A Brief History of Leather Material


Leather material has been discovered by mankind over centuries ago and has carried out a prominent role in human civilization up until today. Since the first time it was discovered, the process of producing leather has not passed through significant change. Leather has been utilized in the fashion industry and almost every culture in the world has been producing leather to transform it into various products. In the earlier ages, human hunted animals like tigers, cows, sheep, and other animals for foods and also to take their hides. Hence, the history of leather cannot be separated from human hunting history.

In the early days, our ancestors used leather from animals that they hunted to make a lot of stuff to protect their bodies like clothes and footwear. They were moreover known to use animal hides to make tents safeguarding them from harsh conditions and dangers. Yet, the kind of leather that our ancestors used is not the leather that we use today but the more primitive prior form of leather.

The Birth of the tanning process

It is believed that the tanning process of leather started on the early Paleolithic times when they realized the quality of hides was not long-lasting. The animal hides decomposed in hot temperatures and went stiff at the low temperature. Therefore, the endeavor to make animal hides stronger and last longer began. The process to preserve and strengthen animal hides began by early civilization using different methods like rubbing animal fats and smoking the leather. These were the two commonly used methods that were taught through generations.

The other method that was discovered later is tanning the leather using leaves and barks soaked in water. This is the method that we know today as vegetable tanning. The Vegetable tanning method is believed to be developed by the ancient Greeks and vegetable-tanned leathers then become widely traded in Greece around 500 BC. Vegetable-tanned leather is known to be the most natural and environmentally friendly method of tanning and still used until today.

This method uses many types of plants but the most popular plants that are used are mimosa, chestnut, and oak. As time passed, the method of tanning leather became progressively more advanced and efficient. It allowed leather to continue being used all over the world until the present day.

The use of tanned leather on the early civilization

The ancient Greeks, Egyptians, and Romans have utilized the leather to make various goods from far back before centuries. Around 1.200 BC, the ancient Greeks used leather for garments and making sandals. The leather manufacturing then spread to Egypt and Egyptians used to make more diverse products like gloves, buckets, and ornaments. Egyptians are stated to be skilled in processing leather and made leather products to be largely spread throughout Egypt in around 1.300 BC. Leather products are very favored by Queens and Pharaohs during that time.

The leather producing later spread to Rome with a more developed technique. Leather material was commonly used by the Romans to produce military-grade equipment including leather armor, saddles, shields, and harnesses. Leather was widely utilized during the Roman era and used by people of the Roman empire for clothes and footwear. The use of leather as a combination of armor, shields, and other military equipment is believed to be initially implemented by the Romans. The Romans developed more advanced and efficient tanning methods which made them able to produce higher-quality leather.

Move forward to the 7th and 8th centuries, the Moors and Visigoths developed the popular type of leather named “Cordovan.” Made from horsehide, “Cordovan” became famous around Europe for centuries and continue to be used until today, commonly to produce high-end shoes. Following the enhancement in the leather processing methods in the 12th century, made the large-scale use of this material in making various leather goods.

Leather in the modern era

The modern technology in the 18th and 19th centuries caused the continuous improvement in the leather industry. New types of leathers emerge as a result of the advancement in leather processing methods. Various chemicals were discovered and developed the tanning process to become more effective. Chromium tanning was found and considered as the most effective method of tanning that is used today to transform leather into modern clothes and footwear. The industry then became capable to produce softer and more durable leathers, which produces more diverse leather products. With the advancement of technology, the quantity and the quality of leather products around the world are rising. The excessive demand for leather products causes the leather industry to continue to grow massively these days.