Leather is a material acquired by tanning the skins of animals (cowhide, calfskin, goatskin, buffalo skin, etc.). Creating leather is a complex and highly elaborate process carried out in various steps.
Leather has been used for the most varied clothing and other items since time immemorial and has spread into ever-growing areas of application and is enjoying ever-growing popularity. Even prehistoric man was able to use primitive methods to prepare animal skins and pelts for his needs, for example, housing or clothing. Tanning is frequently described as the second-oldest profession in the world. Even today, leather remains a permanent feature of our everyday lives. Hundreds of thousands of skins are constantly being transformed into shoes, jackets, couches, purses and car seats. The leather itself originates from Europe, South America, India and even from Africa and other regions.
To stop the organic decomposition and to prevent qualitative damage, the raw materials must be preserved as quickly as possible. This is normally carried out using salt. In regions where distances and existing supply chains permit, the skins are preserved through short-term refrigeration, hence dispensing with salt. In some regions where salt is in scarce supply and the climate permits, the skins and pelts are dried.
To prepare the skin for tanning, it is sent through the so-called “ water workshop ”, where, among other things, non-leather producing components ( hair , subcutaneous tissue, fat and unstructured proteins) are removed. This is carried out chemically in the soak pit, during “liming”, for skin digestion and with mechanical processes (fleshing, splitting and setting). Following this, the resulting “naked skins ” are ready for the actual tanning process.
Tanning can be carried out using vegetable tanning substances or minerals. In the case of vegetable tanning (bark tanning), oak or spruce bark, extracts from q uebracho , chestnut and oak woods, mimosa, sumac and other woods or bark tanning substances are used. In the case of mineral tanning, we distinguish between chrome (chrome tanning) and alum (taw tanning).
The tanning process comprises three phases: the soaking of the collagen , the immersion of the tanning extract and the fixing thereof.
Depending on the manufacturing methods used, we distinguish between various types of leather. Nappa leather is the smooth, upper layer of the skin and can be manufactured as “pure-aniline” without pigment, as “semi- anilin e” with a weak pigmentation or as pigmented leather with a protective lacquer.
Nubuck is leather whose surface has been buffed to create a fine, roughened structure. Suede is a widely-used leather used in the apparel industry, which is made from thinner skins, e.g. goatskin, with the reverse side out. We frequently also refer to this as buckskin, as suede has a comparable surface to that of deer and other similar wild animals. It is primarily thinner smooth leathers that are used in the apparel sector.
• Nappa leather
Full-grain (=unpolished), usually chrome-tanned smooth leather with final pigment coating.
• Distressed leather
Using various refined processes, distressed leather has been given the appearance of old leather. It is usually a two-tone with various nuances.
• Aniline leather
Leather dyed throughout in a pit or using another method without final pigment coating.
Leather, dyed using small quantities of pigment dyes. Here, the natural graining is not disguised.
Rough leather made from real buck pelts, e.g. used in traditional costumes.
Full leather, with a velvety finish to the reverse side, or split leather with the same effect • Nubuck
A firm cowhide or calfskin with a velvety surface, usually slightly buffed on the grain side.
Leather from buffalo skins, generally slightly buffed on the grain side.
The objective of expert leather care is to maintain the characteristics of leather during use for as long as possible. In principle, we distinguish between two groups of leather care products:
Surface active care products
Leather goods and shoes are cared for using crèmes or wax emulsions, which are typical surface-active care products. These products augment the leather’s surface and protect it against dirt.
Deep-acting care products
Deep-acting leather care products include all-leather oils and fats. These are designed to maintain the leather’s soft and supple properties and improve its waterproof characteristics.
Caring for rough leather (buckskin, suede and nubuck leather)
Oils and waxes are not used here, as these have a tendency to stick to the surface. Rough leather, covered in dirt or with oily patches, is cleaned using a fine brush, sandpaper or an abrasive cloth. Aerosol waterproofing is recommended.
Caring for nappa leather (smooth surface)
Depending on the application, the leather surface should be cleaned using a neutral washing detergent. Avoid wetting the leather. After drying it at room temperature, the leather should have leather care crème applied, finally polishing it with a clean cloth. If your favourite item of clothing has become spoiled despite all due care and attention, take it to a leather cleaning specialist. Here, it will be cleaned expertly, waterproofed and reinstated using colour tints.
ART & LITERATURE
Leather and, in a very special way, naturally also leather apparel – particularly in the form of the leather jacket – have played an important social role, not only in the apparel and fashion worlds but also in literature. After all, the leather jacket, in contrast to almost all other items of clothing, is an item that frequently looks “better”, or at least more pleasant, with time.
We all know it, the old, worn leather jacket that, like a friend, ages together with its owner and becomes ever more “beautiful”. We all know the beloved motorcycle jacket, which preserves old memories as otherwise only photographs, journals and videos do.
Very much in keeping with this personal significance, the leather jacket also plays an important role in art and literature: entering “Leather jacket and literature” on Google results in innumerable hits, which may not all be “pure” literature in character, but are frequently extremely interesting.