- Type Of Leather Used
Like shoes and leather jackets, you want to choose a bag that’s made of full grain leather. It’s top-quality leather that looks even more fantastic after years and years of use.
The best leathers develop an attractive patina – a weathered, sheeny look which a material gets through aging. The higher the quality, the better the patina. It’s not something you’ll get with heavily treated leather or other lesser grades.
Avoid bags that are made of bonded leather. These bags actually use scrap pieces of leather which have been reworked with chemicals and plastics into a second-rate version of leather.
It doesn’t age well or have that distinct, nice leather smell. It’s quite common these days and sales people try to promote them as authentic leather products. Beware – they come at low prices but are not value for money.
- Tanning Process
The leathers used for bags and cases aren’t prepared the same way. You need to know the differences between 2 major tanning processes: chrome tanning and vegetable tanning (especially since they affect the price).
For chrome tanned leather, the process involves chromium and other harsh chemicals. It’s finished in a couple of days – which is why their products are always cheap. Chrome tanned leather accounts for about 90% of the leather market.
Then we have vegetable tanned leather. It’s produced in an eco-friendly way, unlike chrome tanned leather. The term “vegetable” refers to the natural materials that are used in the process (such as tree bark).
Here the cowhides go through a pre-tanning stage in which they are rehydrated with all the hair removed. Each hide is cut into two pieces called “sides” – which are then put into large vats and filled with natural tannins. For several weeks – not days – they are soaked in tanning liquor.
Since the entire process is longer, most vegetable tanned leather products tend to be thicker and stiffer than chrome tanned leather ones (but get softer eventually when the leather breaks in). That’s why vegetable tanning works best for higher end bags. The leathers are superior to their chrome tanning counterparts in character, durability and holding ability. They’re known for their classic leather smell as well as excellent patina.
- Country Of Origin & Making
A lot of times, the origin of the leather determines the quality of the bag. We know of some countries that constantly produce quality leather like Italy, England, France and the US. History shows that those countries have a good track record of tanning leather well.
But these days you need a little more discretion – especially when it comes to labels. There are companies which try to capitalize on the “Italy” reputation by doing all the work in another country and simply finishing the leather in Italy. Then they stamp the product as Italian leather – which is how they sell chrome tanned leather or low-quality leathers at higher prices.
You’ll want to look out for premium leather – where the hide selection and tanning are all performed in Italy or other reputable countries. You can only trust the people there to have great skill and attention to detail throughout the bag making process.
- Durability & Handwork
The best leather bags come from the most durable leathers. They’re professional works of art – it’s not just about putting different parts together. Two things have to be involved: (1) a careful selection of leather and (2) precise stitching.
The ideal bag can hold a certain weight and be moved around without being weakened at all. That’s why the grain is crucial – full-grain leather makes the most durable bags. But top-grain leather is a more affordable alternative that also works.
The stitching on a bag should be straight, barely noticeable and without any loose threads. It’s important that you check the inner and outer surfaces for this consistency.
The handles should also be attached to the body through reinforced stitching or metal fixtures. You don’t want those handles glued to the bag – they’re at risk of getting loose or coming off.
At Mustache Trading, we provide high quality leather bags at an affordable price, shop today!