leather terminology


aniline dyed – leather that has been through-dyed by immersion in a dye bath and has not received any coating of pigmented finish.


aniline stained – leather that has been stained by brushing, padding or spraying and has not received any coating of pigmented finish.


belly – leather made from that part of the hide covering the underside and the upper part of the legs of the animal.


bend – half  a cattle hide butt, obtained by dividing it along the line of the backbone.


boarded leather – leather that has been softened and the surface of which has been lightly creased by folding grain to grain and then working the fold across the leather to and fro by hand boarding or by means of a boarding machine.


box calf – full chrome tanned calf leather, black or colored, smooth or boarded.


bridle leather – strong, flexible type of harness leather of reasonably uniform thickness with a plain finish and a close shaved flesh.  made from ox or cow hide, vegetable tanned and curried.



buffed leather – leather from which the top surface of the grain has been removed by an abrasive or bladed cylinder or, less generally, by hand.  in the case of upholstery leather the buffing process is invariable carried out by machine though it is sometimes incorrectly described as “hand buffed”.  see corrected grain.



Parts of a cattle hide

a   cheek

b   face

c   shoulder

d   fore shank

e   belly

f   bend

g   butt

h   belly middle

i    hind shank


butt – that part of the hide left after the bellies and shoulder have been removed.


butt split – the under layer split from the butt of a cattle hide.


calf – the skin of a young or immature bovine animal not exceeding a certain weight.  in italy, about 14 kilos, salted weight. 


chrome re-tan – leather which has been first chrome tanned throughout its thickness and subsequently further treated or tanned with vegetable and/or synthetic tanning agents and/or resin filling materials, these retaining agents penetrating notably, but not necessarily completely, into the interior.


chrome tanned – leather tanned either solely with chromium salts or with chromium salts together with quite small amounts of some other tanning agent used merely to assist the chrome-tanning process, and not in sufficient amount to alter the essential chrome tanned character of the leather.


combination tanned – leather tanned by two or more tanning agents, e.g. chrome, followed by vegetable (chrome retan), vegetable, followed by chrome (semi-chrome), formaldehyde, followed by oil (combination oil).


cordovan – leather made from the shell of a horse butt, viz. from a kidney-shaped, very compact layer occurring in the butt of equine animals only, and isolated by removing the skin layer above and below it.  it is vegetable tanned and curried.


corrected grain leather – leather from which the grain layer has been partially removed by buffing to a depth governed by the condition of the raw material and upon which a new surface has been built by various finishes.  see buffed leather.


cow hide – a.) the outer covering of a mature bovine animal.  b.) leather made from un-split cow hide or its grain split.  in some countries the term is also loosely applied to similar leather from the hide of any bovine animal.  the term is not to be applied to leather from the flesh split.


crock – particulate matter, usually colored, which can be removed from leather by dry rubbing.


crushed patent – soft patent leather with a creased or crumpled appearance produced mechanically after the patent finish has been applied and dried.


crust leather – leather which, after tanning, has not been further processed but has been merely dried out.


culatta – the rear part of a bovine hide, comprising the butt, the belly middles and the hind shanks.


curried leather – leather usually vegetable tanned which has been subject to the currying process, i.e. a series of dressing and finishing processes applied to leather after tanning in course of which appropriate amounts of oils and greases are incorporated  in the leather to give it increased tensile strength, flexibility and water-resisting properties.


drawn grain – an unwanted shrunken grain appearance on leathers intended to have a smooth grain or on the raw skin.


embossed leather – leather embossed or printed with a raised pattern either imitating or resembling the grain pattern of some animal, or being quite unrelated to a natural grain pattern.


finish – a.) the final process or processes in the manufacture of dressed leather. b.) the surface coating applied to leather.


front – the fore part of a raw cattle or horse hide.  when applied to a cattle hide it consists of the shoulders and fore shanks.


grain – the pattern, characterized by the pores and peculiar to the animal concerned, visible on the outer surface of a hide or skin after the hair or wool has been removed.


grain leather – leather which has the grain layer substantially intact and is finished on the grain side.


harness leather – a strong, flexible, curried, cattle hide, grain leather with a plain finish, usually having a thickness of 4 to 6 mm.

hide – leathers made from the outer covering of a mature or fully-grown animal of the larger kind which have not been split, or from the grain split; when used in this way the name of the animal or the type of leather may be added, e.g. cow hide or ox hide, bag hide or case hide.


impregnated leather – leather, which by means of the addition of materials such as grease, wax and/or impregnating resins, etc., has been improved in certain of its properties without thereby losing its typical leather characteristics.


insole leather – hide leather, including flexible splits, vegetable or combination tanned, in sides, bends, shoulders and bellies, suitable for the inner soles of footwear.


latigo leather – n. american term for cattle hide leather tanned with a combination of alum and gambier, used for cinches, ties, saddle strings and other saddlery work and for army accoutrements.


nappa – soft, full grain gloving or clothing leather made from un-split sheep, lamb, goat or kid skins.  it is usually tanned with alum and chromium salts and dyed throughout its substance.


nubuck – cattle hide leather, buffed on the grain side to give a velvety surface; white or colored.


patent leather – leather with a lustrous mirror-like surface, built up by the application of one or more coats of daubs, varnishes or lacquers pigmented or non-pigmented, based on linseed oil, nitrocellulose, polyurethane and/or other synthetic resins.


pearlised leather – colored leather with a pearl-like luster.


protected leather – leather in which certain special chemicals have been incorporated to render it less liable to deteriorate through exposure to polluted atmospheres.


retanned – leather which has been subjected to an additional tannage with similar or other tanning materials.


semi-aniline finished – leather which has been aniline dyed or stained, incorporating a small quantity of pigment, not so much as to conceal the natural characteristics of the hide.


shoulder – leather made from the fore part of a cattle hide covering the shoulders and the neck of the animal, with or without the head.  a squared shoulder is obtained by cutting off the head.


shrunk(en) grain – leather specially tanned so as to shrink the grain layer and having a grain surface of uneven folds and valleys.


side – half of a whole hide with offal (head, shoulder and belly) attached, obtained by dividing it along the line of the backbone.


side leather – shoe upper leather made from cattle hide sides.


skin – a general term for the outer covering of an animal.


sole leather bend – leather made from the bend region of cattle hide, tanned and finished to be suitable for the outer soles of footwear.


split – if a hide or skin is split over its whole area into several layers, this process is termed ‘splitting’.  the layers thus obtained are termed grain split (outer split).


suede – a generic term for leathers whose wearing surface has been finished to have a velvet-like nap.


suede calf – calf skin leather finished with a velvet-like nap on the flesh side.


synthetic tanned – tanned with synthetic organic agents.


tanning – the processing of perishable raw hides and skins by the use of tanning materials into the permanent and imputrescible form of leather.


vegetable tanned – leathers tanned exclusively with vegetable tanning agents or with such materials together with small amounts of other agents used merely to assist the tanning process or to improve or modify the leather, and not in sufficient amounts to alter notably the essential vegetable character of the leather.


waterproof leather – water-resistant leather which is thoroughly impervious to the penetration of water.


water-resistant (repellent) leather – leather resistant (repellent) to the penetration of water, usually chrome tanned or combination tanned, originally heavily greased, but other water-resisting (repelling) agents may be used.


wet blue leather – leather which after chrome tanning has not been further processed and is sold in the wet condition.