About Leather

A quality wallet is nearly always a leather wallet

Leather is the perfect material for a wallet - elegant yet durable, tough yet supple - a leather wallet will not only offer you something of high quality, but also something that will last. On our site, we have lovingly hand picked what we think are the very best in men's wallets, and especially leather wallets. See our links on the right hand side to find all the different categories and brands of men's wallets available. Further down the page we have an overview of leather, including the processes involved in developing it into something that is used for high quality accessories, including wallets.

From Animal Hide to Luxury Leather

Leather is the tanned hide of an animal, usually cattle, but, over the centuries, leather has been made from the skin of lambs, deer, elk, goats, buffalo, snakes, crocodiles, alligators, oxen, and yaks. Pigskin is used for saddles; kangaroo leather is used for bullwhips, falconry accessories and motorcycle leathers; ostrich leather with its bumpy look is used for high-fashion stylings. Leather made from the aquatic sting ray is used in southeast Asia for belts and wallets and in Japan for the grips of katanas or samurai swords.

All leather processing follows the same basic steps: preparing the hide for tanning, tanning the hide into leather and crusting the leather. The first step is basically a cleansing of the animal hide, the last step includes reducing the thickness, colouring the leather and, sometimes, re-tanning the hide. The middle step, tanning, is the most complex and involves strong chemical reactions.

Tanning is the chemical process which converts the raw hide protein into leather, a material which will not rot or putrefy. Raw hide by itself dries much like leather to form a stiff hard material - when wetted, however, rawhide proceeds to putrefy while leather does not.

There are three types of tanning, all defined by the chemicals used:

  • Vegetable-based tanning uses ingredients found in plants, such as tannin, that create brown or black leather.
  • Chrome-based tanning uses salts of chromium, usually chromium sulfate, that create leather in colours other than black or brown, such as blue.
  • Aldehyde-based tanning uses oxazolidine or glutaraldehyde compounds that create white or creamy-coloured leather - chamois leather is an example

Though the product resulting out of the following processes may still legally called "Genuine Leather" because leather is a primary component, such products should not be called true leather:

  • Reconstituted or bonded leather is made of leather fibers and scrap bound with latex binders, creating a look/feel similar to true leather, but much more cheaply - bonded leather is simply not as durable as true leather.
  • Bycast leather is a leather split lengthwise, coated with polyurethane and embossed with a texture pattern - bycast leather is very durable and used chiefly in furniture.

No matter how the leather is tanned and processed, it comes in one of four forms, highest quality first:

  • Full-grain leather has stayed one-piece throughout the processing and has not had the "top grain" layer separated from the lower "split" layer - the "top grain" layer adds flexibility, the "split" layer adds strength
  • Top-grain leather has had the "split" layer removed, leaving the thinner "top grain" layer - this form is very pliable, but not as strong as full-grain leather.
  • Corrected-grain leather is any form of leather that has had artificial grain embossed on its surface.

Split leather, the layer of the hide left after the "top-grain" is removed, often has an embossed-grain non-leather layer added. Suede is created in this manner.

Nappa leather, invented in the town of Napa, California in 1875, is created via chrome-based tanning and can come in any of the four forms. Supple and soft, nappa leather is the type used for personal leather goods, such as toiletry kits and wallets.