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Leather Quality and Properties

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by VegTan, Jul 8, 2013.

  1. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    DWF - have you noticed a large decline in quality of hides over time? This was something that most but not all people in the industry commented on in the UK. In particular they mentioned stretch marks coming farther down the neck towards the butt than before. The animals grow faster than they used to, which may have resulted in poorer quality hides.
     
  2. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Apparently, cows used to be raised for their leather and not just a byproduct of the food industry in the past. I wonder the difference between the grain fed, and grass fed hides. Not sure how fat content could affect the skin.
     
  3. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    By "for their leather" you mean the meat wasn't even used?
     
  4. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    There's no question that the quality of leather has been declining for many many decades. June Swann talks about this and has stated that leather today is neither as dense nor as good a tannage as in years past. Anyone trying to stitch "64 to the inch" today would think it was a fairy tale. Despite documentation.

    Most cattle raised in the US and in Argentina are beef cattle--faster growth is a primary goal. It affects the meat. And it affects the hides...which are, after all, just another form of flesh. Hides are integral to the profitability of the cattle industry.

    Most cattle raised in Europe are dairy. Longer productive lives are the goal. The hides are only an incidental by-product.

    The breed also has something to do with it. Dairy cattle tend to have thinner hides than to meat cattle.

    I suspect there's a lot of truth in the accelerated growth theory. I see lots of hides where the stretch marks are well out of the shoulder and neck area. it's probably the most discouraging aspect of being in the Trade.

    But when you think it through, you have to realize that even at this level...maybe especially at this level...the decline is driven by consumer demand or, perhaps more to the point, ignorance and/or indifference.

    --
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013
    1 person likes this.
  5. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Fat content increases the intercellular space between the fibers that comprise the fiber mat...hence a less dense leather.
     
  6. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    But calf is of course slaughtered for veal, yes? People also blamed lower veal consumption for increasing prices.

    I saw some examples at the CJ showroom from the 20s-40s when they made mostly ladies shoes that were really unbelievable.
     
  7. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Very few animals are slaughtered exclusively for their hides...even alligator meat is eaten (by human beings).
     
  8. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Yes I meant it more to establish the connection between calf and veal, as opposed to steak
     
  9. unbelragazzo

    unbelragazzo Senior member Dubiously Honored

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    Or dairy, for that matter
     
  10. VegTan

    VegTan Senior member

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    Here are veins on a sole bend.

    [​IMG]


    They say veins are due to insufficient bleeding or traces of dissolved blood vessels.




    How about Russell Moccasin's bullhide, which is used for the Snake Boots? Do you think it is not real bullhide?

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  11. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

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    [​IMG]
     
  12. Coburn

    Coburn Senior member

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    VegTan
    Outstanding thread! Thank you
     
  13. MyOtherLife

    MyOtherLife Senior member

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    The GMO food, chemicals and steroids eaten by livestock have to be affecting the leather / meat quality in some negative way.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013
  14. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    It's not entirely clear which side of the bend is being shown. Usually bends are shipped rolled with the grain side out. If that's the grainside in the photo I can see why you're concerned. But I've been buying and using outsole bends from England (Baker's), Belgium, Germany (Reddenbach), Italy and the US for over 40 years and I've never seen vein shadows on the grain of the leather. Nor have I ever seen vein shadows that were a problem...ie. hollow. Nor, come to it, vein shadows in belly, neck or shoulder.

    On the other hand, I have seen vein shadows in the butt areas of Baker leather...which is widely recognized as the best outsoling in the world.

    If those vein shadows are on the grain side, it's p-poor leather, period.


    I really don't know but I've got even money that it's not. As I said, the raw hide would be smooth regardless of the age or gender. If the raw hide is smooth, the finished leather will also be smooth unless some mechanical or chemical process is used to alter the surface appearance. The leather in the Moccasins may be very good leather...may indeed be snake-proof but that doesn't make it bullhide. I suspect that it's a marketing ploy, just as the old "mulehide" leather was a marketing ploy.

