Leather is one of the most beautiful and versatile materials known to man. It is also one of the oldest, having been used by bootmakers for thousands of years. Indeed, “Otzi”, the Bronze Age shepherd whose mummified remains were discovered in a glacier in the Italian-Austrian Alps in 1991, was found to have been wearing sturdy leather mountain boots when he died more than 5000 years ago.
Even then, it seems, bootmakers understood that different types of leather were better suited to different parts of a boot and used them accordingly. Otzi’s boots, for example, were made of a combination of calf, deer and bear hides and were so well constructed that researchers have concluded that specialist bootmaking must already have been a well established tradition.
Five thousand years later it is much more so, not only a tradition but an art. As fine custom bootmakers we use many types of leather in our range of boots, from the chunky pit-tanned leather we in the soles of our men’s walking, riding and field boots, such as the Aviator, to the sheerest ultra-fine sheepskin we use to create our highly sensual stretch-leather Coco and Eros thigh boots.
Each type and grade of leather has its uses. Sole leather, for example, needs to be sturdy whatever the style of boot. Heavy pit-tanned hides work best here. For our sleek high-heeled styles that means sanding down the soles to a couple of millimetres thick – thick enough still to be durable and long-lasting but supple enough to be shaped and moulded for a finely pointed toe. For rugged hard-wearing boots like the Aviator, the soles might be up to a centimetre thick. This leather in particular is a pleasure to work with, with its fragrance of mimosa and oak bark.
Quality boots such as ours have all leather uppers. The linings can be made from a whole range of leathers: pig splits, calf, goat even lamb for ultra soft comfort. The choice of lining depends on the style of boot as well as the size. The idea is to assemble the lining using as few pieces as possible, to reduce the number of seams and make the boot more comfortable. For example, typically small lambskins would not be suitable for the lining in a mega-tall men’s Highway thigh boot or chap boot as there would be too many seams inside to be comfortable.
The leather used for the outer parts of the shaft needs to be robust enough for purpose, that is why we use whenever possible a full or top grain. This can be the ultra taut box calf with its deliciously fine grain – a leather we source from the finest French tanneries such as Le Puy en Velay, or the buttery-soft lamb skin produced for us by Bodin Joyeux, now part of the Chanel fashion empire.
For our high fashion thigh boots, Italian-tanned calf hide is amongst the very finest you can get. Fine grained, soft yet robust, it is ideal for shaping around a pointed toe last, and yet is long enough to for even the longest leg sections to be cut without cross seams.
Our heavy-duty hunting and field boots and our renowned men’s thigh-high biker boots require a thicker leather, one that is tanned to give a firm handle but is still supple enough to work. The suede we use is derived from the finest top grain leathers, sanded and buffed to give that perfect rich velvety finish – a world away from the nasty crust splits you so often see used in the mass produced market.
So – many different types and grades of leather. But the one thing that all of our leathers have in common is that they are the very best, sourced from finest and most reliable European tanneries with generations of knowledge and reputation behind them.