Leather is tough, flexible and can be a gorgeous look in casual and formal settings. A good quality mens leather jacket will last forever and never go out of style. But of course, there’s leather and there’s leather.
With the market flooded with cheap replicas and manufacturers cutting corners in material and craftsmanship, you need to know your leather to get your money’s worth. Here’s what you need to know about leather quality: the less treatment required to reach the finished product, the better is the quality of the leather.
Aniline, Vegetable-Tanned Or Chrome-Dyed Leathers Are The Best
When browsing for leather goods, you may come across the terms ‘aniline’ or ‘vegetable-tanned’. Aniline refers to a type of translucent dye used to dye the softest natural or Napa leather. It brings out the natural grain, markings, wrinkles and scars in the leather.
Vegetable-tanned leather is an old method of using organic dyes from nature. The process is slow and skilful, leading to leathers that are biodegradable, earthy-feeling, hard-wearing leather that’s favourable for developing a patina with age.
Other methods of tanning leather include chrome tanning, which is fast and efficient.
It Should Feel Like Leather
When you rub your hands across the jacket, it should feel smooth and soft to the touch without bunching up or crunching. Low-quality leathers may have a rough texture and ‘crunch’ when you rub your hand against them.
Full Grain Is The Best
Leather comes in four basic grains, in ascending order of quality: corrected-grain, genuine leather, top-grain leather and full-grain leather. Your first point of enquiry about a leather garment should be about the grain.
Full-grain leather: This is the highest quality, longest-lasting, and strongest leather. Premium leather jackets are often made of full-grain leather. The leather hasn’t been treated in ways that could alter the fibres, helping the hide to retain its original strength. Rather than wearing out with time, full-grain leather will develop a patina from body oils, scratches, sunlight, wear, etc. The patina protects the surface of the jacket and lends a slight sheen, almost a marble-like quality to it instead of wear and tear. Full-grain leather is virtually indestructible.
Top-grain leather: Made from the top layer of the hide. It’s thinner and more flexible than genuine leather. The surface is sanded and finished off with a finish coat for a cool surface. Instead of a patina, top-grain leather will develop something called a pinna to protect the surface from daily use.
Beautiful Craftsmanship And Unique Style
The best leather jackets are crafted by hand and the process of selecting the leather is painstaking. The best quality sheep, goat and cow skins will be used for these jackets. The leathers will be hand-tanned and minimally processed.
The design and construction process is also painstaking, with passionate designers working to come up with unique finishes and meticulous attention to detail. Whether you prefer smooth finishes, deep and rich waxy finishes, or soft matt suedes, the end result of hand-crafted leathers is that no piece is identical to the next one.
If the environment and animal welfare matter to you, you’ll want to look for brands that stand behind ethical work conditions at their tanneries and manufacturing facilities. They should also uphold the humane treatment of animals and eco-friendly processes.
The Final Word
Premium leather jackets feel great. They are soft and comfortable to wear. If a jacket is rough to the touch, it may have been made with cheap corrected-grain or top-grain leather. These won’t last as long or develop the patina that you want from a well-worn, much-loved piece of premium leather jacket that you can pass on to the kids.