What Is Real Leather? and Where can I get it?

Leather, it is one of the most diverse, oldest, and most beautiful materials that humans have used for millennia. From armor in war to bespoke footwear, leather has been used to make all sorts of products all around the world.

Leather hides at the Horween Tannery

What is leather? By its technical definition, it is simply a hide from an animal that has been formulated to stop the decaying process and preserve the properties of the original hide. Leather traditionally is created from cowhide, but can come from goats, sheep, bison, birds, and even fish! Leather starts as a hide, removed from an animal that goes to slaughter; the hide is then stripped of its hair and cleaned of flesh and trimmings. Hides are then sent to the tannery, where it undergoes a complex bath of tanning solutions that transform the skin to a finished hide of leather. Leather is typically processed using natural tanning elements like oak bark and other vegetable based liquors. These natural tannins preserve and harden the collagen that is present in the animals skin; in doing so, the leather gets both its rigidity and firmness, while preserving its pliability. Its good to remember that we as people have skin too, so leather is essentially skin that needs to be conditioned and kept well-hydrated. 

The leather hides that are tanned are then dyed using a variety of methods to all sorts of colors imaginable. From classic browns and blacks to neons and exotic prints, you can find leather in almost any color you can think of. Thats where I come in; as the maker of Golden Triangle Leatherworks, I am very particular on the type of hides that I select to make our leathergoods from. We at GTL use veg-tan leathers from the Badalassi Carlo Tannery in Tuscany, Italy as well as American hides from the Horween Tannery in Chicago. Veg-tan leathers from these tanneries are carefully processed and go through strict quality control to ensure that each and every hide is near-perfect.

Full-grain leather with grain and flesh side 

So you look for a leather wallet or belt online, however it may be hard to find as today the internet and shops are plagued with low quality leathers and materials that aren't even leather at all. Basically when searching for a well-made leather item, search for full-grain leather. Full grain leather is leather that has all layers of the fibers preserved, from the very top to the inside that is against the animal. Nowadays, most leather items sold in major retailers are more a particle-board type of leather. Remnants and leather dust is mixed together, pressed into sheets, and cut to form with the label 'genuine leather'. Although it is technically 'leather' as plywood is technically 'wood', it lacks the strength and any of the beautiful properties that a full grain leather possesses. This became popular in the late 1980's as more manufacturing was shipped overseas to cut costs; the result is factories that prey on the previously highly regarded name of 'genuine leather' to label a cheap, almost plastic alternative to real leather.

Nowadays full grain leather items are making a comeback with makers all around the world constructing the finest goods from the best leathers in the world. Everything you see here at GTL is made with the purpose of lasting generations; this can only be achieved by using quality materials that only real leather can offer. 

Thanks for reading, feel free to check out the shop; there's something here for everyone and everything you see is made by two hands, in a little shop in Texas, just for you. 



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"This is the best leather wallet I've ever felt in my hands"

Kerstin T.