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Veg v. Chrome Tanning

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Retromoto

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Andy,
Great write-up.
While I've never been under any illusion that Horsehide wears any better or worse than Cowhide or any other hides for that matter, I do feel it was used more so in different periods of time on different types of jackets/coats. It has a distinct look and feel and for me looks great on specific period clothing.
Retromoto
 

Horace Debussy Jones

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This is indeed an interesting and informative thread. :eusa_clap However, the more I learn, the more confused I get here, as far as historical accuracy of leather garments is concerned anyway.
When did the chrome tanning method take precedence over the older vegetable tanning process? Between the world wars maybe? So if that is the case, a veg tanned jacket meant to emulate the look and feel of a world war one era jacket would be best done with the veg process perhaps?
Also, I seem to recall a time, (back in the 80s when I worked for Florsheim) that chrome tanning was more expensive due to the relative scarcity of the strategic metal chrome at the time I think. Or so they said, maybe nothing more than a marketing ploy though. [huh]
Seems both processes have their advantages, but veg tanned jackets would exhibit a more "vintage" look faster than chrome. But the chrome method is more durable. Is anyone making leather with the best of both worlds considered?
 

ykurtz

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This is indeed an interesting and informative thread. :eusa_clap However, the more I learn, the more confused I get here, as far as historical accuracy of leather garments is concerned anyway.
When did the chrome tanning method take precedence over the older vegetable tanning process? Between the world wars maybe? So if that is the case, a veg tanned jacket meant to emulate the look and feel of a world war one era jacket would be best done with the veg process perhaps?
Also, I seem to recall a time, (back in the 80s when I worked for Florsheim) that chrome tanning was more expensive due to the relative scarcity of the strategic metal chrome at the time I think. Or so they said, maybe nothing more than a marketing ploy though. [huh]
Seems both processes have their advantages, but veg tanned jackets would exhibit a more "vintage" look faster than chrome. But the chrome method is more durable. Is anyone making leather with the best of both worlds considered?
The chromexcel HH used by Aero is dual tanned, i.e. both chrome and veg tanned. Check out Horweens site. More info about the tanning process and leathers that are both chrome and veg tanned.
 

Superfluous

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The chromexcel HH used by Aero is dual tanned, i.e. both chrome and veg tanned. Check out Horweens site. More info about the tanning process and leathers that are both chrome and veg tanned.

Horween’s description of Chromexcel: http://horween.com/leathers/chromexcel/

"Chromexcel is the original pull-up leather; using time honored techniques and formulas that were developed nearly 100 years ago. Chromexcel is still produced in the United States using a bark retannage from a proprietary recipe, and then genuine hot stuffed with our secret blend of natural oils and greases. Chromexcel is characterized by a rich pull-up in full aniline, hand rubbed finishes. Made to this day with old world craftsmanship, modern Chromexcel carries on a long history of superior comfort and durability."

Interestingly, Horween does not state that the veg tanning portion of the Chromexcel process incorporates a complete veg tan. In other words, it is unclear whether Chromexcel genuinely consists of two full and complete tans – chrome and veg – or whether Chromexcel only implements a partial veg tanning process as the overlay to the chrome tan. The Chromexcel process takes considerably longer than a pure chrome tan, but less time than most veg tans, thus suggesting that the veg tan portion of the Chromexcel process may be abbreviated as compared to a pure veg tan. I have no idea what, if any, difference this makes.

Horween offers several pure veg tanned leathers: http://horween.com/leathers/full-tannage-list/

The following is an interesting article: http://wornandwound.com/2013/09/27/horween-leather-a-watch-nerds-primer/
 

TXFlyGuy

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Well, that sums it up for me. My leather jackets (4), all chrome tanned, look good, have absolutely zero odor (other than a very natural and pleasing leather aroma), and are wearing quite well. Two of the jackets are well over 10 years old (Chinese origin) and get wadded up in suitcases weekly, yet come out looking great. These two (from Sams and Wilsons) cost $99. One of these in particular has leather that is "glove soft", almost buttery in feel. I would guess lamb.

So spending $$$ is not always necessary if you simply want a long wearing, good looking, functional jacket.