    With all due respect the question that arises in this discussion is "how much experience do you have using any of this leather?"

    We've been through this numerous times before on this forum--people can search the web and come up with all sorts of photos and excerpts (and you've done a good job on that) but without the hands-on experience to go with the words it's just so much hot air.

    I'm not criticizing you specifically...or at least, I don't intend it that way. Much of what you've posted is correct...and anyone can access it readily. But as I said earlier, there's a lot of misinformation on the web. Unless you're in the Trade, so to speak, you've no way of filtering it.

    --
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013
  15. glenjay

    glenjay Senior member

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    I would like to ask a question about leather thickness in regard to shoe leather:

    I know you can buy leather in different thicknesses, but I am curious as to the range of thickness for different parts of the shoe.

    What is the typical range of thickness for a leather outsole (12 to 16 oz)?

    What is the typical range of thickness for a leather insole (2 to 3 oz)?

    What is the typical range of thickness of leather for the upper of a business/dress shoe (4 to 6 oz)? For a work boot (6 to 8 oz)?

    I have also heard the term Iron used when specifying leather thickness, where does that come from?

    [​IMG]
     
  16. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    Glen,

    In English influenced parts of the Trade, outsoles and insoles are typically measured in "irons"...with one iron being equal to 1/48". So 12 iron is 1/4" or 16 ounce. How that convention originated, I don't know but many of the old weights and measures were based on common and easily referenced body parts or materials--such as "three barleycorns=one inch.

    It varies from maker to maker, and according to style, of course, but in this country, a 10-11 iron insole is "typical" for a a man's shoe. In other parts of the world all leather--uppers and soling--may be measured in millimeters. It's certainly been that way in all my dealings with German companies.

    Insole thicknesses probably vary more widely but I would say 8 iron is probably considered neither too heavy nor too light. I myself might be more in the neighborhood of 9-10 iron depending on whether I am making a man's shoe or a boot. I might go as thin as 6 iron for a woman's shoe. I do know makers who use 6 iron insole shoulder (from Baker, mind you) for men's shoes, as well.

    Of course, it goes without saying that much of this depends upon construction techniques. A goodyear welted shoe need not have a very thick insole at all. May not even be leather.

    Upper leather is usually measured in ounces...a nice man's dress shoe probably tops out at 4 ounce. I use some leathers such as kangaroo that can be as lightweight as 2-3 ounces. 6 ounce is really too heavy for a dress shoe, in my opinion. And when you factor in a lining that will usually be at least 3 ounce and sometimes 4...for all quality shoes...an 8 ounce upper, even for work boots, is going to be plenty heavy and stiff.

    --
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013
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  17. chogall

    chogall Senior member

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    JLP bespoke uses 3/16" insole. I was told if it won't be comfortable if going thicker. And they use very dense part of the hide for durability.
     
  18. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

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    3/16" would be 8 iron.

    And I may be mistaken...so don't hold your breath...but I think JLP is making primarily GY welted RTW.

    Regardless, the common wisdom (as well as the hallowed and Traditional wisdom) holds that a less dense, longer fibered insole...cut from the shoulder usually...is preferred for hand inseaming and for comfort. The longer fibers in the insole shoulder actually hold the stitches better than short fibers...hence smaller stitches and tighter inseams are the result.

    And a less dense fiber mat will more readily conform to the bottom of the foot...creating what is known as a 'footbed." And one that is unique to the wearer.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2013
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  19. jrd617

    jrd617 Senior member

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    [​IMG][​IMG]
    [​IMG][​IMG]
     
    2 people like this.
  20. VegTan

    VegTan Senior member

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    It is the flesh side. I just introduced it to those who haven't seen it. I know you are a bespoke bootmaker.



    Yes I know, but I am confused why you started talking about outsole/insole leather, not shoe upper leather.



    I am not an expert, so I quoted only from experts such as a leather buyer, a saddler and a leather chemist. If my opening postings are wrong, it means the experts are wrong.:)
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2013

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