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A Clear Leather Buyer’s Guide

Buying leather items often follows a long and intensive though process based on the myriad of different kinds and some of the quite confusing descriptions.  I remember proudly wearing my new leather jacket to college, getting the ‘I’ve arrived’ feeling. Then the crushing devastation that followed when a large chunk of it was brutally ripped out during a moment of playful boyish banter.

The jacket was ‘Genuine Leather’ and very cheap.  I have no idea what kind donor animal it came from, but I know that it ripped like wet tissue paper.

Next time you buy anything leather, take a closer look with a little more knowledge than I did and save that potential devastation!

Popular Terms

Genuine Leather comes from an animal!  It’s an overall term confirming that it is leather and not paper!  Genuine leather can be the finest Ferrari seat or the said leather jacket that lay in tatters and tears in my 1980’s cool cupboard.  Look further!

Nappa Leather describes the finish given to the prepared leather.  A premium finish that can be attributed to any kind of premium quality hide.  Nappa  is often the material of choice to accommodate the sensitive posterior of luxury car drivers.

Nappa leather is treated with water soluble colouring, but is not sealed so is prone to staining and marking, another good reason if you needed it, to not drink and drive!

Nubuck Leather is a top grain cattle leather, smooth sanded and buffed on the outside to give a velvety suede like feel.  Nubuck is tough!  Often used to manufacture high end protective work boots and hard wearing shoes.

Nubuck is an open grained leather without oil sealer, which means a high risk of staining and marking.  Consumer products are available for protection and cleaning of Nubuck, but tread carefully with it!

Aniline Leather is frequently the choice for high end leather furniture and car seats.  Treated with water soluble dye for colouring, the pores remain open and the natural leather grain remains visible.   This is a high end finish to be treated with great care.  Cleaning of sun dried tomatoes and Pimms spillages can be very intensive and costly.

Pigmented Leather is highly protected, also used in many cases for hard wearing furniture and car seats.  The pigment refers to a coloured protective coating applied to the surface.  Not dissimilar in principal to the plastic gingham styled table cloth over a wooden table in family restaurants!

However the pigment is a rich and striking oil based colour treatment that gives the surface protection against scuffs and stains.  The natural leather appearance is typically hidden as the polymer covers and smooths out any sign of leather grain in the way that makeup is applied to the face.

Pigmented leather is one of the most durable types due to the synthetic chemical makeup of the polymer.

Full Grain Leather is as good and as natural as you can get.  Today’s top quality ‘vintage leather’ is full grain. Real leather as it has been served for thousands of years.  The grain, the marks, bruises, wrinkles and the beautiful natural imperfections are presented, not hidden.  Full grain is character, meaning that each piece is at least slightly different and each with its own character.

Nowadays, full grain leather is treated with vegetable oils to protect the surface from stains and scuffs.  It can be slightly tinted, but does not bring the bright synthetic colours associated with many fashion items.

Embossed Leather is usually pigmented with a marked grain applied.  The embossing enables brightly coloured or sanded smooth leathers to display the grain that is otherwise removed in the pigmentation process.

This is a non-exhaustive insight in to the most popular terms used in consumer leather products.  For leather geeks, the list goes on where specialised treatments and applications are used.

 

 

 



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