Leather, loved for its durability and flexibility is produced by tanning animal hide/skin and it has been in use from early ages as the early men were known to use leather to cloth and shield themselves from the elements of nature. Leather artifacts dating back 2200 BC have been discovered to corroborate its age old usage (Wikipedia). Leather which attests to the creativity of man from the early days has continued to be in existence through generations but being refined and improved upon to serve different purposes as generations evolve. Indeed different civilizations have developed different techniques to process leather for their use. These techniques were then handed down from father to son through generations with each generation improving on what they learnt.
Then, came the art of vegetable tanning of leather which records say originated from ancient Hebrews (mahileather.com). With greater sophistication came the development of tanning with chemicals – chrome (chromium) tanning. This is the industrial production of leather which eliminated a number of stages involved in leather production.
Though over 80% of leather works go through this chrome tanning; modern day leather designers still reference the prehistoric leather works and often produce works akin to the prehistoric works as an indication of their originality and genuineness.
Leather is used in the production of furniture, book covers, vehicle seats, but most especially in fashion for the production of clothes, belts, shoes and bags. Different types of animals have been used in the production of leather but the most common is the cattle constituting about 65% of all leather production (Wikipedia). Other animals used include sheep, pigs, goats, horse, deer, and lamb. In recent times exotic hides such as reptiles and ostrich have become part of high end fashions and are being sought by the rich. Reptile leathers are known to be distinct as they retain their original scaly patterns even after production.
Ostrich is unique for its “goose bumps” appearance which occurs as a result of the large follicles of its feathers. However, of late; animal rights groups have condemned the use of leather products as it involves the killing of animals before production.
There are different types of leather, full grain, top grain, genuine, split grain, bonded leather. The full grain is the highest quality of leather as it includes all the natural grain of the hide. It is the strongest and the most durable of leathers.
It is said that men are naturally drawn to genuine leather products; probably due to the durability of leather and its connectivity to hunting and killing which are men’s natural roles. Women are not left out in the passion and quest for leather especially office shoes and bags.
WAYS TO IDENTIFY GENUINE LEATHER
- Check the label as no genuine leather manufacturer will miss the opportunity of advertising same. Yet it is not a guarantee as not all such claims are indeed ‘genuine’.
- Sniff it and rely on the age old natural smell of genuine leather.
- The look and feel of genuine leather will also convince you as real leather has natural coarseness to go by. Though it may feel smooth sometimes but when it is too smooth, chances are that it is not genuine leather.
- Since real leather is harder to regulate, you may also check the edges of the finished product which is usually rough unlike the smooth edges of the fake leather.
- The pores of your leather are another indicator of its genuineness. While real leader has inconsistent pore pattern, fake leather has consistent and regular pore pattern.
As tough as leather is, it can break down – crack, dry up or get stained with time especially if exposed to high temperature and water as these are not leather’s best friends. This break down is irreversible but the process can be drastically checked through adequate care for the leather.
- In the event of your leather wear getting steeped in water, don’t be tempted to grab the hand dryer to apply heat; just use an absorbent material to dab the liquid off, then let natural air complete the job of drying. Heat will dry out the leather and cause it to develop cracks.
- Avoid chocking your leather by placing them in plastic bags as the leather needs to breath. The plastic bags will generate moisture and cause the leather to develop mould. You can always store them in cotton materials like pillow cases, though most quality shoes and bags come in cotton bags from the stores. Ensure to retain the silica gel packets that come with the leather bags as this absorbs moisture.
- Avoid direct heat/sunlight: Direct application of heat to your leather, especially wet leather will lead to shrinking or cracking. This has to be avoided at all cost.
- Discover and retain the services of a good and experienced cobbler to service your office shoes and bags when needed. The cobbler can even re-dye them to a different colour giving you an entirely new set to use for much longer; but first ensure to buy good quality leather.
CARE TIPS – PRODUCT APPLICATIONS:
- CONDITIONERS: The creams may not shine or waterproof your leather wears but they will moisturise and protect it from drying out and cracking. The leather absorbs the cream just like your skin absorbs creams bearing in mind that leather is also skin. Conditioners made up of oils and lubricants can be used to coat the leather to extend its durability and appearance. They are also called moisturisers.
- SADDLE SOAP: This is used for protecting, cleaning and conditioning leather. It contains soap and other softening ingredients for the leather. As the name implies, saddle soap is used for saddles and other horse tack items.
- POLISH: This is mainly for aesthetics as the polish is used to shine your leather products to protect and improve its appearance. Polish can be in form of wax paste, cream or more recently liquid form; and in different colours as the days of single black colour polish are long gone. However, it is important that one chooses the most appropriate colour to avoid ruining the leather. It is also necessary to test the colour on a small portion of your leather wear before general application. You can then retain the particular product that matches. In case of any confusion on the shade to use, one will need to resort to using neutral colour to avoid colour damage. While we cannot categorically state how many times you can polish your leather wears, frequency of usage goes a long way to determine how often you can apply polish. Also remember that not all leathers are treated the same way, for instance your suede leather will require specialized suede polish instead of the regular wax polish.
- DAMP CLOTH: Let’s not forget the traditional and basic method to care for your leather which is to wipe it down with damp cloth so often. This eliminates the dirt/dust that may endanger your leather wears and prevent premature aging.
In all, it is imperative to buy genuine leather but more important to care for them for a lasting usage.
At Xan Exclusive, our stock includes office shoes and bags made of genuine leather. Contact or visit us today to see our array of leather products to choose from.