Just yesterday afternoon, I took a drive to an outlet mall nearby for a shopping trip, and inevitably (but really, not surprising) started taking a look at leather jacket deals at brands like Coach, Michael Kors, AllSaints, and more. I ended up getting an amazingly well-fitted black AllSaints field jacket. Before I bought the jacket, I checked the tag for a sign to make sure it was genuine leather.
In fairness, when you shop at higher brand stores, you can be assured that any leather offered will be typically genuine. But it got me thinking. Other stores mentioned the specific leather used for the jacket, such as lambskin, so there must be other types of leather out there. And if there are other types of leather, what is the best leather for jackets?
The truth is, in today’s world, you have so many great choices in leather-ware. Leather comes in a number of animal skin choices, and each has their own pros and cons. What that means is you need to pick the right jacket that fits your preference, such as fit and cut, durability, and quality. But what if you’re not familiar with the different types of leather? Here are some of the most popular and best leathers used for jackets!
Cowhide – One of the most popular types of leather, cowhide is known for its durability, ruggedness, strength, and durability. It is to no surprise that this material is used in situations where toughness is required, like biker jackets and motorcycle jackets. You can also find cowhide leather being used in wallets, belts, and shoes. Cowhide is considered one of the more balanced options that allows function and fashion to work simultaneously, which makes it popular among many.
Lambskin – Becoming one of the more common types of leather now more than cowhide is lambskin. With extremely soft texture, it’s a common favorite among those who seek sleekness and comfort. It’s one of the main reasons that commands a higher premium, among the most typical which is that the size of raw lambskin is smaller than a cow and requires more skins to manufacture one leather jacket.
Sheepskin – Similar to lambskin, sheepskin is known for its softness, smoothness, and light weight. You’ll be surprised to know that it also is stretchable and adjusts to your body’s shape as you use it. What a major difference from cowhide! Although, you probably could’ve figured that out if you imagined petting a cow and then some sheep (please don’t make me feel like I’m the only one who imagined this). The obvious difference and downside to sheepskin leather is a deteriorating finish over time and being easily damaged if it comes into contact with a sharp object, which means don’t bring this jacket to your cousin’s next knife-throwing competition.
DISCLAIMER – Suede is another well-known material made of either goat or lamb that you may commonly see used in jackets, shoes, etc., but I normally stay away from it as its options are more limited. One of the most devastating pieces of knowledge you’ll learn now (brace yourself) if not already is that suede CANNOT GET WET. It will become extremely hard and the material will not be the same after it dries. There are a number of waterproof suede protectors out there you can buy but it’s an added hassle I just avoid in general. I also prefer the softer touch of other leather material more.
Goatskin – Another softer leather material compared to cowhide, goatskin serves as an ideal lightweight material that is breathable, keeps you warm, and is comfortable to wear. “Hey Adam! So what’s the difference between goatskin and sheepskin leather?” I’m glad you asked, anonymous reader. Sheepskin is more flexible, lightweight, and softer than goatskin. However, goatskin is tougher and more durable. Subject to preference, it also typically has a better appearance than cowhide while remaining lightweight. Glad we got our sheeps in order!
Horsehide – This is where the next few categories get interesting. Horsehide is a more luxurious material that feels slightly stiffer than cowhide. It is extremely durable and generally smoother, although it needs a good amount of breaking in. Its high shine for years to come counteracts this downside.
Deerskin/Elk – Skin of this nature in leatherware proves to be extremely durable, similar to horsehide. As you’d imagine, the color of the material is traditionally yellow/orange, but it is typically dyed black or brown.
Pigskin – Pigskin is very similar to cowhide, although it comes at a premium. It’s known for its durability and provides varying textures that distinguish one leather jacket from another. And what better icebreaker can you have than saying you have a pig on your back?
Bison – Just like its intimidating image, bison hide is tough and will take you through the toughest of situations, whether you’re a motorcycle rider or just a badass. Thick to its core with a distinct large, deep grain pattern, bison hide earns its weight at a premium for leather jacketware.
Kangaroo – Believe it or not, kangaroos were more than a sight to see in the Outback. One of the most uncommon of leathers now, kangaroo skin is similar to cowhide but thinner and significantly tougher. Given this material is more rare, it commands a high a premium for those seeking it.
Crocodile/Alligator – Crocodile and alligator skins are very similar looking as they both share large square and rectangular tile patterns. Crocodile skins have one main difference, however. They will have visible small dots on each tile of the skin. These skins are some of the most expensive, with leather jackets often costing 10 – 20 times that of cowhide or lambskin.
Weigh In On Your Leather Preference
In a nutshell, there are numerous types of animal leather all with their benefits and downsides. The best leather for a jacket is subjective, and mainly fits alongside what you are looking for. For something light and on-the-go, a lambskin or goatskin leather jacket works.
For something tougher, cowhide remains the general standard for balanced use and style. I find that, as a minimalist, having one to two jackets that fit both of those standards gets you by for years to come – until I run into another outlet again!
What’s your favorite type of leather and what works best for you? Leave a comment below!