Different Types of Leather

Knowing About Leather.

Leather is virtually more deeply embedded into the world of raw denim than denim itself. You can find it on the patch of your jeans, on the belt you use to hold them up, on the shoes on your feet, and even occasionally backing the rivets that hold your jeans together. With so many different uses, it’s important to know how exactly leather is produced.

Leather is made from animal hide which has been tanned. Is it one of the oldest human inventions and has been used in many applications. Today it is used mainly in clothing for belts, shoes, purses and leather handbags. Leather is also made from the skin of animals such as cows, horses and sometimes also exotic animals like ostriches, snakes, or crocodiles. The different types of animals have different types of hides with different properties such as their appearance and durability, making them desirable for various purposes in products such as garments, footwear, accessories, or furniture upholstery.

Knowing About The Different Types of Leather

Various types of leather are produce by the type of animal hides used and the tanning and production methods employed. The most generally used hide are extract from cow hide, but leather from different animals, such as, kangaroos and ostriches, are also popular in the fashion industry.

Leather comes in many shapes and forms. There are different types of leather and their functions vary according to their characteristics. Though many types exist, there are three main types: full grain, corrected, and split.

Full grain leathersometimes referred to as top grain leather –Full-grain leather is made from the best quality hides. This is used in the finest products.In its natural state with any imperfections on the hide showing. The hair has been removed, but it is not buffed or sanded to remove the imperfections that naturally exist. By not buffing or sanding, it remains more durable. This is used in making furniture and footwear that will last a long time. It may crack and split and develop a natural luster called a patina over time, but it will endure for years to come. The leather can be kept to its normal color with an aniline finish or it can be aniline finished with slight pigmentation, known as semi-aniline.

Corrected leather – has been buffed and sanded to remove imperfections found on the hide. It is not nearly as high a quality as full grain leather. It will lack the durability of the full grain leather. It comes in a couple of varieties. Like the full grain, it can be semi-aniline. Its other variety is pigmented.

Split leather – is used to make suede. After the rawhide and top grain are removed from the hide, the fibrous portion that is left is the split. It can be shaved to the appropriate thickness and treated to make it more durable. Though it is treated beyond the natural tanning process, it will not have the strength of its full grained counterpart.

Hide – made from the skin of a bull. Again, this leather is even durable than either calf of yearling but is much firmer and stronger. It is normally referred to as ‘a side of leather’ due to its being cut from the backbone for handling convenience. This leather is very appropriate for both work boots and strong shoes. Due to its strength these skins are normally too thick for the use of footwear uppers and are split into layers. The outer layer (hair follicle side) is used for uppers and if this outer layer has been blemished or scarred in any way, the surface can be buffed to remove any imperfections before a finish is applied. The leather is then known as ‘corrected grain’ leather. Boots that are made with hide/ox-hide/willow leather are made as unlined boots due to the thickness of the leather.

Goat or Kid – this type of leather is much laxer than that of a calf, but in the same case is more likely to scuff and be subject to wear and tear. Kid leather, obtained from the younger animal, is finer in grain and has a glossy appearance. Both Goat and Kid leather are used in men’s and women’s fashion and comfort shoes and is particularly popular in good quality moccasins. In either of its forms, be it Kid or Goat, this leather has a very distinctive grain, which is found around the follicles. This type of leather are use in the production of kid leather for boot linings and heel socks only and it is recognised by its distinctive butter yellow colour.

Suede, Nubuck or buffed leather is created from the split of the grain and hide. It has a soft, velvet-like texture due to being buffed. It is less expensive than full grain leather. It also tends to more fragile. Care must be taken to not get this type of leather wet as it does not withstand liquid well and easily damages.

Bicast leather – sometimes called coated leather, is similar to split grain leather. The difference lies in the application of polyurethane on the surface. This type is quite durable. Originally used only in the making of shoes, it is now found as upholstery in high-traffic businesses such as bars and restaurants.

