The Horween Leather Company has set the standard for the highest quality leathers since 1905. We offer a wide range of tannages from our vegetable tanned Genuine Shell Cordovan to Sport Leathers and Footwear Leathers, such as Chromexcel. As always, all of our leather is processed at our location on the corner of Elston and Ashland in Chicago, Illinois.


On Leather Quality and Properties

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 // By

A customer recently shared a styleforum post with me after mentioning that there has been some discussion surrounding leather quality, especially with regards to “break.” Break can be loosely defined as the physical and cosmetic character leather exhibits when the grain side of a piece of leather is creased or folded back against itself. Break is generally considered to be an important factor in footwear, as the vamp (the area over the forefoot and toes) is folded and creased against itself during each step. There are many times when break is not a consideration, such as in a belt, as the leather will never be manipulated in the same way as a piece of footwear. “Good” break presents as tight creasing, and exists across a broad spectrum. Every piece of leather will break differently given the inherent natural qualities of the hide.

Break is technically the de-lamination of the grain from the layers below. The grain is a harder, more tightly organized, fiber structure than the layers even just below. These different layers have different elasticities. Further, the outer/grain and inner/flesh portions of the leather are traveling marginally different distances when flexed in a vamp. The effect is that the grain either keeps up and bends with the layers below, or it is forced outward (since it is firmer/denser and bending around a tighter radius than flesh). The grain is always eventually forced outward and the visual and structural result is break.

There are many factors that determine how leather will crease when used in a piece of footwear:

  • Tannage
  • Leather Drying Method
  • Leather Thickness
  • Hide Section
  • Shoe Pattern
  • Construction
  • Fit

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