When it comes to products, durability is the top reason why people show patronage for leather. Aside from durability, leather is used to produce a wide range of products that every household can use, starting from sofas and furniture to luxury items like bags and shoes. However, no one leather fits all types of products. That is why different animal hides are used depending on the product needs and unique characteristics.
What is the most durable leather for your projects? The most durable thin-skinned leather is the Kangaroo leather with one to two millimeters of skin. For expensive and durable leather, Horse Butt comes first. Shark leather would be an excellent choice for exotic leather. And for inexpensive and durable leather, Goat leather is the right option.
In this article, I will discuss the most durable leather in the market, depending on its price, sources of leather materials, and the characteristic of each leather skin. I will also discuss the numerous leather projects you can produce using these leathers and what material each project needs to make a high-quality product.
- Supple to the Touch: Thin-Skinned Durable Leathers
- Value for Money: Expensive Durable Leathers
- Rare Finds: Exotic Durable Leathers
- Save Some Bucks: Inexpensive Durable Leathers
Supple to the Touch: Thin-Skinned Durable Leathers
Thin-skinned leather is known to be a soft and flexible material. These leathers are often used for shoes and any product that is susceptible to bending and stretching. But thin skin doesn’t mean weak leather. On the contrary, the most durable leather has a delicate skin but is considered a tough material that lasts for years, the Kangaroo Leather.
Kangaroo leather, often called k-leather, is the most durable leather that comes from Australia. This country is known for its iconic kangaroo species. Italy, on the other hand, is the top importer of kangaroo leather.
What makes kangaroo leather interesting is its thin skin which measures about 1 to 2 millimeters only. The collagen fiber that makes up the leather skin is fine, concentrated, highly uniform, and parallel to the skin structure. That is why k-leather is a very tough material considering its thin skin composition. It also weighs half as much as cow leather.
Compared to other leathers, kangaroo leather is lighter, stronger, and more flexible than goat and cowhide. It is also much more substantial than these leathers, with a touch of suppleness in it.
The versatile kangaroo leather has a shallow fat content and thin grain layer. The smooth surface does not have sweat glands, so it does not require any shaving and splitting. Furthermore, this flexible leather can stand being pulled and stretched but still retaining its strength and durability. It can also be braided as designs or accessory products. As for the tanning process, it can either be chrome-tanned or veg-tanned.
The application of kangaroo leather is vast. The leather is used for bags, jackets, shoes, motorcycle suits, upholstery, and soccer cleats. Its maximum tear and scratch-resistant quality make it suitable protective clothing in motorcycle racing; the dense material protects riders from injuries caused by accidents from motorcycle fall. K-leather is also popular in whip making
because of its thin material that retains its strength and durability even if cut into long, thin pieces. Lastly, k-leather is also ideal for small products and accessories like bracelets and necklaces.
Some famous shoe companies that utilize kangaroo leather in their products are Nike, Adidas, and Puma. The price range for this leather is from $74-$124, depending on its size and color.
The softest yet one of the strongest leathers comes from a deer hide popularized by native Americans. It is commonly used for shoes, coats, clothing, and luxury handbags. However, it is not water or stain-resistant but can be comfortably used in different temperatures. It stays warm in cold areas and keeps you cool during hot weather.
Deerskin leather is made of elongated interwoven fibers, which traps air inside to make leather feel softer and lighter. It is exceptionally durable and has high resistance to abrasion and tear. The hide has a half-inch fur on one side, and the other side feels like soft suede leather, very supple and comfortable with a spongy feel.
The deerskin leather is a stretchable material that conforms well with the user’s size creating a snug fit. A good example is gloves which serve both as protective gear and winter clothing. And mind you, deerskin leather even gets softer as it ages! It can also be wet multiple times with water but still dry softly and return to its original condition.
Other additional uses of deerskin in the leather industry are laces for shoes, string beads, handbags, jackets, and coats. And what better application of this leather than martial arts protective gear; soft enough to wear but durable enough to protect your body against injuries. Lastly, they are used as cleaning cloth that polishes fragile objects like optical equipment that needs gentle and mild care.
