Leather has been used in a variety of ways since the dawn of mankind when it was primarily used to create clothing or shelter. Egyptian tombs provide us with a glimpse into the way leather was used in that culture. Paintings and carvings found there suggest that leather was being used in decorative items, clothing and other practical purposes as far back as 1,000 BC. Since then, people have learned a lot of fascinating things about leather. The world has also learned to utilize leather for many innovative uses. It is a versatile material that can be used for utilitarian purposes, as well as decorative. Everyone is familiar with leather used in shoes, belts, purses and even clothing items, but leather is often used in some less obvious ways and products.
Interesting Utilitarian Uses for Leather.
Ancient man used leather in many practical ways. It was a material that was readily available, durable, easy to work with and versatile. Archaeologists have found leather tanning tools and leather related artifacts that date back to several centuries BC. These findings show that our ancestors used leather in their daily lives. Leather was most likely used as early foot coverings and clothing, but is also thought to be used for creating tents or shelters. Interestingly, the tools used by these early people are very similar to many of the tools that are used on leather today.
In 13th century India, leather was used as currency. It was considered a viable option until talented citizens were able to reproduce the leather currency and flooded the market. This caused the leather currency to lose its value. Italy, France and China have also used leather money.
In the seventeenth century, fashion houses in Italian cities such as Florence and Venice used leather as wallpaper. This practice was considered to be very stylish and was used by the wealthy. This type of wall covering is still being used today and comes in a variety of colors and styles.
Leather can also be used to create drinking vessels. This practice has been used since ancient times, but was made famous by the British. It is a British tradition that dates back to the Medieval and Tutor periods. The tradition continues today. Leather drinking vessels are a popular English souvenir for tourists.
Another use for durable leather is in furniture. Leather sofas and chairs are very popular, not only for their elegant look, but because of the longevity that the material offers. People appreciate the look and feel of leather, but also consider it a good investment.
Leather has been used in car seats since the horseless carriage was introduced. Today, leather seats are a sought-after feature in new cars. Even if car owners don’t have leather seats in their vehicle, they can purchase a variety of different styles and patterns of real leather seat covers to enhance the look and feel of their automobile.
Many work gloves or are made out of leather. This is partially due to the durability of the material. It is also a comfortable material to have against the human skin because it is soft and smooth. Leather can be very supple and will allow the hand unimpeded movement, which is necessary when working.
Motorcycle clothing is often made of leather. Because it is durable and flexible, the motorcyclist can not only move freely, but feel confident that about the protection offered by the leather clothing.
Leather is also often used to make sports balls and other types of sports equipment. Footballs and baseball gloves, for instance are made from leather. Of course, many athletic shoes are also made from this material.
Leather has even been used in the world of medicine. In the 1960’s, sheep leather was used on bed-ridden patients. The soft leather helped to prevent and even treat bed sores for extended stay patients. Additionally, leather was used throughout history to create braces for broken or sprained limbs, medical bags, medical ID bracelets and other instruments.
Beauty products also benefit from leather. Collagen is a by-product of the leather tanning process. Collagen is used in make-up and other beauty products as it is good for the human skin and is thought to help prevent and reverse the signs of aging.
Interesting Decorative Uses for Leather
Leather has been used in decorative art for many generations.
Leather as an art medium can be stretched to be used for decorative pieces. It can be dyed to a variety of different colors. It can also be burned with special tools that create decorative designs on leather pieces.
Native American tribes used animal hides in so many of their utilitarian objects, but they are also known for their decorative leather pieces. Much of their clothing, including fringed leather vests, were made from the hides of Buffalo and other animals. They also used leather to make musical instruments such as drums. Decorative shelters, boats and masks were also made from leather. These items were usually decorated with a variety of berry juices, charcoal and sometimes the blood of animals. The designs and motifs painted on or carved into the items often tell a story, or represent the tribe in a variety of ways. Many of these decorative leather items are preserved in museums. Some modern tribes continue to use leather to produce decorative pieces for resale.
Artists throughout history have used leather as a canvas for their work or as a part of the work itself. Today, artists continue to use leather in their artwork.
Fun Facts About Leather
Many people are confused by the terms used to grade the quality of leather. Full-grain leather is the finest quality. Full-grain leather does not have its imperfections sanded or buffed, leaving them for aesthetic purposes. Since the leather has not been buffed it is thicker and more durable. Fine furniture, elegant luggage and briefcases and top designer handbags, wallets and shoes are made from this grade of leather.
Top-grain leather is the most commonly used grade. It has been buffed and sanded to remove imperfections and is therefore thinner, more supple and easier to use and manipulate. It is commonly used in most handbags, shoes and other consumer products. After top-grain leather has been sanded smooth a protective finish is applied. This finish gives it a smooth and shiny appearance.
Split leather, more commonly known as suede, is made when the top layer is removed, leaving the nappy and soft under skin. Suede is a popular material for clothing and accessories. It has a velvety finish that appeals to a lot of people, but it isn’t as durable as other leathers because it does absorb water more easily.
People have been dying leather since the twelfth century. Dyed leather is a popular material that is used for a variety of items from book covers and daily planners to boots and saddles. White is the most difficult color to achieve in leather goods. A poorer quality leather will break down while going through the process and will become hard and may even crack. Therefore a high quality leather must be used when using dyes.
From ancient times, leather has been used in a variety of decorative and utilitarian ways. We have learned a lot about the material itself and how to manipulate it for our own practical uses and to decorative our bodies, homes and lives. Whether mass-produced in a factory or carefully tanned and stitched by an artisan, leather has found its way into our lives. As a society, we have become depended on it for its usefulness and beauty. It appears that leather will not only be an interesting part of our past, but will continue to be a part of the human story for future generations.