Whether you’re shopping for the perfect leather jacket or hoping to find a comfortable leather chair for your home, shopping for leather goods can be intimidating, especially if you don’t speak the language. And, just like when you’re shopping for jewelry or other high-end items, leather can be expensive, so it’s important that you make the right choice. So, how do you know what to buy?
The key to successfully buying leather is learning the vocabulary of the industry, and while it can be intimidating, it’s no more difficult than the specialty terms used for many other materials. With a little research, you’ll master it in no time.
Start From Function
The first factor you’ll want to consider when shopping for leather goods is how the product will be used. This is an important question because different types of leather are suited to different applications. Full grain leather includes the first two layers of hide and is the highest quality; it is typically use to make high-end clothing, shoes, and bags. Split grain leather, on the other hand, is made from the bottom layer of leather and is typically used to make leather furniture.
Another set of terms you’ll need to learn in order to shop for leather with confidence is how the leather is treated or dyed, and there are several different approaches and steps to this process depending on the designers’ goals. One way to treat leather is by using vegetable tannins. This natural approach retains the natural look of the leather, while providing some added consistency to the coloring. Then, there is a more intensive approach to treating leather, which uses chromium salts and is widely used to treat everything from clothing to upholstery.
In addition to dying or otherwise treating the leather for color, leather companies will sometimes introduce artificial textures to their products – and one of the most popular faux textures is pebbling. This texture is popular because it can also occur naturally; for example, Portland Leather Goods’ bucket bags feature a natural pebbled texture, but other companies press this design into the material. While pressed textures can fade over time, natural textures work with the material and change with the leather as it ages, softening and becoming more beautiful.
Other Hide Features
As noted above, most quality leather goods are made of either full, top, or split grain leather, but animal hides have many more layers than that. That’s why, when purchasing leather goods, you also need to pay attention to how the leather was sourced. Nappa leather – the treated hides used to make clothing and furniture – can be made from different animals, and this yields distinctive characteristics. Traditional Italian leather tends to be the highest quality and is relatively thin compared to a product like deer leather, which is thicker and stiffer.
One type of leather we haven’t mentioned yet, but which you’re surely familiar, is suede. Suede is a form of treated, split leather that has been buffed to achieve a soft, textured finish. Since it’s made from split grain leather and further treated, it’s usually viewed as being a slightly lower quality than other forms of leather, though it’s also nicer than others. Split grain leather treated on the opposite side of the hide is known as nubuck and results in a stronger product.
What To Avoid
Finally, when shopping for leather, you also need to know what to avoid, and the most notable term to watch out for is bonded leather. Bonded leather is a combination of leather scraps and filler, held together with polyurethane. By the time material is made into bonded leather, the result is something cheap that has little resemblance to actual leather.
One reason that people love leather goods is that they’re beautiful, but they’re also durable and can last a long time, which is why quality leather goods are worth the expense. And now, with the confidence that you know what you’re buying, you’ll be able to pick out the perfect item for your needs.