What Ranks First as the Most Durable Thin-Skinned Leather
Nothing beats Kangaroo leather as the toughest when it comes to thin-skinned leathers. Its light, strong, and flexible skin combined with its supple texture are what make it to the top. This is without sacrificing the quality and durability over the softness of the leather skin. K-leather is indeed a remarkable leather of its kind.
Value for Money: Expensive Durable Leathers
You can never go wrong with expensive leather, for they are sure to be high quality, in-demand, and durable. Plus, all expensive leathers are not expensive just for their names. They come from rare species of animals that are not globally raised, so the supply is always low. Also, considering the amount of time and effort it will take to make the leather sums up why these materials are expensive.
Horse Butt Leather
Horse butt leather or commonly known as shell cordovan is costly because of several reasons. One is because of its limited source of horsehide. Horses are not a common source of leather hides because they are mainly raised for farming purposes. The supplies of rawhide are low, but the demands are always high, which contributes to its expensive pricing.
Unlike other leather, where you can get the rawhide from its skin covering the whole body, shell cordovan leather is drawn explicitly from the horse’s buttocks. So a small amount of leather can be harvested from an already small number of horse hides.
Another reason for its high price is its rigorous process of tanning which lasts for six months. It undergoes various methods to improve its overall quality, and there are only a few tanneries skilled in tanning this leather. Furthermore, shell cordovan is a vegetable-tanned leather with an oily touch and is environmentally friendly, unlike other chrome-tanned leathers.
As for durability, horse butt leather is indeed deserving of its price. Unlike other leather, shell cordovan has a membrane, not fibers, making it a tough material for your projects. As proof of its heavy-duty performance, this leather was first used on armor breastplates and shields, high-quality artworks, and as a razor strop during the 1900s.
The most remarkable trait of horse butt leather is that it does not show any micro-creasing even with years of use. A good example is your shell cordovan shoes. The material only displays ripples when bent due to everyday use, but they do not crease. Creasing in the long term may cause breaking of the leather skin, which will then result in shoe damage. Because of this, shell cordovan products are not prone to wear and will surely last years of service for you.
Horse butt leather’s best qualities do not end there as it is, by all means, water-resistant and develops a beautiful patina over time. Shoes made of shell cordovan are often called ‘self-shining shoes’ because of their gloss that does not seem to fade even after years of use.
Some well-known tanneries producing shell cordovan leather are Horween and Shinki Hikaku, which sell their leather from $150-$400 depending on its size and color.
Next in line for the expensive durable leather list is the alligator leather. We are used to seeing this in high fashion luxury handbags and other fashion items. The supply mainly comes from the Southeast USA.
The classic, durable, and versatile leather is known for its natural enamel sheen. In addition to this, the aesthetic appearance of alligator skin is well-loved by consumers of luxury brands.
There are various and distinct characteristics to look out for in alligator leather. Surprisingly, it is a soft and pliable material, contrary to its image as a strong animal. The leather is supple to touch and is used by top global companies for making belts, furniture, garments, handbags, and wallets.
Alligator leather skin is less bony compared to other crocodile species. Therefore it is easier to cut, stitch, and fold. Because of the absence of calcium-rich deposits, alligator’s skin is so soft and smooth that it absorbs even dye on an excellent uniform colored product.
Since alligator hides come in bigger sizes, less cutting and stitching will be needed, especially if you are considering producing a larger project like bags. It can measure up to ten feet or more, giving you ample material for one or more products.
Another prominent feature of alligator leather is its umbilical scar, an elongated star shape with a web pattern. This pattern is mostly placed on the most noticeable part of the product and becomes a measure of authenticity to luxury products. Identifying the pattern also helps you avoid being mistaken with crocodile and alligator leather. This way, you’ll indeed be paying for the quality leather you deserve.
