Leather and its uses
Leather is a durable and flexible material created by the tanning of animal rawhide and skin, often cattle hide. It can be produced through manufacturing processes ranging from cottage industry to heavy industry. Leather is used for various purposes including clothing, bookbinding and most famously, shoes. It is produced in a wide variety of types and styles and is decorated by a wide range of techniques. Leather permits the free flow of air and moisture, making it the ideal material for footwear.
Types of leather used in manufacturing footwear
Most high quality shoes sold today are still made of leather just as they have been for many years. Leather is still the material of choice for its durability and flexibility. Types of leather used in the manufacturing of footwear include:
• Pigskin leather, the same as that used in making footballs, which is also used in the manufacture of good-quality footwear.
• Calfskin, which is used almost exclusively in higher quality men’s and women’s dress shoes and can be much more expensive than other types of leather.
• Full grain side leather, which is used to make the uppers for shoes and is one of the most versatile of all leathers, as well as being one of the most popular. This type of leather is also durable and malleable.
• Kidskin, which comes from young goats. This type of leather is generally used for better quality women’s shoes. A common type of kidskin leather is suede, created by using different chemical and natural treatments.
• Exotic leathers such as crocodile, ostrich, shark, and lizard.
The importance of leather finishing and finishing products
Leather finishing is an essential part of the shoe manufacturing process, as it allows designers to make their shoes that extra bit perfect. It enables the shoe to stay protected against moisture, soiling and abrasion; provides special design effects; provides excellent adhesion properties; provides extra fell and smoothness to the leather surface; and prevents mould or fungal growth on the shoe. A variety of finishes and finishing products are used to enhance the natural beauty of leather. These include aniline, pigmented, patent, metallic, oily, waxy, suede and nubuck.
Every year it appears that shoe manufacturers introduce new materials to make shoes from, such as simulated leathers, rubber, and even plastic. However, leather boasts a certain stylish charm, a certain sophistication and a top-quality elegance, making it a safe bet that leather will continue to dominate the designer shoe market for years to come.