When you purchase anything leather, you are making an investment. You need something that will be with you for the long haul. These days, quality leather has become such a staple in the Western world and is so versatile in its use and manufacturing. But have you ever wondered where it all started? Who decided it could be useful? What makes it so unique and how is it processed?
Well, if you ever wanted to learn a bit more about those leather saddles, belts, jackets, shoes, or any other leather products you use every day, you are in the right place. We are bringing you 5 facts you may not know about leather.
1. Leather Can be Traced Back as Early as 5000 BC
Our earliest ancestors used every part of the animal – it was a time of pure survival after all. So, knowing this, it shouldn’t come as a huge shock that leather and animal hides were a typical part of their daily lives. But did you know that leather goods have strong ties to the Ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans? Sure, earlier peoples were the first to understand leather’s usefulness and hone their craft, but (as we all know from those History Channel specials) - these three Ancient Civilizations were innovators, ahead of their time.
The Ancient Greeks crafted leather sandals and goods which became popular trade items as early as 1200BC. Leather practices also caught the eyes of Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs and Queens, who incorporated the material into everyday living by making buckets, clothes, shoes, etc. History further indicates that leather making even spread to Ancient Rome, where they made military equipment like shields, saddles, and harnesses, plus clothing and shoes - which is where we get those classic Gladiator sandals that are still used as fashion accessories today.
2. There Are Two Main Ways to Tan Leather
There are two key practices in today’s market for tanning leather: chrome tanning and vegetable tanning.
Chrome tanning is the most often utilized method for tanning leather. Chrome tanning uses machinery to soak the animal hides in a bath of acidic salts (including chromium) until the chromium is absorbed. Once this is complete and the leather is fully processed, it is cut and sold off. However, chrome tanning is often scrutinized for its potentially harmful effects on the environment.
Vegetable tanning (which we use here at Texas Saddlery) stems from Ancient Grecian formulas and takes about two to three months to complete. Vegetable tanning involves soaking animal hides in drums filled with tanning solutions composed of leaves and bark from specific trees and plants. Over the months the hides are moved from drum to drum into steadily stronger solutions until the hide is ready.
3. Leather Adapts and Changes Based on Its Environment
You may not realize it, but leather is a porous material. Simply put, this means leather is susceptible to the air and liquids surrounding it. In humid environments, the leather will respond to the additional moisture in the air which can make it softer and more pliable. On the other hand, a dry/arid environment will make leather much tougher since, well, there is not as much water in the air for it to absorb.
4. Cowhide is the Most Common
While there are a few different animal hides that can produce leather, the most common source is often cows. Cowhides boast a stronger, sturdier end product and are found in greater abundance than other animal hides, making it an easy choice for manufacturers and consumers alike. Cowhide is a durable leather that will do its job well and last a long time – two key factors everyone looks for when deciding to purchase a product.
5. Leather is All About Comfort
I know, it sounds strange to claim that leather is a great clothing option (especially if you have seen that Friend’s episode where Ross has a disaster of a first date because of his leather pants). However, leather is actually known to be a comfortable fabric. Leather naturally conforms to your body as you wear it, leaving you with the perfect fit. It also absorbs and holds moisture away from the skin until it can be evaporated, which can help to better regulate your body temperature while you wear it and ensure your comfort.
Well, that about wraps it up for our 5 surprising leather facts that you might not have known. Did you know any of these facts before? Do you have a new appreciation for the history behind your favorite leather products? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.
And don’t forget to use your newfound knowledge and check out our shop for handmade, quality leather belts, saddles, and accessories!