Not all leather is created equal. If you’ve purchased “investment shoes” (those that are meant to last more than a few seasons) - or even looked at them - you’ve probably realized that leather from Italy is highly desirable. Because of the time and materials that go into making them, shoes and boots made from Italian leather also often demands a higher price.
So what makes Italian leather so special?
First of all, the hard work and high quality materials that go into producing quality Italian leather is expensive. The process of preparing leather for beautiful shoes and boots is not easy - it takes a lot of time, attention, and knowledge to get it right, and there are a lot of steps - and “ingredients” involved in the process.
You’ve probably heard of tanning leather - and vegetable tanning, in particular. The process, which was invented in Tuscany, involves numerous steps of natural treatments, whereby raw hides are transformed over the course of many months, using vegetable-based ingredients in large wooden drums.
The results of this time-consuming process are beautiful leathers that are elastic and smooth, with nuanced shading, that’s also incredibly durable and resilient to water and the elements.
Of course science has come up with ways to replicate this process, but using chemicals to speed things up in order to save money comes at a cost - and it isn’t just the leather that suffers.
When large factories process leather for cheap shoes, the quality of the hides are lower, the chemicals used are bad for both the planet and the people working with them, much of the waste ends up in rivers or underground, and the product is far inferior to the much more expensive, time-consuming process of tanning leather by hand.
And while you might save some money at the register, you’re certainly not getting a good value. Your shoes might last one season, but they may also stain your socks, your sofa, and - some would argue - your soul!
The Value of History
Italian Leather boots have been highly regarded in the design and fashion world for hundreds of years, and for good reason. Aside from the immediately recognizable beauty, the longevity and resilience of Italian leather means that your shoes and boots will look good for years - and as long as you care for them, they’ll resist the rain, salt, and almost anything else they come in contact with. You can also feel good about wearing Italian leather, because it’s carefully sourced*, the artisans who produce it aren’t exposed to harsh chemicals, and in many cases, the small tanneries sprinkled through the European countryside are family run - some for generations.
*The cow hides are a by-product of the food industry - no animals are killed solely for their skins.
Full Grain leather is the strongest and most weather-resistant leather. It’s made from the top layer of hide, without being smoothed-out through sanding or buffing. Full grain leather doesn’t hide the skin’s “imperfections” - in fact, this more natural and “raw” look is considered a benefit, displaying the nuances and beauty of the product, and sought out for many styles, especially in boots.
Top Grain leather is made of a thinner layer of hide, which is softer and more flexible than full grain. The surface has been smoothed out, and the artisan has usually added a finish coat to either bring out a shine or make sure it remains matte. Top grain leather doesn’t develop a patina over time, like full grain, but the finish coat increases its resistance to water and stains, making it excellent for shoes you wear every day.
How to Care for your Leather Shoes and Boots
It’s surprisingly easy to care for high-quality Italian leather shoes and boots, and it doesn’t take much time. Of course if your shoes get wet (especially during the winter, when roads are salted), dry them off! Don’t wear the same pair more than two days in a row during wet weather, and let them “breathe” overnight don’t store them in the box until they’ve been allowed to get some air.
If your leather shoes and boots do get a bit dirty, wipe the exterior with a soft cloth and warm water, with a bit of mild soap. Pat them dry with a clean cloth, and once they’ve been fully dried, give them a light buff.
Never soak or rinse Italian leather shoes and boots - this will strip them of their natural beauty and protective qualities! Store your Italian leather shoes and boots away from heat, humidity, and sunlight, preferably wrapped in a bit of soft clean cloth - or the dust bags that came with your shoes.
If you’d like to begin your journey exploring beautiful shoes and boots made from fine Italian leathers, you can shop our selection here. Of course we’re also happy to answer questions and help you select the perfect pair for you - just stop by our store, or call one of our associates at 617-277-8980.