Becoming an Educated Customer
If you are interested in buying luxury quality leather goods, you should know what you are paying for. That’s why we are putting together an ongoing list of terms that will help you make the right buying decisions. It will also be a great reference for any hobbyists who are just getting into the craft.
Ounce - Leather, like copper, has its thickness measured in ounces. There are a lot of factors that affect the appeal of a leather product, but this is hands down the most important functional factor. We very intentionally make our bags from 3-5 ounce leather (>1/16th”) and belts 9-12 ounce leather (~3/16”).
Vegetable Tanning - Veg tanned is the traditional tanning method uses tannins from tree barks to tan the hide. It can take months for a single hide to undergo the tanning cycle. Dehaired hides are added to large wooden drums for multiple weeks with the tannins. They dried in temperature controlled rooms and then undergo various processes to achieve the desired texture.
Chrome Tanning - Contrasted to Veg tanned hides. Chrome tanning take about a day and it is easier to manipulate the feel and color and uses synthetic chemicals in the tanning process. It accounts for over 80% of leather made.
Combination Tanning - There is a middle ground between the two approaches and every tannery does it differently. Horween’s Chromexcel goes through this dual tanning method for about 5 weeks, including a hot stuffing process that provides an amazing pull up effect. Chromexcel has been around since the early 20th century and in 1938 it was the exclusive leather used by American forces in the North African campaign.
Grain - The grain of the leather will separate poor from medium and high quality leather. Full grain leather includes all layers of the hide from top to bottom. That being the case, it is going to be thick and likely vegetable tanned. Top grain leather is exactly what it sounds like. The hide is split the top layer is used for higher quality leather goods. Genuine leather is a term used for some layer that is not the top. It has much more of a flaky grain and the name is generally used as a marketing hack for leather items on amazon and tourist traps.