Welcome back, friend!
I’m Phu, founder of Aventail.
In today’s video, I’ll explain the beauty of leather.
- History of leather
Human has a long history of using animal hides, probably predate homo sapien itself. We can find tool to carve animal skins as early as 400000 years ago. Tanned hides appear later, with earliest tools appear in ancient Sumer 5000 years BC. Since then, leather has spread throughout Mesopotamia and beyond, and become the invaluable part of civilizations. With this durable, water resistant, and easy to access material, people had made clothes, shoes, bags, tents, canoes, saddles, armors… With these items, human can travel far and wide, enable nomad lifestyle, connect the East and West through the silk road, and more. Without leather, the world as we know it would be a very different place.
- Brief introduction about leather production
Raw hide as you know doesn’t last in normal condition. For every meat-eating animal, raw hide means food. In order to preserve the hide, we must treat the leather with the process that change its chemical composition. There are several ways that temporary preserve the hide, for exp: treat the leather with aluminum salts, fat, oil, brain… In these ways, the result products are called parchment, not real leather. To make real leather, the raw hide must be bound with tannins. There are 2 most common tanning process: chrome tanning and vegetable tanning. Chrome tanning is faster and cheaper, but most of the oil and fat from the leather is stripped away, makes it dry and brittle overtime. Vegetable tanning is very slow, can takes up to a whole year to finish, but the result leather retains oil and fat, makes it last a very long time.
- Utility value
These days, there are many materials that are far stronger, durable, and chemical resistant than leather: nylon, carbon fiber, Kevlar… But if you need something both durable and beautiful, to carry you though your daily life, leather is without replacement. Modern leathers are available as thin as 0.5 mm to as thick as you want. Many animals that was not traditionally used for leather production are now available: crocodile, kangaroo, stingray, python, ostrich… With leather, if you can imagine it, someone can make it.
- Longevity value
The oldest leather item still exists is a 5,500-year-old shoe, found in Armenia. Of course, not all types of leather are made equal. The cheapest type is fake leather, made entirely of plastic, it will disintegrate even if you babysit it. Another type of cheap leather is split leather with a plastic coating, typically called genuine leather. With this leather, as soon as the coating scratch or crack, it will look like crap. Now let’s talk real leather. Leather longevity depends on 2 factors: how wet the leather is and how much coating it gets. Chrome tanned leather is dry and will eventually crack. Vegetable tanned leather and waxed leather is wet and resist cracking better. Aniline leather is leather without coating, which has a warm and luxurious feel when touched, but not very durable. In the contrary, Semi aniline and pigmented leather has thicker coating, which is more durable, but it feels hard and plastic to the touch. With properly wetted and coated leather, it will definitely last a lifetime, well worth your investment.
- Personalization value
How do you know that you have a life well lived? Is it not the grinding, struggling, sacrifice, exhaustion that you know that your life is well spent? The items that you carry with you will bear marks of your adventure: that sand mark from a beach in Thailand, that scuff mark from a food stall in Beijing, that water mark from a random rain in Tokyo. Plastic will disintegrate and be thrown away. Nylon will bear no mark and remember nothing. But leather will bear your marks, your adventure. And through leather, your life will be remembered.
Unlike other luxury items like silk or champagne, leather has history root all over the world, from many civilizations. Wherever human hunt or raise animals, we can find artifacts made from their skins. From the boots of Mongol, to the books cover in Rome, to the canoe of Native American, leather represents human ingenuity and craftsmanship. When you acquire a leather item, you don’t just buy an item, you buy a living history piece that has thousands of years of development. And thus, you acquire a piece of civilization itself.
- The animals spirit
Human has a long history of carrying animal symbol to represent their virtue. Roman legions carry eagle and boar symbol for wisdom and endurance. Aztec warriors wear jaguar suit to represent strength. Although most modern leathers are made from domestic animals, you can remember them not as what they are but as what they were. Modern cow evolves from aurochs, mighty animal from the ice age. Modern pig evolves from wild boar, some of the most intelligent animals, even smarter than dogs. Goat and sheep come from the hardy environment of mountains and deserts. By carry their symbol, you will remember that you are not alone in this world.
- Environmental value
Most of leather that you see in the world are fake leather made of plastic, or split leather with a plastic coating. When they wear out or you are bored of them, they end up as land fill or floating it the ocean for hundreds of years, because they are not bio-degradable. It’s an unsustainable material, and will destroy this planet when our descendants inherit it. In contrast, real leather, whether vegetable tanned or chrome tanned, is bio-degradable. Some people even say they are edible, I haven’t tried eating leather though.
- Value for self-enjoyment
There is a saying: Mystery creates excitement. For a uniform material like plastic, everything about it is regulated to a tight specification from a factory. You know it’s chemical composition, it’s manufacturing process, how it reacts to the outside world. There’s no mystery about plastic. Leather is not like that. Animal skins are created by billions of cells working together one protein strain at a time. From that skin, the following tanning process will react to different cells structure differently. There aren’t 2 similar pieces of leather exist. If you have vegetable tanned leather, it will go through patina process overtime, which will create beautiful gradient color. With leather, you will witness true mystery, and with that, true excitement.
- Social value
Leather clothes have always represented the extraordinary of society. A well-polished black oxford is mandatory for 19th century western aristocrat. Leather bomber jacket carry the smoke and fire of world war 2. Leather biker jacket represent the outcasts, the rebels, the one outside the rule of the society. There is even a leather fetish subculture that focus in unique sexual experiences in Germany and US. Whatever leather means to you, your leather clothes signal that you don’t live an ordinary life.
- Future of leather
For a material that has such a long history, the zenith of leather consumption hasn’t come to pass. New tanning processes are being developed. New animals are being used for leather production. New companies and artisans are joining the leather crafting business every year. And a booming economy with billions of people who have never used leather in their lives before, now have the change to join this exciting world. The future is bright for leather, indeed.
That’s why we at Aventail have made this holeless belt from vegetable tanned leather. It’s available in dozens of colors, link in the description.
You can watch the video describing this belt in link in the description. Have a great day and see you in the next video!