1. And... we're back. You'll notice that all of your images are back as well, as are our beloved emoticons, including the infamous :foo: We have also worked with our server folks and developers to fix the issues that were slowing down the site.

    There is still work to be done - the images in existing sigs are not yet linked, for example, and we are working on a way to get the images to load faster - which will improve the performance of the site, especially on the pages with a ton of images, and we will continue to work diligently on that and keep you updated.

    Cheers,

    Fok on behalf of the entire Styleforum team
    Dismiss Notice

Leather Quality and Properties

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

  1. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    8,225
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    The Highlands of Central Oregon
    

    My opinion...At some level, if the slaughter and preparation of raw and blue hides are the same or similar there is not going to be much difference in quality. Age, of course is somewhat of a factor. How a tanner defines calf--calf can be anything from unborn to what? a year old?

    Then we come to tanning, the same basic principle holds--if the tanning procedures are the same or similar there shouldn't be any real discrepancy in quality.

    Finally it's down to finishing...that's where the differences really are. An opaque top coat will look and break in differently than an aniline dye. And crust will behave differently as well.

    If you associate "quality" with appearance only, the better quality calf skins are always going to be more transparent--allowing you to "look into" the leather.

    Also, a good quality calf will have almost no "pores" or "hair follicle" pits. They'll be there...as in any leather...but the coarser, the more open, the less quality I would assign to a leather that purports to be calf. Other leathers have their own character in that respect. But calf is a young animal...it is prized for the fineness of it's grain surface.

    Real quality is a combination of things though--temper, hand, density, thickness, etc.. Sometimes it just take years of hairpulling and disappointment to get to the point where you can discern the really good from the pretty good and the pretty good from the OK. Experience--hands-on experience. Handling the good and the bad. Working with it.

    PS...I would be remiss if I didn't add that feed, water, and other intangibles such as exposure to disease or bot flies will make a difference but esp. the environmental factors will show up in the temper and density of the leather.

    --
     
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2014
    1 person likes this.
  2. Munky

    Munky Senior member

    Messages:
    1,600
    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2013
    Location:
    Wales, UK
    Thanks, as always, for your detailed response. It's much appreciated. Munky
     
  3. bengal-stripe

    bengal-stripe Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    4,441
    Joined:
    Mar 23, 2002
    Location:
    London, UK
    [​IMG]

    The best part of a calf hide is the butt. Here the leather is firm and has relatively few faults. The higher up you go the inferior the leather becomes: the leather is less firm and "growth" and other problems appear. Equally the more you go to the sides into the belly, the worse the leather gets.

    For top quality work the pieces should be cut in mirror figuration from the left and right of the spine (but should not go over the spine). The best sections of the hide should be used for the most visible section of the shoe: the vamp. For the quarters you can use slightly inferior leather. The "clickers" (cutters) are highly experienced to "read" a hide and know what section to cut from, making sure flaws will end-up on the clicking room floor.

    Ultimately it is the shoemaking firm who will have instructed the clicker whether he should aim for quality or economy.
     
  4. Munky

    Munky Senior member

    Messages:
    1,600
    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2013
    Location:
    Wales, UK
    An impossible question: is 'Italian leather' good? Is it different to any other leather? I have seen shoes the are described as being made from Italian leather, so I am assuming that it is better than...what, exactly? Or is it just an advertising ploy?
     
  5. variancelog

    variancelog Senior member

    Messages:
    147
    Joined:
    Nov 17, 2013
    Location:
    Winterpeg, Canada
    It should be noted that the leather I showed above is supposedly aniline dyed French boxcalf. While the leather on the vamp and toe box is smooth and pleasant looking, the leather on one of the straps is not. As DW pointed out, this is likely because the piece was cut from an inappropriate part of the hide (which is the clicker's job). I mention this only to point out that the type of leather is only part of the story. The other part -- whether the pieces used in the shoe will appropriately chosen -- is another factor that the shoe buyer should be mindful of. If I had known more about this when I first bought the shoes, I would have returned them. That being said, this advice probably only applies to cheap shoes. I'm fairly confident that such poor clicking would never happen with shoes from high-end makers.
     
  6. CalzolaiFeF

    CalzolaiFeF Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    83
    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2014
    Location:
    Rome, Italy

    Italian leather in itself doesn't mean anything. But there are (and were) some Italian tanneries who produced very high quality calf: among them ILCEA (that once supplied the museum calf to John Lobb), Nuova OSBA, Cornelia, Bonaudo and Concerie del Chienti.
     
    1 person likes this.
  7. Munky

    Munky Senior member

    Messages:
    1,600
    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2013
    Location:
    Wales, UK
    Hello Calzo, Thank you for your helpful response - from an Italian, too!
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2014
  8. WICaniac

    WICaniac Senior member

    Messages:
    266
    Joined:
    Mar 1, 2013
    I apologize for not first exhaustively researching the 70 pages of this thread, but I am hoping the experts here can help me weigh my options for a boot I am having made to order. I am trying to convert a dress boot (the Allen Edmonds Shaker Heights) into a an all-weather version of itself by removing the tweed side panels and adding a mini-lug sole. I love the chili calfskin that is (was) a standard option, but I am contemplating replacing it with Horween Dublin or Chromexcel to as to offer better protection against snowy, salty sidewalks. I want to retain the dressiness of the original boot as much as possible without worrying obsessively about salt damage. I'm guessing the Chromexcel is the happy medium (not as much pull-up as the Dublin), but I am merely guessing. I will admit that I also want to feel that I am getting the best value for my money, as I can have the boot made in any of these three leathers for the same price. Thanks for any advice.
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2014
  9. Munky

    Munky Senior member

    Messages:
    1,600
    Joined:
    Jun 5, 2013
    Location:
    Wales, UK
    Excuse me. Where is VegTan? He was the founder of this thread and I hope he is ok.
     
