by John Blackrock
There was a point in history where leather was one of the most important materials used in countless fields. With the wide variety of synthetics available today, you might think that leather is more or less forgotten with a few small exceptions. While it is true that leather was widespread in the past, there are many uses of leather in today's world. In fact, it's enjoying a degree of renewed popularity due to the fact that some industries are moving away from harmful artificial fabrics.
Chances are that you'd see leather in some pretty surprising places if you took a close look around. Perhaps our feet are the most visible place for leather these days, considering that shoes and boots are still often made from this remarkably durable material.
Footwear, Luggage and Other Leather Accessories
Traditional dress shoes have never been hotter than they are in 2023. Many of these styles are made from patent leather. Conventional patent leather shoes would have had a coating of lacquer, but durable plastic coatings became popular in later uses. However, some modern eco-conscious fashion startups are beginning to switch to full and top grain leathers that don’t pollute the earth. These shoes still have a sharp look while conserving the earth.
Dress Sneakers have become popular because traditional dress shoes aren’t designed for being on your feet for hours each day. By taking dress shoe uppers and combining them with orthotic insoles and sneaker like outsoles you get dress shoes with the comfort of a sneaker – Dress Sneakers.
Work boots are often made from tough full grain leather. These might be reinforced with bits of metal in the front to offer better protection for the weakest parts of the foot. Steel-toed boots, as they're often called, are actually required in some industries because they're able to stand up against hazards much better than most other kinds of footwear you'll come across.
Travel bags and many types of commercial luggage feature leather shells, though the insides are usually cloth. This combination of materials helps to provide plenty of strength on the outside while ensuring that anything sensitive you might be carrying doesn't get scratched up by coming into contact with a hard surface.
Some of the best leather bags aren't hard at all, however. They're made by skilled artisans who use supple leather that has been worked until it's soft and pliable. Though it can take a fair amount of time to get a piece of leather fabric to just the right consistency to make a high-end handbag, the effect is often worth it since there's no other way to get a bag that's both durable and fashionable.
Italian tanners are sometimes considered to be the source of the best leather on the market, but the art is starting to spread around the world. Colombia's leather tanners are known for their environmentally certified leathers.
Casual Applications of Fine Leather
Dress sneakers are something you might not have heard a lot about until recently. People are pairing a good solid pair of leather gym shoes with a suit and tie to give themselves a look that's still fairly formal but offers the comfort of a casual outfit. Others are wearing dress sneakers with pieces of corporate casual fashion so they can feel even more relaxed in the workplace. Countless individuals are turning to dress sneakers for more personal events as well, which is helping to keep leather tanners busy.
Some of the best belts for men today are made from full grain leather, and there are plenty of options in the space. Those who are looking for a duffel bag or briefcase are likely to turn to leather as well. Some leather duffel bags are more suited toward formal events while others have a dressed down look that could go with any kind of outfit. A good solid briefcase with a leather shell and a fabric interior can help to protect important documents while keeping professionals looking sharp.
Colored leather has traditionally been something of a niche product, and it developed something of a reputation for coming apart fairly easily. This was the result of cheaper mass-manufactured colored leather products. Finer handmade leather goods feature natural dyes, which is why you'd be just as likely to see a blue leather wallet as a black or brown one these days. A push for all-around natural materials is actually one of the big reasons that leather has enjoyed such a resurgence.
As an Environmentally Safe Material
Considering that full grain leather comes from animal hides, it's traditionally been looked down upon by members of various environmental movements. Therefore, it might come as a shock to learn that some conservation-minded individuals are actually promoting the use of leather accessories in 2023.
Environmental certified leather tanners invest millions of dollars to build facilities that incorporate on-site water treatment that recycles, purifies all waste, used and unused water and return it to it's original source in an even cleaner state. They’re even able to assist local communities with treating and purifying their waste water. At John Candor we only work with these tanners. The same can't be said of many other fashion products, especially those that use artificial dyes and other compounds that don't biodegrade.
Products made from environmental certified leather also don't include any plastic leather substitutes. So-called pleather materials are made from plastic polymers, which in turn are synthesized from petroleum. Since most plastics won't break down after they've been disposed of, they're increasingly being looked upon as something that environmentally-conscious consumers don't want to invest in. Toolmakers and other producers of specialty products are also turning to environmental certified leather because they want to reduce their reliance on materials that are made in a laboratory.
The use of environmental certified leather has also contributed to the growth of some cottage industries that use their fair share of tanned hides.
The Rise of Handmade Leather Goods
Some of the best thin wallets for men out there today are made by artisans who are part of the maker movement. Makers are people who are dedicated to learning a craft and promoting it in spite of the fact that they could just as easily find a similar product for sale in a retail store. Artistic new types of leather goods are coming on the market all the time, and the high fashion industry has turned its head as well. At John Candor we design our own wallets and they’re handmade by artisans in Bogota, Colombia.
Painted leather jackets are perhaps a more accessible example of this trend, but it's expanded far beyond its subcultural roots. You're likely to see painted and dyed leather objects listed in the catalog of almost any maker who produces fashion items. There are also many uses of leather that never went away, but the public imagination is only just now rediscovering them.
For instance, high-end furniture is often upholstered with leather because it's durable and doesn't attract foul odors. Equestrian tackle, like saddles for horse-riding, are made of particularly hard pieces of leather. Though you might have thought leather was something consigned to the past, one look at any of the uses should help to prove it's got a bright future.
The Many Uses of Leather in 2023
The History of Leather
Chi Omega Gift Market 2022