The Art of Making Leather Jackets: History, Materials, Process
Whether you want to look cool, or act like a thug of a movie, or protect yourself while riding a bike, you will need a leather jacket.
But have you ever wondered while thinking about these jackets that how they are made? What is their history? Or, what materials are used for making animal skin into finely crafted leather jackets?
Here is a little reflection on the art of making leather jackets.
Leather Discovery and the First Tanning Guild
Around 2000 years ago, Romans ruled the region that is today known as Europe. They were known for their bravery and thus wanted to capture more lands. Once they attacked a nomad village in the north. Those nomads used to wear animal skins for pant and shirts. When the armies returned, they were wearing the same type of clothes. But as was a norm in Rome, they weren’t allowed to wear leather clothes.
A huge debate was enraged in Rome about leather. But as temperature decreased, people realized that wearing tanned leather can keep them warm, so they started wearing it.
Later, Romans started a tanning guild in their lands to produce leather on a large scale. This was the first tanning guild of the world.
The tanning process
From then on, leather was looked upon as an important garment. But the whole process from cleaning animal hide to soaking it in chemicals to make leather, took weeks. That’s why, the production of leather was a slow, tedious, and time consuming process. Moreover, tanning was consigned to outcasts because it was a smelly, and laborious.
The tanning workers smell of urine after a daylong work. And, town folks avoided keeping interaction with them.
This tanning process comprised of removing fur and protein from the animal hide by beating it, keeping it in citric acid, fish oil, or even in urine for days. This was then dried and then washed. The leather garments for women were washed with rose petal water so they smell better. This whole process took around a month. After that the leather garments were sent to factories where they were further cleaned and sewn in user-desired sizes.
At that time, as leather tanning was a time consuming process, only elite used to wear it.
Innovations in Tanning Methods
Later, in the 19th century, machines for tanning started to appear. An American chemist invented a chromium-salt based method that cut the processing time from one month to one day. After tanning the leather, it is then given to either artisans or factories to make leather garments. People who want hand-made leather jackets get them from these artisans.
The tanning process is designed to remove bacteria-causing proteins. These are then inspected for marks, tears, stains and imperfections.
But the good news is that now automated sewing systems are available that self-correct themselves.
Future of Leather industry:
During the recession in the last decade, the sale of leather goods and garments fell drastically. But from then on they are on the rise. A huge credit goes to cheaper leather garment production machines and for garments, special thanks goes to entertainment industry that renewed interest in leather garments.
Today, these leather jackets are in huge demand. The celebrity leather jackets, bomber jackets and biker jackets are a few top-selling leather types.
Fake and Real
Recent economic turmoil has given birth to fake leather jackets aka faux leather jackets. Unlike animal hides, the faux leather jackets are made from polyester fabric. Polyester fabric is made of carbon materials including polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and plasticizers (phthalic acid). Faux leather is also in great demand because of their perfect replication and lower prices.
Real leather jackets on the other hand are made of animal hide. They employ the above described tanning process for the production of leather-made coats and jackets.
This was an overview of the journey of leather jackets and how it has fared so far. To sum it up, leather jackets have always remained a part of our lives from a few thousand years. But, recent developments and better production techniques have truly improved the way we wear them. And, as the world is developing further, future leather garments will be of even better quality and will employ less strenuous activity during production.