Leather (2)

Leather- The History

We go back in time to continue the analysis of leather.

With the discovery of Stone Age tools to work hides and bones, it has been concluded that animal skins were used by humans. It is also believed that the purpose of this was to be able to resist the climate. It cannot be otherwise than that the hides were processed immediately after the hunt and the better the materials, the more durable the hides. Leather has been made in Egypt, China and Mesopotamia that goes back some 8,000 years today. Moreover, it has also been proven that the Babylonians and Assyrians, for example, already mastered the craftsmanship of leatherworking.


If we go back in time a little less far, this brings us to France. The craft of leather was not appreciated until the Middle Ages because of its unpleasant smell. In the Middle Ages guilds arose in the tanning industry and these were regulated. These had to operate at specific, designated locations. In areas on the river because of the large amount of water that was needed. More and more guilds sprang up and because of the importance of leather in warfare more and more was allowed. This also resulted in more specific trade groups in the leather industry, such as glove makers. In the 18th century, France was the largest producer of quality leather. In the 20th century this was still France with Italy as the most important export country.

There are cultures where clothing and objects have an important meaning and play an important role in the lives of people and their community. It goes much further than just protecting oneself. In North America, there are indigenous tribes who consciously pass the craft on from generation to generation. The method of leather processing and decoration is a cultural tradition. Through the use of specific decorations and symbols. Morocco's leather industry is old, dating back to the 8th century, where products were made and exported. These were known for their color and beautiful structure. The industry is still going on today and its products are sold in the local markets. The production of leather has a social and symbolic function here.

The saddle

Leather is mainly used in the production of saddles. The Arab saddle, as a result of the Crusades, was introduced to Europe in the 9th century. Saddle production was already a craft in Islamic countries. What it later became in Spain, France and Vienna. Saddlery was a true craftsmanship. Hermes started in 1837 and was a saddler in the chic Faubourg Saint-Honore with highly refined and quality leather. With the advent of the industrial revolution, the massive use of horses disappeared in Europe. Saddlery was no longer a necessity, but rather a recreation.

A new era

In the west, a shift took place at one point in history: Travel was made by the massive arrival of vehicles in the 20th century. Leather becomes important in clothing to be able to protect against all inconveniences on the road. As a result, many more leather clothing and accessories were produced. Asphalt has not yet been used. Leather is also widely used in the production of the means of transport itself. Emile-Maurice Hermes, grandson of the founder of the prestigious Hermes brand, became responsible for the company in this era.

In this way, the company's production was expanded to new products such as luggage and travel accessories. With this, Hermes immediately responded to the need for a changing lifestyle. It was also Hermes who introduced the use of the zipper in France, which we take for granted today.

Louis Vuitton turned travel into art in the late 1800s, adapting his luggage to the conveniences of cars and railways. For example, he took into account practical shapes and when it came to content he took into account practical compartments for storing specific accessories. He developed the famous monogram to prevent counterfeiting.

So leather is really a necessity in order to be able to resist the climate and later also in warfare. Moreover, it can also have meaning in a culture. With the use of horses as a means of transport, the saddle is central, which is produced from leather. The era of more vehicles in the 20th century determines the use of leather in the present. However, there are a number of other developments that determine this. What these are and the new use of leather in the 21st century is reflected in part three of the Elegánsia blogs about leather.