Leather is a natural product created through the drying and tanning of animal hides. Leather and leather products are preferred not only due to the durability but also their versatility. There are different types of leather with each type often depending on the nature of animal skin that was used and the methods employed during the drying and tanning as well as any additional treatment applied. Each type of leather has its most appropriate uses.
Leather products come in many shapes and form. Leather is a popular material for clothing, handbags, briefcases, furniture, car upholstery, book covers, bindings and drums. Leather and leather products have managed to hold the consumer market captive for years thanks to a healthy balance of two attributes: low long term cost and durability.
Is buying leather and leather products really cheap? In the short term, no - but in the medium and long term (which is often what matters), yes. The shelf price of leather products is considerably higher than products made from other material such as cotton, wool and synthetic fibre. A number of famous clothes, wallet and bag brands take pride in using only genuine leather and base their high cost on that one fact. But this high initial cost is cheap over time - good quality leather products guarantee the buyer a longer product life, which translates to reduced replacement and repair cost.
Leather and leather products can provide resilience against the elements as well as providing comfort to the wearer. Clothing made from quality leather can withstand the low temperatures of the cold months since the pores on attire made from leather fabric naturally contract when subjected to the cold. This is an attribute that results from leather being made from animal hide since hide exhibits similar characteristics during the cold.
Special treatment can be applied to leather and leather products during processing in order to give the leather resilience in certain conditions. For instance, soft supple leather can better withstand exposure to water than ordinary leather can. Soft supple leather results when chromium salts are used during the tanning process. If even suppler leather is required, emulsified oils are used. Of course this variety of leather (referred to as buckskin or brain-tanned leather) is more costly and takes longer to produce. The quality of animal leather used is also a key factor in how soft the leather eventually turns out.
Other forms of leather such as top-grain leather, suede and patent leather are popular in the production of luxury items such as purses, wallets, belts, watches and shoes. Each of these forms of leather require specific cutting and processing. In top-grain leather for instance, only one side of the leather cloth is sanded. An artificial grain is then used to conceal the raw leathers surface imperfection. Suede is cut away from the inner side of the animal hide and is left fuzzy on both sides while patent leather is coated with plastic to give it a smooth shiny finish.
Leather and leather products demonstrate an impressive resistance to fire and abrasion although the level of resistance will depend on the type of hide used and the tanning process. High grade fire and abrasion resistant leather products can provide significant protection during explosions, fires and accidents. In fact, according to a study by the United States Department of Transportation's National Safety Administration, leather provided more abrasion resistance than any other material of clothing during accidents.