Understanding Leather Jacket manufacturing methods and qualities
The leather jacket is the ultimate fashion piece for raw and rugged looks. Have you ever asked yourself about all the differences, especially the differences in quality, and what justifies huge price differences for different kinds of leather jackets? This guide is supposed to answer all those questions. Starting with general information about the processes involved in manufacturing leather jackets, comparing different types of leathers, what is suitable leather care and what are the coolest styles of leather jackets you can get for different occasions. In addition, we showcase the hottest leather jacket designers in 2021 and display a broad selection of their actual pieces within this blog post, ready to buy!
Leather Tanning Process
In order to produce leather, animal hides must be treated in the first step which is known as the tanning-process that changes the protein structure and arrests the decaying process. Tanning is a traditional process that goes back thousands of years. Over time, processes have evolved and the used leather tanning process is one of the most important factors for the quality of the resulting product. Work time involved for the dyeing process and subsequently the price of the leather jacket is heavily depending on the way the leather was prepared. There are two main ways of tanning which we are going to describe and compare for you as follows.
Chrome Leather Tanning
Chrome Tanning is the most commonly used process of leather tanning nowadays. It is between half and one third as expensive as vegetable tanning methods. Chrome tanning means that the hide is soaked in a solution containing metal chromium which only takes about two days for the whole process. The technique can be used in various ways for different purposes. Generally, chrome tanning produces leather that feels soft, leather that is very water-resistant, and leather that endures heat very well. In addition, colors tend to set well and stay vibrant over time.
The downside of Chrome Leather Tanning clearly is that chemicals are being used. As it makes the leather resistant to water and heat, the leather is not very “breathable”. Remember, leather is the skin of an animal, if the pores are closed and can’t “breathe” that has pros and cons. Also, it is important to note that the chemicals used are not environment-friendly. In a worst-case scenario, they are also not human-friendly if people have chemical-sensitivities.
Vegetable Leather Tanning
Vegetable leather tanning is the traditional, sustainable method without the usage of any chemicals. Instead, natural materials and products are used. The animal hides are soaked in vegetable tannins and fat liquors which is a time-consuming process as multiple iterations are necessary. Time-consuming means about one month. In the case of traditional vegetable tanning processes, the effort can take up to one year. A lot of time in both cases compared to chrome tanning which only takes about two days.
Due to the labor-intensive process of veg leather tanning, each piece of leather tanned that way becomes a unique item that develops a beautiful patina over time. This characteristic of the material contributes to the uniqueness of a piece even more, which is one of the key factors for people buying high-fashion pieces.
Vegetable-tanned leathers are usually quite thick, but at the same time pliable. It can stretch, breathe, and mold. It leaves much more room for creativity within the production process. For example, it can be stamped, carved, formed by hand. Every bit of detail during the production process will retain.
Chrome Leather Tanning vs. Vegetable Leather Tanning
Chrome leather tanning methods are very efficient and for that reason cheap which is an absolute pro argument for mass production and reasonably priced products that are even water and heat resistant. Furthermore, the process enables the production of pieces with a uniform appearance. But on the other hand, chrome leather tanning is not sustainable for the environment and probably even not for its wearer.
Vegetable Leather tanning is an environment-friendly and sustainable process and allows the creation of leather with unique characteristics that even evolve further over time through the natural development of a beautiful patina. The downsides are that the material is not as heat and water-resistant as chrome leather tanned materials. For that reason, they need to get handled with more care.
So if you are looking for the ultimate high-end leather jacket, get one made from vegetable-tanned leather. Unique characteristics, more flexible leather, produced environmental-friendly, and sustainable. That’s the spirit and from our point of view the superior process your leather jacket should have gone through.
The different leather jacket hides compared – Pros & Cons
There are a lot of different types of animal hides that are being used for the production of leather jackets. Some of the most commonly used are cow and calf hides, sheep, and lambskin, as well as bull and horse hides. Also, you can find leather jackets made from more exotic animals like Kangaroo, Yak, or crocodile, for example. They all have different characteristics, mainly depending on the grain of the skin. Some hides are thinner and softer, while others are thicker and harder. The way the final piece of leather turns out highly depends on the tanning and dyeing process and the finishing treatment of the leather. This kind of treatment depends on the designer and often is the “secret sauce” similar to what it is for recipes of a star chef. As you might have realized, the topic is complex and not easy to generalize things. But at least there are certain characteristics for different leathers depending on the animal it comes from and those characteristics we would like to sum up for you in an as abstract as possible way.