Faux leather – is completely synthetic. It has the appearance of real leather, but without the fragility. Since it is synthetic, it is durable and cheap. It is often used in leather furniture. It can sometimes be found in clothing as well, making it a budget-friendly choice for those who want the appearance of leather.

The Different Tanned Process

Knowing the meaning Tanned.

Tanning “is a word derived from “tannin”, an acidic chemical substance used to treat animal hide to keep it from decomposing. Tanning changes permanently the molecular structure of the leather. It can be done using synthetic chemicals or natural chemicals found in the bark and leaves of different plants (mainly chestnut and Argentinean quebracho trees).

Tannins are “a yellowish or brownish bitter-tasting organic substance present in some galls, barks, and other plant tissues, consisting of derivatives of Gallic acid, used in leather production.” And the process of using tannins to preserve collagen is called Tanning.

Types Of Tanned Process

Synthetic Chemical or Chrome Tanning:

Basic (meaning low pH) Chromium is the most commonly used in chemical leather tanning. It is a fast method, about one or two days of soaking are necessary, but requires more steps than vegetable tanning. When the skins are still raw, they are soaked in chromium (purple blue shade) and it adds colour to them, hence the name of this step: “wet blue”. Although effective in leather tanning, the processing of Chromium and ways we have to get rid of it after its job is done, is associated with important environmental damages. For these reasons and because worldwide populations are getting more concerned with our planet, its popularity is slowly decreasing. Other manufactured chemicals are used such as alum, zirconium, titanium and iron salts, all of which have their negative environmental weight. It is hard, almost impossible, to know the precise substance with which the leather has been tanned as there are no law that obliges manufacturers to detail this information. The only way would be to ask the craftsmen or physically go where the hides are tanned and see for ourselves. Allergies to such metals have also been documented in a small fraction of the population in which dermal reactions occurred.

Why Industries Go For Chrome Or Synthetic Chemical Tanning

Chrome tanning is considerably faster than vegetable tanning and can be completed in less than a day, and it generally produces a supple leather that reacts well to water and keeps its finish throughout its “life”. The method of chrome tanning is responsible for about 80% of all leather production worldwide due to its properties and product efficiency, making it a low-cost way of preparing leather. The use of heavy metal minerals.

Vegetable Tanning (Natural Chemicals):

For the huge majority of the past thousands of centuries, this adjustment has been implemented by soaking it in a solution made up of vegetable tannins. These tannins would most often come from trees such as oak, chestnut or mimosa, but hundreds of tree types and other plants have been used. In fact, the word ‘tannin’ derives from an old German word for ‘fir’. So ‘tanning’ has nothing to do with colouring as in getting your kit off and letting the sun brown your skin.

As opposed to the previous method, manufacturers take pride into labelling their products with its making origins as vegetable tanning has largely grown in popularity, with reason. The tanning of leather with vegetable tannins takes several weeks, forty days to be precise, to complete and it leads to supple, soft leathers. Also, their odour is less prominent than artificial chemical treated hides and their particular smell even tends to please picky noses. The hides are put in wooden drums and as the concentration of the compound used increases in each recipient, the hide picks up the subtle, warm colours of the tannins. If desired, staining agent can also be added in a subsequent process. Each piece is recognizable because of its unique characteristics as natural tannins cannot be made identical from one lot to another and every skin is different. Leather treated this way also has a peculiar way of aging, looking better as time goes by. Vegetable tanning has been used for over 200 years. Its ways have been passed on into families, from Italy mostly, and its methods have been refreshing constantly. To use vegetable tanning also means to have a lesser impact on the environment which is another reason why it is often a preferred method amongst Eco-friendly consumers.

The Benefits of Vegetable Tanned Leather

Vegetable tanning is generally a time-consuming process requiring highly skilled craftsmen, which involves soaking hides in large baths of concentrated tannins over a course of several months. It is still used for distinct purposes of heavy leather for shoe soles, belts, etc. This method is the most typically associated with heritage clothes and goods, and the traditional approach of vegetable tanning should be sure to appeal to any ‘wabisabi’ enthusiast.

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