Leathers are not all the same.

Many modern leathers in use today have been through chemical processes which leave the material lacking in ‘workability’.

These types of leather are usually used for the manufacture of clothing, bags and furniture and is often the cheaper variant of real leather. It doesn’t have the properties to be molded, carved, stretched or otherwise ‘worked’. Vegetable tanned (veg tan) leather is tanned using traditional natural materials like tree bark to produce the tannins needed and without the chemicals used in many modern leather tanning processes. Typically the veg tanning of leather will take over thirty days where as tanning using, for example chromium, the process can take around twelve hours. In short veg tan leather is generally kinder to the environment and is a little more 'workable'.

However, there is a place for other types of tanned leather. For example shoes, which are constantly in contact with dirt, sweat, water and salts and need to be resistant to all of these. 

While we are here, it is also worth considering how a piece of leather is a one-off thing and no other piece will be the same. If you look at your arm or hand you will see various marks. There may be scars, insect bites, moles, burns etc etc. Similarly, every piece of leather will have marks; signs of fighting, barbed wire scars, skin wrinkles, animal/insect bites and various other conditions. These are all part of the character of the leather in the same way as an antique will show signs of wear and tear from many years of use giving it a much admired patina.

Unfortunately vegetable tanned leather, due to it's method of production, is expensive which can limit our choices. But they do say 'buy cheap buy twice'. Leather is a very good example of this. Think about the last time you bought a cheap wallet, belt or purse. How long did it last? was it really the leather that it was advertised to be or was it actually some kind of composite material which soon began to flake or tear. 

Do the quality jeans that you bought just look and feel better with age? It’s very much the same with quality leather, it just gets better with age.

Naturally this kind of leather is expensive, so when you see an item for sale consider the cost of materials, tools and above all, the many hours spent making it. 

Here’s a few leathers which may surprise you. 

Left to right. Salmon, Turkey, Bullfrog and Ostrich.