Sheep Leather / Sheep Hide
Sheep leather is thin with a fine grain making it lightweight and very soft. Due to the fine grain, the appearance of sheep leather is also very smooth and clean. The ultimate sheep hide is Nappa sheep leather. It is the next level version which has an additional level of softness. So if you are looking for a thin and soft, lightweight, leather jacket that won’t be too heavy to carry and is not too hot, the sheep leather jacket is the right choice.
Cow Leather / Cow Hide
Cow hide is the most common type of leather. It is very strong, highly durable, and thick leather not prone to cracking which for those reasons is often used for motorcycle performance clothing. It is flexible leather that can be colorized and finished in many different ways too. Cow hide leather can either feel soft or hard, depending on the way that it is tanned.
Horse Hide / Horse Leather
Horse leather is quite stiff and heavy and is intensively greased or oiled during production. The surface of horse leather is smooth without a notable grain-structure. The great thing about horse leather is that it becomes softer the more it’s being worn. In addition, it develops a beautiful patina over time. Those two factors of evolvement by use sometimes can make heavily worn leather jackets made from horse hide sell even at higher prices than new ones.
Professional Leather Care
As mentioned before, leather hides react sensitively to heat and water. If your leather jacket gets soaking wet, make sure to hang dry it naturally only. Using a hairdryer or a drying machine is no option and will seriously damage your leather jacket. Water – even if used in small doses – is not suitable for cleaning your leather jacket. Instead, you should use saddle soap. It’s gentler on leather and easily cuts through dirt and grime.
Important to understand is that using saddle soap will replace essential natural oils from the leather. The same happens if your leather jacket got soaking wet through the drying process. For that reason, after cleaning it or drying it, you must replace the oil loss by conditioning the leather. Leather conditioner can be used on a regular basis in order to protect the leather from becoming faded, scratched, and cracked.
We asked Moscow-based Designer Gary Girin – who specializes in producing high-end handmade leather bags and accessories – for advice on what leather conditioner he would recommend to condition a Boris Bidjan Saberi J2 Horse Leather Jacket:
- Castor Oil – best to buy at pharmacies
- Pure Neatsfoot Oil (not compound)
- Leather Balm (Saphire, Fiebings or any other manufacturerer)
Leather Jackets by Boris Bidjan Saberi
Boris Bidjan Saberi is one of the most interesting fashion designers in our opinion who creates extraordinary avant-garde clothing including leather jackets, sometimes even reversible. The model we like the most is the J2 vegetable tanned horse leather jacket with raw hand stitching details. See the video below.
Leather Jackets by Isaac Sellam
Isaac Sellam is a French designer who has always been fascinated by particularly high-quality leather and conjures up unique and avant-garde creations from it. Research, innovation, technique, and experimentation are the focus of his collections, created with the best, softest, and durable leather with the help of the best tanners.
Leather Jackets by Guidi
Guidi is a well-known tannery in Tuscany Italy, the most demanding international designers obtain special treatments and leathers from. The tannery perfectly balances advanced technologies and respect for the heritage of traditions and skills. Besides delivering high-end leather to international designers, Guidi themselves produce leather products like leather jackets and leather shoes and bags.
Leather Jackets by Incarnation
As well as Isaac Sellam, the Japanese designer Keita Ogawa has always been fascinated with leather since he was a child. In 2009 he established the Label Incarnation which is a secret tip for high-quality leather products that are nowadays being crafted in Italy.
Leather Jackets by Giorgio Brato
Giorgio Brato’s research is based on the continuous observation of the effects of time on things: corrosions, nicks, imperfections, asymmetries, contrasts, and scratches. Since 2001, Giorgio Brato has been famous throughout the world for adopting and customizing the technique of the hand-washed vegetable tanned lamb, which makes the leather extremely soft, very similar to a vintage garment
Leather Jackets by Belstaff
Belstaff offers leather jackets with protection for bikers as well as leather jackets as a pure fashion line only. In both cases the jackets look great, the jackets for bikers in addition offer slots to equip D3 protectors on the arms, shoulders, and back.