Stingray leather, also known as shagreen, is the upper portion of particular shark and ray species. These farmed stingrays come from Asia, especially Thailand, and are not any of the endangered species.
This highly durable leather is said to be twenty-five times more durable than cowhide leather. It has a unique supple texture and is widely available because of it being farmed in various places. The leather skin can be textured to bumpy, flat, or painted in any color.
The flesh side of the stingray leather is made of collagen fibers, and the surfaces have small spheres called pearls. These pearls are more prominent in the skin’s center and smaller on the outer edges. They are made from a hard substance called dentin and a harder coating called enamel, so you are sure that this truly is durable leather.
Stingray leathers are mostly chrome-tanned but still retain their strength and flexibility. Their strong skins are the armor that fights the predator’s sharp teeth during an encounter. That is why manufacturers have difficulty in cutting and stitching the tough leather skin.
Some typical applications of stingray leather are sofas and furniture, wallets, boots and shoes, knife and tool handles, motorcycle seats, and accessories.
Expensive but Most Durable Leather of All
Horse butt leather or shell cordovan is undeniably one of the most expensive yet most durable leather. It stems from the composition of the horse butt, which is a pure membrane that toughs out the products it produces. They were even used as breastplates and shields during the old times, so who are we to doubt its durability?
Rare Finds: Exotic Durable Leathers
These rare exotic finds are indeed one for the books. They came from the most unusual source of animal hide, but they are always up for the competition. These exotic leathers have a unique skin texture which makes for a durable material for your luxurious items. Because they come from exotic animals, they do pose a higher price than other leather.
Elephant leather originated from Africa. The thick and durable leather measures 3-5 ounces thick, with a rippled texture, and is resistant to any weather condition. The vast leather hide is ideal for larger projects such as jackets, custom car interiors, and upholstery.
Elephant leather is also often found in luxury shoes and bags. Products of this leather type are breathable and comfortable to use. The only downside of this is that this leather is scarce and hard to find.
Let us talk about elephant leather’s unique characteristics. The leather is a large grain with substantial cracks through the skin, which is scratch-resistant. It also has a feel of triangles and squares merged into the skin when you touch it. This leather is often produced with its natural colors, a hint of purple with a dull-colored finish. There is also a wide variety of tanning options for elephant leather.
Shark leather comes from non-endangered and non-threatened shark species. Blue sharks are specifically the standard hide used for leather goods. The coarse texture of shark leather is said to be twenty-five times tougher than cowhide. Products made from shark skin are light to carry with a fine grainy texture.
The leather skin is composed of hard skin called denticles. They are ground to make leather more smooth and have a pebbled appearance. The scales of the sharkskin help the leather become more scratch-resistant and serve as a natural armor for products.
Of course, shark leather is water-resistant; after all, they are species that live in the water. In place of pores, they have scales, thick, rugged, and wrinkled, that are indeed eye-catching to customers. A finished shark hide is measured and priced by square foot and comes thicker than alligator and stingray skins.
We usually find shark leather in products like shoes and handbags. It is also a favorite choice for car interiors, unique furniture, and wallets. Fact check: shark leather was also used as sandpaper during the early times because of its solid and hard texture.
Sourced from South Africa and North America, the ostrich leather has a fine texture, although it is rugged leather. It is known for its pimpled grain pattern caused by feather growth and goose-bump consistency, which does not crack even under extreme weather conditions.
The ostrich leather has a wide range of supplies as they are being raised worldwide for food and leather production. They also have a wide variety of colors to choose from and require a specialized and expensive production process. Add to this its high aesthetic value, which results in its expensive market price.
Ostrich leather is known for its use in cowboy boots that molds to your feet and is highly pliable. It is also generally used for luxury leather items like bags, wallets, shoes, hats, vests, watch straps, and even furniture. Ostrich leather offers a wide variety of colors to choose from.
