jacket you don’t want full grain. But, as a simple rule of thumb:

  • Full grain – retains the natural grain (and subsequent imperfections or blemishes). It’s thicker, so not always the best choice for leather jackets.
  • Top grain – the hide is split. The top layer is perfect for lightweight jackets. The bottom/flesh side is used to make suede.
  • Corrected – created from poorer quality top grain, given a plastic dye coating and pressed with a skin grain.
  • Bonded – very, very, very thinly sliced pieces of leather laminated together with plastic.

How can you tell if something is made from good quality leather?

We generally 'grade' our leather on the finish we apply:

  • Aniline – the most natural finish. Soft, supple and with a natural look and feel. Aniline leather has no pigment coating.
  • Nappa – has a pigment coating applied after tanning which gives the leather a more uniform colour, look and feel.
  • Nubuck – a suede like effect created by buffing the grain side to give a ‘lived in’ look.
  • Suede – the inside of the hide. Buffed to produce a velvet-like finish.
  • Sheepskin – in our case the whole hide. No bonding.

What leather is used in what products?

We’ve mentioned it before, but it depends on the products. A good example is gloves. Leather gloves, or rather our leather gloves, are made from hair-sheep from warmer climates. Unlike the woolly sheep we have in the UK, hair-sheep have less follicles per inch, the follicles don’t go as deep, and the skin is thinner. This makes it perfect for ensuring you get a tight, yet flexible fit. The durable nature of hair-sheep leather also helps our gloves last longer.

Where does our leather come from?

All the leather we use is a by-product of the meat industry. We source our own raw materials. The majority of our jackets are made from leather sourced in Great Britain.

Is it difficult to clean leather?

Leather, like any natural material, will age better with some care and attention. Pre-protecting your leather will help defend it from stains, and then a regular clean will keep it looking great. Different leather finishes require different treatments, and we go into far more detail on our leather cleaning page.

How many leather jackets have we sold?

Countless… well, to be honest, we’ve lost count. We’re one of the biggest leather jacket retailers in the UK and have been around since 1955.

What type of jacket should I buy?

One that you’ll love! There's no definite answer, or guide to leather jacket buying that applies to every person. If you’ve never tried on a leather jacket you’ll be surprised by how they can make you feel. A leather jacket could possibly be the most expensive item of clothing you’ll ever purchase. It needs to feel right, and it needs to make you feel amazing. That’s our rule.

Age, shape, size, figure – none of it matters. There’s a style, a fit, a colour for everyone and for every occasion.

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