The difference in the types of leathers is mainly related to where the hide is sourced from. A basic difference in the leather types is the size of the animal. For instance, the largest animal, such as a cow will produce a natural material that is a lot thicker and heavier than alternatives sourced from a pig or other small animal. Here are a few of the major types of leather:
Buffalo and cow
The toughest leather is sourced from large animals like buffalo and cow. This type of hide is a practical choice for a wide range of items, such as jackets, shoes, and furnishings. It is very stiff and appreciated for its ability to provide great abrasion protection and resistance. But, the naturally heavy weight can have a negative impact on comfort and drape. The high toughness level makes it a practical choice for motorcycle protective gear. Jackets in cow hide need quite a bit of time to fully wear in and give the fit that is really comfortable. Also, the grain on the buffalo hide is more than on a cow.
Lamb and sheep
The leather sourced from lamb and sheep is light, supple and has a grain a lot finer than alternatives. However, it is still very durable and tough. Lamb is the softer of the two and has a buttery like feel. The sheep hide gives a great balance when it comes to strength, style and comfort. This leather is perfect for the jacket style that needs a lot of suppleness, such as the reefers, blazers and bomber jackets.
Pig leather is a low quality option. It has a shiny, plastic like finish and is quite thin. Because it is naturally thin it does not give the greatest durability. This type of leather may feature in the cheaper jackets on the market and likely to retail for $100 or less.
What are the different finishes?
In addition to the type of leather, there are various tanning methods used to create the distinct finishes. The actual finish can have a significant impact on the appearance of a jacket or piece of furniture. The most popular tanning methods include suede, nubuck, aniline and Napa. Most methods help to improve the durability, suppleness and softness of the original leather. Nubuck is a high-quality option and has one of the softest finishes. Napa is among the most expensive. However, the suede and nubuck finishes do require special treatment to avoid water related problems, like discoloration.