A Rare Gem: The Most Durable Exotic Leather
A rare gem found in the deepest of seas, the Shark leather made it to the top as the most durable exotic leather. The rough and rugged skin composition of sharkskin makes it twenty-five times tougher than a cowhide that manufacturers needed to grind down its surface to make a smooth finish. On a positive note, this hard skin of the shark makes it durable and highly resistant to scratches and damages.
Save Some Bucks: Inexpensive Durable Leathers
It is not always the price that defines a good leather material. If you do your homework, you’ll indeed be introduced to numerous leather materials that are inexpensive but undoubtedly durable. Plus, they are always in high supply as they are often mass-produced to be readily available in the market.
Apart from being affordable, goat leather, also known as Morocco leather, is a sturdy choice for your projects. The supple, tender, and light leather skin has a unique substance and feels to it. It is water-resistant like most other leathers and can be washed with a mild detergent without brushing to clean it. Just add a leather conditioner after washing, so it stays in good condition.
Goat leather is flexible and can stand prolonged use without being worn out. It is also environmentally friendly as it uses vegetable tanning in its process where no harmful chemicals are involved. The classic vintage material of goat leather can be embossed easily as it readily absorbs the stamping of leather designs.
The composition of its leather skin is dense mesh threads of collagen fibers which are much tougher than cow or sheepskin. It features a coarse and pebbled texture which is addictive to the touch.
Goat leather is also one of those materials which combat in wars as protective gear for military purposes. They have outstanding strength and durability to protect soldiers during the old times. Other uses of goat leather are for gloves, shoes, bags, clothing, wallets, accessories, and even carpets.
Buffalo leather or English saddle leather mainly comes from Africa, Asia, and the United States. This leather hide is primarily harvested from 2-3 years old buffalo, each producing about 30 square feet in size.
These materials undergo chrome-tanning producing the most robust upholstery material known to man. The leather skin is porous and grainy and has more tensile strength than traditional calves. This soft leather comes in a range of rich and deep colors, all developing lovely patina through the years.
Buffalo leather is a breathable material with excellent temperature adaptation that adjusts to your body temperature. It is a good warmer for the winter and a perfect cooler for the summer. Plus, it conforms to your body shape when worn but does not scratch too much on your skin, making it a comfortable product to use.
Even after years of service, buffalo leather products still remain in their original shape, ideal for items like boots and bags.
The leather skin composition is an epidermal layer three times thicker than a cowhide. Even after going through the tanning process, it does not stretch too much and retains its toughness making it more resistant to tearing. Full-grain buffalo leather is acknowledged as one of the strongest leathers in the market.
Pig leather is sometimes referred to as “Berkshire” leather. Ranked fourth in the world’s total leather production, pig leather is indeed in every leather store we visit. It is affordable, tough, and thick, which can be split into fine hides for smaller and more delicate leather products. Pig leather can be fully finished or left with its natural characteristics.
Affordable does not mean low quality. And pig leather can attest to that. Products made of this leather have a beautiful grain pattern, abrasion-resistant, and can stand high moisture levels. Although it is thick, the leather skin is softer than most leathers and is pliable and flexible. Talking about durability, they are also water, oil, and stain repellent, which adds to their durability and long years of service.
Pig leather is primarily found in footballs as a covering, bookbinding, working gloves, wallets, shoes, and fashion bags.
Best Value for Money: Most Durable Inexpensive Leather
The sturdy and affordable Goat leather is one of its kind in producing durable products. The fact that they are used as protective gears by the military in the olden times just proves the ability of this dependable leather. Given that it’s inexpensive, it still doesn’t decrease the quality of products made from this leather. Indeed an excellent choice for your budget-friendly projects.
Leather durability is not only measured by price, thickness, or high demands. Evidently, in this article, the most durable leather is a thin one. This only shows that in choosing leather for your projects or favorite products, the skin composition is the top basis. Some products may require thinner skin, and others may require thicker and stronger ones. This proves that no one leather can cater to all products, so you need to analyze what kind of leather you desire before purchasing one.