Leather is a material that needs no introduction. Its sheer ubiquity speaks far louder than we ever could. As manufacturers, we’ve been watching our leather go into products touching every corner of people’s lives for generations, and we continue to be amazed by the love and enthusiasm people have for it. What’s even more surprising is just how long leather has been around without replacement. Why is it exactly that leather has remained so popular for so long?
The obvious place to start is how the material looks. Leather’s start as a hide means it benefits from all the natural depth and inconsistencies acquired during the animal’s life. The result is a look unique to every inch of leather ever produced, as unique and nuanced as the people who use it. There’s a natural depth and luster to properly treated leather that just can’t come from synthetics or plastic. It seems to live and breathe all its own, even when used for the most rugged and demanding of jobs.
“It seems to live and breathe all its own, even when used for the most rugged and demanding of jobs.”
A great deal of leather’s appeal has to come from its utility. Not only is the material great looking, it can withstand an outrageous degree of punishment and bear incredible weight without giving, and shows it’s age by growing more beautiful. A great leather sofa, for example, will shift and fade into a unique piece of lived-in art over 20 years, whereas a fabric sofa will just look dirty after two. In addition to aging better, leather legitimately works harder than any synthetic alternative on the market. One reason why the material is still the dominant one in manufacturing riding jackets for serious bikers is because the hide can absorb and disperse heat naturally and easily where nylon or synthetic leather would heat and melt.
The next piece of leather’s attractiveness is perhaps the most elusive: leather is just plain cool. Whether a leather chesterfield sofa or a decades-old leather jacket with a perfect patina, hide holds an appeal to it that reaches much farther than its looks or qualities. Leather is the material of heroes and villains, of our champions and legends. Rock stars, rappers, gladiators, cowboys, warriors, and even superheroes have all shown up to their day job in leather, and we’ve learned to associate it with the kind of hardworking cool that those people exude. It helps of course that every color of leather has a look and feel all its own. The deep sheen of black leather calls to mind the luxury of high fashion and design, while a rich blue leather can quietly stand out in a crowd.
The final reason we love leather has nothing to do with how well it performs or how cool it looks. We love leather because leather loves us back. The same way a catcher’s glove will mold and conform to the exact contours of his hand and play style, the leather we bring into our lives will only continue to change and grow as we do. It’s as if the product actually grows to know us as a person, shifting and adapting to meet our specific needs. In contrast to fabric’s passive give or metal’s cold utility, leather goods hold the warm promise of a relationship. The more and more we use and enjoy the leather we buy, the more it becomes a part of us, something as much our own as our fingerprints.
“In contrast to fabric’s passive give or metal’s cold utility, leather goods hold the warm promise of a relationship.”
Moore & Giles will be writing a feature article for I&O every month exploring topics such as design, craftsmanship, and all things leather. Stay tuned!