The type of animal skin used and the tanning and manufacturing methods employed characterize different types of leather. Leather is defined as any type of tanned animal hide. The most common type of leather used for clothing is cowhide, but leather from other animals, such as kangaroos, pigs, sheep, snakes, sharks, and ostriches, is also popular in certain applications and markets.
An animal hide can be made into leather by a number of different methods. Leather tanned with vegetable-based products is supple but can be damaged by exposure to water. Alum-tanned leather, created with aluminum salts, is less supple, but it can be made in much lighter shades than vegetable-tanned leather. Tanning
using chromium salts results in a very supple leather that holds up relatively well in water. Brain-tanned leather (buckskin), made with animal brains or other emulsified oils, is washable and significantly softer than any of the above varieties.
Not all leathers are created equally. You’ll want some information before you choose your leather type:
Different animal hides will yield different textures and looks:
- Bonded leather is a cheaper, low-quality material made from scraps of leather pressed down and chemically bonded together.
- Genuine leather is an industry term for leather made from the inner hide. It is thinner, cheaper, and less durable than top grain or full grain, but it is still made from a whole piece of animal hide.
- Top grain is preferred for most jackets. It’s the whole outer hide, but with the skin smoothed off to make an even surface.
- Full grain is made from the whole hide, including the outer layer of skin. It is tough and long lasting – but will sometimes have blemishes and marks from the animal’s lifetime.
- Lambskin is the softest and smoothest conventionally used leather. It has an almost silky feel, but is not as durable as other hides.
- Goatskin is a light material, and wears well over time. It has a noticeable pebbly finish.
- Deerskin is a light material also, good for warmer-weather jackets. It’s not as damage-resistant as other hides, but stretches well and doesn’t wear thin.
- Horsehide is thinner than steer hide, but still tough, with suppleness similar to bison and a pattern of visible surface cracks.
- Bison performs much like steer hide, with a little added suppleness and a unique vein pattern that gives it a more prominent texture.
- Steer hide is the skin of adult cows (in many cases a byproduct of the meat industry). It’s tough and stiff, requiring a long break-in period but providing excellent durability and protection.
Jonval, we make all our custom leather jackets by hand right here in our Denver leather shop
. With virtually hundreds of leather samples to choose from in every color imaginable, the only limitation is your own imagination. And take our virtual tour
to have a look at the variety we carry in our shop. Call us today for all your leather needs: 720-377-1555
Additional Resources: How to Wear a Leather Jacket With Style