  10. VegTan

    VegTan Senior member

    Messages:
    160
    Joined:
    May 4, 2013
    Thank you, I'm OK.

    The hearsay below has been confirmed.

     
  11. TimH

    TimH Senior member

    Messages:
    232
    Joined:
    Dec 21, 2009
    Location:
    Worcestershire
    The Italians make some truly wonderful leathers (as do many others) and seem to have an extra feel for that understated quality and handle.
    I used lots over the years before I decided to go all British with my product although part of me has a hankering to get some in.
     
  12. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

    Messages:
    575
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2012
    Location:
    Saint Louis, MO
    Hey all, my briefcase just arrived from Glaser Designs in San Francisco. I ordered it from there because I had read reviews on this site that they made good products with superior techniques. Basically, I was looking for a DWF of briefcase makers. Anyway, the craftsmanship appears to be very nice, however, I cannot get over this choice of hide by the maker. What are these striations? What grade of hide is this? My parents got this for me after I graduated from law school and I hope to get a lifetime of use out of it. Should I send it back?

    [​IMG]
     
  13. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    8,225
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    The Highlands of Central Oregon
    

    Fat wrinkles... usually found in the shoulder esp. on older animals. Not particularly prime but I cannot say whether using shoulder is a standard in the briefcase industry.
     
  14. JermynStreet

    JermynStreet Senior member

    Messages:
    575
    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2012
    Location:
    Saint Louis, MO
    

    Ah. Thank you, kindly, DW.
     
  15. DWFII

    DWFII Bespoke Boot and Shoemaker Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    8,225
    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2008
    Location:
    The Highlands of Central Oregon
    

    Yr. Hmb. Svt.
     
  16. wurger

    wurger Senior member

    Messages:
    2,887
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2011
    Location:
    Sydney
    Got my first pair of shell cordovan shoes, when I first opened the box, I was surprise to find it looking like a pair of Church's with bookbinder leather.

    In Australia, I don't think there is any store that stocks shell cordovan shoes, but there are a lot of corrected grain shoes around, and they look and feel very similar.

    While once worn, the rolls of the shell will differentiate itself from the wrinkles of corrected grain.

    I am wondering was shiny bookbinder corrected grain leather first introduced to create the shell cordovan look like a much lower cost?
     
  17. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    33,327
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    Location:
    New York City
    As I understand it, it was made from either lower quality leather, and/or leathers that had marks on them from the animal itself, cuts, bug bites, stretch marks, veins and so on. It is essentially sanding the grain off and applying a heavy finish. I think it had more to do with increasing profit margins than imitating shell.

    Then again it is also an aesthetic. Some people like it as it is easy to clean and stays fairly shiny due to the finishing. Companies like Church offer both regular calf, and polished binder for the same cost. I would think not all corrected leather's are "bad" quality, but rather just another design choice in the case of the higher end shoes. Just a guess though.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2014
    1 person likes this.
  18. patrickBOOTH

    patrickBOOTH Senior member Dubiously Honored

    Messages:
    33,327
    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2006
    Location:
    New York City
    Wurger, also, are your shoes Alden's? I have mentioned this before in different arenas for different reasons, but Alden slathers their own dye over the stock shell cordovan they get from Horween, the tannery. It makes it a little more their own. Anyway, I have noticed that Alden shell is much shiner than other shell, I think this dye and their finishing could be a reason for that "corrected" grain look. As you said, with wear they won't be mistaken for corrected grain shoes.
     
  19. wurger

    wurger Senior member

    Messages:
    2,887
    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2011
    Location:
    Sydney
    Thanks Patrick, mine are from Carmina, it's not that shiny to be that honest, but if I didn't know shell, I would have mistaken it to be bookbinder leather.
     
  20. VegTan

    VegTan Senior member

    Messages:
    160
    Joined:
    May 4, 2013
    

    As for Bookbinder, I presume there was another reason because shell cordovan was less popular.

    (Bookbinder was registered in 1986.)
    http://www.ipo.gov.uk/tmcase/Results/1/UK00001268361


    As for Polished Cobbler, I presume it was substitute for shell cordovan. According to Allen Edmonds' Catalog (http://issuu.com/allenedmonds), shell cordovan is discontinued from 1970 to SS 1983. Polished Cobbler first appears in SS 1978 and on the cover of FW 1978.

    Here is a letter dated Jun/18/1981, which says "very short supply" of shell cordovan.

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]


    BTW, a long-ago corrected grain seemed to be dull finished.

     
    3 people like this.

Share This Page

Styleforum is proudly sponsored by