You might have come across vegetable-tanned leather or chrome leather before, but did you know about latigo? This type of leather is made using both tanning methods and shares the characteristics of both. Let’s see how it’s made, what kind of products it’s used for and why you might consider latigo products for your next purchase.
What Is Latigo Leather?
Latigo is the Spanish word for “whip”. This material is made from a combination of tanning processes. Coming from the best of two worlds, it’s offers great durability while also being supple.
How Latigo Leather is Made
Latigo leather is most commonly made from cowhide. It is first chrome tanned, which involves soaking the hide in a solution of acidic salts and then drying it before further processing. Next it is vegetable tanned by soaking it in a series of vats with progressively higher concentrations of tanning solutions. After completing the tanning process, the hides are tumbled in large drums to absorb various oils and waxes. This makes them more pliable and supple, while retaining their strength.
This combination tanning process makes it unique among types of leather.
Latigo leather is both durable and pliable, making it suitable for rigorous activities and applications with rough usage. It is resistant to moisture and sweat, due to the high amounts of oil it is infused with during manufacture. As a result of this oil infusion, and the process of partial chrome tanning and partial vegetable tanning, latigo is more rigid than full chrome-tanned leather but less rigid than vegetable tanned leather. Due to the heavier weight and tanning process, latigo is more costly than most other cow leathers. It is not stretchy and goes from rigid to supple and soft in a short time.
Traditionally, latigo has been manufactured in burgundy color, but it is also available in black, shades of brown and red, as well as lighter colors. It ages well and develops a beautiful patina with time.
Products Latigo Leather Is Commonly Used For
Due to its qualities of strength, flexibility and durability, and ability to withstand moisture, latigo leather is used for products like riding tack, straps, belts, pet collars, leashes and cinches. It can also be used for boots and bags.
Advantages of Latigo Leather
The great strength and flexibility of latigo is derived from the tanning process and the absorption of oils during the finishing process. While heavier than other leathers, it is also more moisture resistant, resilient and gets softer with use.
Disadvantages of Latigo Leather
Once it is tanned and oiled, latigo is not suitable for stamping, tooling or patterning because the surface is too springy. It is also more expensive due to the more-involved tanning process, which requires more steps.
How to Care for Latigo Leather
Wet latigo leather can bleed color, leaving a mark on any skin or clothing it is in contact with. The best way to prevent this is to not let the leather get wet, and only use the latigo product after both the wearer’s skin and the product are dry. Alternatively, a water-resistant sealant can be used to prevent the bleeding upon contact with water. In addition, applying a small amount of conditioner containing beeswax will preserve the latigo leather’s surface and flexibility.
Latigo is similar to both vegetable-tanned leather and chrome-tanned leather, due to both processes being used in its manufacture. While-chrome tanned leather is also flexible and water resistant, it lacks the durability and strength of latigo. It cannot develop a patina like latigo can.
Vegetable-tanned leather is just as durable as latigo, and both leathers can develop patinas with time. Unlike latigo, vegetable-tanned leather is ideal for tool work and stamping. Both leathers are more costly than chrome-tanned leather due to the manufacturing process being more involved.
You should choose latigo for products requiring heavy use in in tough environments, such as dog collars and horse tack. Considering the limitations of the material for tooling, it is not suitable for some luxury items. In those cases, vegetable-tanned full-grain leather would be best.
Other Similar Leathers
Some other leathers you may want to look at are: