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A Beginner’s Guide to Leather

Guide to leather

Hi, It’s Aira from Unique Leather Bags & Today I am going to give you everything you need to know about leather. Starting with where it comes from – Its history, types, and how it is made – how to differentiate between real & synthetic leather?

Real leather is not synthetically manufactured. It is made from animal skin and most commonly, cowhide. However, exotic leathers like snake and alligator, as well as goat and buffalo leathers, are also available. The cows’ leather, which accounts for only 5% of the animal’s value, is often called a byproduct of the meat and dairy industries. The hides of animals hunted for meat were used by early humans before technological advances made mass production possible.


Historical leather has been tested and it was found that many animals were used to make their skin. People would use all the animal’s resources for food, shelter, and tools. This is why they began using animals as skin. Modern tanning of leather has been possible because technology has allowed for an increase in livestock and agriculture. it was used in the Middle Ages for footwear, clothing, bags, trunks, trunks, saddles, and other items. It was also used in military applications. Many leather articles were found on the Tudor ship Mary Rose, which sank in 1545.

You can learn more about leather history here!

In Sports

Due to its excellent resistance to abrasion and wind, leather was used in rugged occupations. The enduring image of a cowboy in leather chaps gave way to the leather-jacketed and leather-helmeted aviator. When motorcycles were invented, some riders took to wearing heavy leather jackets to protect from road rash and wind blasts; some also wear chaps or full leather pants to protect the lower body.

Due to its adaptability, leather can be formed and shaped into many protective gear. As a result, many sports use leather-made equipment, including football and cricket balls as well as baseball gloves.


China, India, Brazil, and Pakistan are currently the top producers of tanned leather. These hides are often obtained from animals in these countries and then sent to other countries for processing. A UK company might purchase the leather from China, then ship it in a refrigerated box to Italy. There they can then re-import the leather to the UK to sell. Although leather is made in other countries, around 70% of all leather products worldwide are made in China.

Research shows that leather is 65% cows, 15% sheep, 11% pigs, and 9% goats. Only 0.2% of leather is from any other animal. Keeping this in mind, some leather products that are unique and intriguing are made from the most uncommon and least common hides.

Cowhide is one of today’s most sought-after leathers. It is a byproduct of the meat and dairy industries and is readily available worldwide. However, cowhide is also one of the most durable leathers. Cowhide weighs between 1 and 12 ounces more than other leather sources and is therefore a better choice for furniture, jackets, and coats.

Sheepskin, which is second in popularity after cowhide, is often tanned without fleece. This allows it to drape well and can be used for clothing and jackets. It is used for making slippers and rugs because of its fleece.

Pigs produce denser leather that is more durable than any other animal. It’s very durable and comfortable, making it ideal for the manufacture of shoes, gloves, and sportswear.

It is used to make rugs, bags, and gloves from goat skin. It is thinner than cowhide and more malleable.

Although exotic leathers such as alligator, snake, and crocodile skin can be found in Asia, many consider them unethical as they are not byproducts and some animals are endangered. Due to its unique texture, Ostrich skin is a popular choice for designer labels. It is mostly imported from Africa where it is used for its feathers, meat, and eggs.


Leather is a versatile and popular material used in various products, from clothing to furniture to car interiors. There are several different types of leather, each with its own unique characteristics and properties. Here’s a closer look at each type of leather and its uses:

Full-grain leather:

This is the highest quality and most durable type of leather. It is made from the top layer of animal hide and retains its natural grain and texture, giving it a unique and rustic look. Full-grain leather is also more resistant to moisture and wear than other types of leather. It is commonly used in high-end furniture, footwear, and handbags.

Top-grain leather:

This is slightly lower quality than full-grain leather but is still a high-quality material. Top-grain leather is made by removing the top layer of the animal hide and sanding it down to remove any imperfections. This gives it a smooth, uniform appearance. It is commonly used in furniture, footwear, and bags.

Split leather:

This type of leather is made from the bottom layer of animal hide, which is less durable than the top layer. Split leather is often used to make suede, which has a soft and velvety texture. It is commonly used in jackets, shoes, and bags.

Suede leather:

This type of leather has a napped surface, created by sanding the underside of the animal hides. Suede is soft and luxurious, but also more delicate than other types of leather. It is commonly used in jackets, shoes, and bags.

Nubuck leather:

This is similar to suede but is made by sanding the top layer of the animal hides. Nubuck leather has a soft, velvety texture and is often used for shoes and jackets.

Bicast leather:

This is a lower-quality type of leather that is made by applying a layer of polyurethane to a split leather base. Bicast leather has a shiny, plastic-like appearance and is less durable than other types of leather. It is commonly used in furniture and lower-end bags.

Patent leather:

This type of leather has a glossy, reflective surface that is achieved by applying a layer of varnish or lacquer. Patent leather is often used for dress shoes and handbags.

Types Pros Cons
Full-grain leather Durable, retains natural texture and grain, resistant to wear and moisture Expensive, may have natural imperfections
Top-grain leather Smooth and uniform appearance, durable May lack natural texture and grain, can be expensive
Split leather Soft and pliable, can be used to create suede Less durable than other types of leather
Suede leather Soft and luxurious texture, pliable More delicate and susceptible to damage than other types of leather
Nubuck leather Soft and velvety texture, pliable May be susceptible to staining and water damage
Bicast leather Inexpensive, easy to clean and maintain Less durable than other types of leather, can peel or crack over time
Patent leather Glossy and reflective appearance, easy to clean Can be prone to cracking and damage over time

In conclusion, each type of leather has its own unique properties and characteristics that make it suitable for different applications. When choosing a leather product, it is important to consider the type of leather used, as it can have a significant impact on its appearance, durability, and texture.


Tanners can use a variety of methods to brown leather hides. Vegetable tanning and chrome tanning are the most popular. The most expensive leather products are usually made from chrome tanning, which involves the use of chemicals, acids, and salts. Vegetable-tanned hides can be more time-consuming and laborious. This is why products made with vegetable-tanned hides tend to be more expensive. This process involves the use of tree bark and tannin to create more expensive leather products. Learn more about vegetable tanning here.


Leather is a natural product so it is important that you preserve and condition it. You can purchase many products that will prolong the leather’s life. Acid-treated leather is more susceptible to red rot, which can cause changes in the leather’s texture. This change can’t be reversed but there are treatments that can be used to prevent it from getting too damaged.


Because of its durability and unique finish, leather is used in all things from car seats to handbags. it is a common byproduct of the meat- and dairy industries. Many people are happy to purchase leather products. Vegans and vegetarians might prefer to use “vegan” leather over leather products. While vegan leather may sound like an eco-friendly option, some vegan leathers pose a greater threat to the environment than real leather. Learn more about vegan leather by clicking here.

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