Leather Dictionary

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What is vegetable tanning?

-Vegetable tanning is a process used to create leather that requires an acidic chemical called tannin, which is naturally occurring in the bark and wood of many trees, inspiring the name vegetable tanning. Once treated with tannin, hide becomes more resistant to water, more pliable, and exceptionally durable.

What is chrome tanning?

-Chrome tanning utilizes a chemical called chromium sulfate, which yields a sturdier and more water resistant leather than vegetable tanning. However, chromium sulfate also discolours rawhide more than the naturally-hued vegetable tanned leather.

Types of leather

Full Grain leather is made from the entire usable skin of an animal and is therefore the most desirable thickness for durability since the structure of the leather is not compromised.

Top grain leather is made from the shaving down of the imperfections on the surface of the leather. It is considerably thinner than full-grain, although not generally low quality.

Corrected grain leather is a low quality product which is comprised of an imperfect sheet of leather which is heavily finished with sealer to conceal imperfections or imitate a higher quality material. Corrected grain can be identified by the visible creases that form in its surface over extended periods of use.

Genuine Leather is made from the cheapest part of leather that has been split. It is often coated with a colored vinyl sealer to give it a uniform appearance. This is a very low quality product. Products that have “made with genuine leather” on them may be deceptively referring to a small amount of good leather used on a overall vinyl or low quality item. Genuine leather will often delaminate.

Bonded Leather is made from recomposed leather dust. It quickly degrades and is not recommended. To qualify as bonded leather it must contain at least 18% leather.

Napped leather has been worked to a soft fuzzy surface texture, most notable seen in suede and nubuck

Suede leather is soft leather which is comprised of the underside of the skin, making at a supple and workable, if fragile, alternative to full or top-grain

Nubuck is a soft leather similar to suede, though it is taken from the topside of the hide; making it stronger and finer at the cost of water resistance

Bridle leather is soft and supple leather that has been heavily oiled, conditioned, and finished with a wax sealant to preserve it’s appearance and physical integrity

Latigo leather is tanned with a hybrid of the mineral alum and plant-based tannins, with a very rugged yet flexible result that is often used in the manufacturing of equestrian equipment

Chromexcel is a leather produced by Horween Leather company out of thick pull-up which is heavily oiled and sealed. Its softness has become a trademark for the company, though it is next to impossible to get chromexcel to a shine.

Shell cordovan is horse leather that is extremely hard and durable, if stubborn and unbending, and is normally used on very expensive shoes and boots.

Kidskin leather is derived from the skin of a young goat and is praised for its softness and suppleness. It is most often used in gloves.

Camel suede is a thick, characteristically sueded leather. It is usually strong, soft, and attractive; it is often a cheaper alternative to other leathers of similar quality

How do you get the different colors in the leather?

-Tanning rawhide requires one of several substances to strengthen the proteins inherent in the skin, which is the ultimate goal of the entire process. The two most common agents used to tan rawhide are chromium sulfate and tannin, though many other mineral agents can be used.

common liners

Pigskin is extremely sturdy and soft leather which is used primarily as a liner

Canvas is a woven fabric made from either cotton or linen; its strength can vary greatly based on its weight per square inch.


A lobster clasp is so named because of its distinctive shape and function, where two claws “pinch” together by a spring to keep a sealed loop

Dog leash clasps, most commonly seen on (you guessed it) dog leashes, contain a semi-closed loop with a spring pin to complete the closure and allow for easy removal

Snap clasps are a simple, two part mechanism that contains a male and female end, which easily “snap” in and out of each other when specific pressure is applied

Nickel plated brass is a thin layer of nickel is often electroplated to brass hardware, making it longer lasting and more resistant to wear or corrosion

common leather terms

Burnishing is the act of reducing the sharp edges of cut leather with fine sandpaper to achieve a smooth edge

Skiving is the process of shaving thickness from either the body or edges of a piece of leather in order to make it more workable. It is necessary to achieve the flexibility that many full-grain products display.

Aniline dye is a high quality synthetic dye which does not contribute to any breakdown or obscuring of natural grain in leather

Wax Bloom is a chalky substance that can form on the surface of a leather product when oils used in the tanning process coagulate and crystallize. It is not an indicator of low quality material, and can be easily treated by polishing the leather affected with a horsehair brush. Bloom often occurs on wax impregnated leather such as Horween Chromexcel.

Double stitching is the act of stitching two lines of parallel thread in any joint in order to make it much more durable and reliable over time. It is a desirable feature in durable leather goods.

Patina is a thin, dark, desirable shine that develops on quality leather goods after time

D-ring closures use two pieces of metal in the shape of the letter d, which allow for any strip of material which can be pulled through the two, and back through the outer ring to be kept in place. It is a sturdy closure with no breakable parts, though material held between the rings can sometimes slip if not looked after.

leather shoe terms

The outsole is the portion of a shoe that meets the ground as the wearer walks.

The insole is the portion of a shoe that makes contact with the bottom of the wearer’s feet.

The upper is the portion of a shoe that encases the wearer’s foot and heel.