June 05, 2021 5 min read
While searching through the endless websites, in-person labyrinthian stores, or thick-paged catalogs (if that is still your style), you may notice many descriptors attached to any number of leather goods.
“Italian,” “full-grain,” “genuine,” and “aniline” will all pop up frequently wherever you are shopping, no matter the quality of the leather itself. It may begin to feel a bit overwhelming and stressful to figure out what each means. Where does full-grain turn to half-grain?
Is Italian leather also genuine? What is the intersection of aniline and bonded leather? We’ll answer all your questions about leather type here. This article will take you through many questions you might have about one of the major and most confusing categories: aniline leather.
What is aniline, and how is it different from the run-of-the-mill leather that you come across almost every day?
The easiest way to answer the question of what aniline leather is is that aniline leather is a leather that has been treated with soluble chemicals. The problem (or beauty) with this answer is that it begs a follow-up question: what on earth are soluble chemicals? The answer is fascinating:
Soluble chemicals are chemicals that treat the leather, but not so much that it completely changes the appearance or structure. They have properties that allow whatever natural wear you have on that piece of leather to shine through and be brought out.
Historically, this process was either the only option or not at all available, depending on the lineage of leather making that you are coming from. Because of this, Italian leather makers are not generally going to offer aniline leather. It is historically a much more American way of making leather.
Italian leather makers do indeed have access to the soluble chemicals that create the texture of aniline leather. However, the style is not as desirable in those parts of the world.
Since aniline is more than anything a stylistic choice, it is hard to think of a firm pro and con list, as tastes and styles are going to differ from person to person. For example, you may be into an aniline style that looks a bit uneven but has a rich history visibly present within the piece of leather that you own.
Your friend, however, might be a little bit more on the side of clean, even surfaces in his style. This would signal that aniline may be more up your alley than his, but the problem arises when it comes to the quality of leather that is originally being worked with.
As you can understand, a more transparent, original process of tanning the leather sounds great on the surface. You can feel the history of the piece that you have, and it stands out as uniquely that piece of leather and no other.
However, there is also the fact that not all pieces of leather are going to look good this way. Lower quality leather treated, tanned, and produced with the soluble chemicals necessary for the aniline style will tend to look tattered and splotchy. All the natural impurities will not be smoothed out, and it will look worn from the get-go.
Sourcing is such a big part of aniline leather that the price point will generally match the fact that the average piece of cowhide will not be eligible for this process.
This makes aniline generally a good signal of high-quality leather pieces more reliably than monikers common in the marketing departments of the leather industry.
For example, genuine and Italian leathers have a wide, wide variance of quality. Yet, we as consumers are led to believe that these words denote true quality. In comparison, aniline is not a term that we can easily identify its meaning.
In truth, this term denotes a careful selection and care given to the cowhide in its production to give a look that is true to its quality and ethos.
When looking at a company’s website, seeing pieces of aniline might be slightly deceiving as the pictured piece will almost never be the one you receive, and thus yours will look slightly different. This may make you want to shy away from aniline leather, but the true test will be with the quality and transparency of the company you are buying from.
We at Andar have aniline leather that truly will be great looking, even if slightly different from the pictured piece. We chose the leather pieces to tan to fully give the leather the chance to be as great as possible. We treat the pieces with the respect they deserve, and the product that comes out of that respect is something that you will be happy with and constantly curious about.
There could be a tendency to be confused about the difference between aniline leather and distressed leather. This is understandable as both aniline and distressed leather give a more rugged, varied look that could look worn if done improperly or with a low-quality piece of leather.
They inspire the feelings of classic western films by showing off that dusty, rugged look of the period. However, the difference is how they got to the set, along with a few more minor differences that change the way the piece looks overall when examined a bit more closely.
Firstly, aniline leather must be chosen to aniline very early on in its life of production. The method of tanning and treating aniline leather is a painstaking process that may be temperamental.
As we have already previously mentioned, there must be great attention to choosing which leather pieces to make into aniline because it tends to look ragged if a low-quality piece of leather is chosen. Aniline can truly be a beautiful piece, but it must be treated carefully and with plenty of dedication.
In contrast, distressed leather can be made distressed later on in the process. Distressing is a process done to the leather after it has been completely tanned and treated. It gives a truly worn and rugged look tastefully.
Because of the different times in the piece’s production, it is possible to have a piece of leather that is both aniline and distressed, although this is very uncommon for a few reasons.
One of the major differences between these two types of leather is the quality. Not in all cases, but in general, aniline leather is a higher quality of leather than a distressed piece of leather.
This is for a couple of reasons:
Firstly, aniline leather needs a particular type of cowhide to tastefully render a beautiful product: only the highest quality leather can become a worthy aniline piece. On the other hand, distressing leather is a generous procedure that can be applied to lower-quality hides.
Secondly, distressed leather will generally be tanned with distressing in mind, so there will not be as much attention given to each piece as would be with aniline. There is also a tendency to tan the piece to make the distressing process simpler. However, this makes the piece more easily scratched, faded, and worn.
Ultimately, aniline leather is a piece of leather that has undergone a treatment of tanning with soluble chemicals that allows the leather to speak for itself as a quality item. It gives off a rugged, unique look that is one-of-a-kind that is painstaking to accomplish. When done correctly, aniline has a natural look that entrances and delights.