by Sarah Makhluf
Sarah is a freelance content writer from Boston, MA. She loves traveling, fashion, and the beach.
What is calfskin as a type of leather, and how is it different from the other types of leather? We all know calfskin comes from a cow, of course, but do you know its history? Which famous actor put biker jackets on the map? What makes people want to purchase a calfskin leather jacket instead of lambskin or sheepskin jackets? We're telling you everything you need to know about calfskin leather jackets.
During the latter half of the 20th century, Hollywood actors were seen donning leather jackets on and off the big screen, shortly giving them an 'iconic status,' and they became more socially acceptable.
In the 1940s and 1950s, Jimmy Stewart wore a cowhide leather jacket in the film Night Passage (1957). American actor Gary Cooper wore a leather jacket in his role as a guerrilla fighter in For Whom the Bell Tolls, the 1943 American war film.
The 'OG' leather jacket, if you will, may not be the first-ever leather jacket to hit the market, but it's arguably the most popular. The Schott Perfecto Motorcycle Leather Jacket was used to shape a character, and give them the coveted 'cool' factor that was so sought after during the 1950s. The best example is Marlon Brando's Johnny Strabler in The Wild One (1953). Another iconic cowhide leather jacket that will forever go down in history is the one The Fonz wore on the TV series Happy Days, which aired in the 1970s & 1980s but showed life in the 1950s & 1960s. Fun Fact: Fonzie's leather jacket he wore on the show is now housed in the Smithsonian Institution!
If you've ever browsed a furniture shop for a new leather sofa, the sales associate probably threw out the term aniline leather before. While we know it can make a great sofa, how will it hold up wearing it on the body? This is one of the purest types of leather, and some of you may know it as Natural Nappa. No matter what you want to call it, the beauty of this leather is that its smooth, soft, and comes with wrinkles and marks that mimic how they would look on the animal's natural skin. Those marks remain because sanding is never used on this type of leather. It's often made from better quality hides with few natural markings, so it's not going to be overwhelming.
The cool thing about aniline leather is that it's a type of leather dyed exclusively with soluble dyes. The final product retains the hide's natural surface, as we mentioned above, with the natural wrinkles and marks. This type of calfskin leather can essentially be dyed with any color, as long as the manufacturer is using the proper dye. If you're one to showcase your personality in bright, vibrant, bold colors, you may want to look further into getting an aniline jacket.
Semi-aniline leather is more rugged than aniline leather, although it's produced through a very similar process. Semi-aniline is usually made from the highest quality leather hides as well with very minimal natural markings. This type of cowhide does have a thin protective top-coat to give it more resistance to wear and staining. The coating makes it look slightly more rugged and provides better protection against natural wear and tear. This light coating also usually contains a small amount of pigment. Some may also come with an anti-wrinkle treatment. It really depends on what final look you're going for, but if you're looking for an ultra-durable cowhide jacket, semi-aniline may just be the perfect jacket for you. Fun Fact: Biker jackets are usually made from aniline leather!
Calfskin leather jackets are smooth in touch. According to the head of design for heritage outerwear Joslyn Clark, "good quality leather is meant to have no unusual seams." That means there shouldn't be any wonky threads clinging onto the zipper or coming off of the cuffs.
Let's take a look at some of the most popular affordable and luxury brands. Should you splurge and buy an expensive jacket, or do you want to save a few bucks and forgo the luxury label?
Belstaff may not only sell leather jackets, but it's pretty safe to say leather jackets and Belstaff are pretty synonymous at this point. The famous retailer's leather jackets are usually made from cowhide. They do offer a couple of options for lambskin leather jackets as well.
The average price ranges from 700 USD 1500 USD for their leather jackets.
Allsaints is unique in that it's not considered a luxury brand like Burberry, for example, but it's also a step up from typical retailers like Nordstrom or Macys. Allsaints is the perfect middle ground when it comes to indulgence and affordability.
Their calfskin leather jackets usually ring in at under 500 USD.
Schott, Saint Laurent, and Acne Studios are a few luxury leather brands that have been popular among leather jacket lovers in the USA and across the globe. Of course, Schott gained the right as the leather jacket king when he introduced the Schott Perfecto. On the other hand, Saint Laurent may not have a place in pop culture history, but they do have a grip in the luxury retail market. The tag alone is enough to make people shell out over 1,000 USD on a Saint Laurent leather jacket. Schott, Saint Laurent, and Acne Studios are undoubtedly considered an "investment piece." But hey, if you want a luxury leather jacket, go for it! There are no rules when it comes to leather jackets, that's one of the many reasons we love them.
Are the leather jackets off the rack, not piquing your interest? Do you not fit into most standard sizing in stores? Are you in the middle of M and L? You can customize a leather jacket according to your body type. You get full creative freedom over the design, color, lining, and hardware.
Why go custom?
First, know what kind of leather the jacket is made from. Not all leather is created equal. Some retailers will use terms like 'bonded leather' to essentially trick consumers into thinking they're getting a better quality item than they actually are. But not on our watch. We're giving our readers the inside scoop so you'll never get duped.
First, know it is the most prestigious leather type on the market. It's made from the top of an animal's hide and doesn't go through any sanding or staining processes to remove blemishes. A good full-grain cowhide jacket will be smooth to the touch, free of any nicks, and feel slightly stretchy. If you gently tug on the leather and it seems like it's about to crack, steer clear, it's not the best quality.
This is the second-best, right after full-grain. It's made from the upper layer of an animals' hide. Top grain is one of the most popular in the USA. That's likely due to its soft, flexible surface with a price tag that reads a bit lower than full-grain. A good quality top grain leather jacket should feel smooth, have little to no blemishes, and feel comfortable when you first put it on. It shouldn't feel stiff, or like you need to wear it 20 times to break it in.
Yes, bonded leather can be considered calfskin leather, but that's about it. A general rule of thumb, if a leather jacket is labeled 'bonded leather' it's not going to be the best quality. These types of jackets are made with scraps of various leather pieces that are bonded together.
Have you ever bought a garment that was fairly priced, looked great on, and then you washed it and it fell apart? When it comes to quality clothing in general, and especially leather jackets, the minor details pack a big punch.
Thanks so much for reading. We hope this article gave you a little more insight into the world of leather jackets. Talking about leather jackets and helping educate our readers is a blast for us here at Independence Brothers. We love leather jackets, and we love that you guys love them too! Are you in the market for a new fall 2020 leather jacket, or just browsing learning about the coolest garment ever invented? Either way, we would love to hear your thoughts on this read and anything leather jacket related for that matter! Leave us a comment below or share with friends and family members who love leather as much as we do.
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