I refuse to wad up my G&B A-2 or my Schott G-1 in a suitcase, or an airline overhead bin!

Chrome...veg...in the end, I don't really care.
 
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Deacon211

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Hey Andy,

Great info! Another reason to have this thread stickied.

To clarify my earlier statement, I didn't mean to suggest that Veg Tanning was all hype for inferior leather.

But, I recall a maker, to remain nameless, in whose advertising material it was suggested (or just plain stated) that veg tanning was a process used by at least some of the original WWII jacket makers and was a sign of the maker's attention to authenticity.

This is not to say that it's wrong to make a repro jacket with veg tanned leather. But I think it's a little disingenuous to say something like,

"Hey, look how authentic our jackets are...they're veg tanned!"

I'd just rather someone say to me that veg tanning isn't necessarily authentic to the jacket in question, but it really captures the color, or the feel, or just makes a jacket of the level of quality that were available in the originals.

That's the issue I have with "mil-spec". It's just IMO overused and suggests that one is getting a real issue item, when it really means no such thing.

Knowing that a veg tanned jacket isn't necessarily authentic won't prevent me from ever buying another one. My two favorite jackets are veg tanned. But, I think it nice to know the straight scoop on an item...especially if its historical accuracy is part of its allure.

Anyway, I've learned a lot from John and your replies. Thanks again!

Deacon
 
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hpalapdog

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When did the chrome tanning method take precedence over the older vegetable tanning process? Between the world wars maybe? So if that is the case, a veg tanned jacket meant to emulate the look and feel of a world war one era jacket would be best done with the veg process perhaps?

In the UK from the turn of the century, but it really took off during WW1. Men's outfitters placed ads in the magazines for coats saying they were chrome tanned and had greater water resistance.

For boots, straps, saddles, shoe soles etc. veg tanning, then as now, was required to get the required body and stiffness.

Expensive leather goods today are often veg or combination tanned. Pure chrome tanned leather lacks the required crisp hand and can lack patina regardless of the top coat finish. A chrome leather comes out of the tanning process purple blue and needs to be vat dyed the required colour. A veg tanned leather come out a light to dark tan colour and often only requires a top coat finish. As the top coat wears thin you can get a nice translucent effect.

AFAIK all goatskin USN jackets from WWII are veg tanned. The leather was Indian sourced. I've seen an Indian tannery. Open air tanning pits using bark tannins. The company was several hundred years old. The process is a slow one but produces the sort of character people traditionally associate with leather and also the nice smell !
Perhaps some people today aren't aware what leather smells like if they've only seen cheaper, heavily processed, chrome leather splits.
 
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Deacon211

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AFAIK all USN jackets from WWII are veg tanned. The leather was Indian sourced.

Oooooooooh, I was so close! LOL.

So I thought from reading JC's post that the Gov't specs demanded Chrome tanning. I assumed that would apply to A-2s AND 422s/G-1s.

Is that not true for the Navy jackets?

My Eastman G-1 is veg tanned and is very different from my issue G-1 which was definitely chrome, but that might be the lacquer finish on the Eastman version.

The few old 422s I've handled have the same tough, shiny appearance of my issue G-1 when it got old, which seems to indicate that they were chrome tanned.

But, being no expert, my comparison might be judging the dye, the finish, who knows.

Deacon

EDIT: So, I stumbled on Moore's Website, which is a great repository for M-422/G-1 pictures and it seems that the vast majority of his jackets are veg-tanned. He does state though that some WWII models may have been chrome tanned as well.

So, apparently, I am currently incapable of telling the difference between the two, since the presumably veg 422s I saw at a recent militaria show looked exactly like my chrome G-1.

But I think that Moore's info is probably as definitive as you are likely to get since he has quite the collection.
 
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thor

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On the LW website, Stu has posted a copy of the 1958 G-1 spec sheet for the J-7823-B series jacket and it specifies "goatskin, chrome-tanned". Not sure if WWII jackets were veg-tanned but the later G-1 jackets apparently were chrome-tanned.
 

hpalapdog

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I doubt chrome tanning existed on a large scale in India pre-war. When I fist visited in 1986 the industrial infrastructure was incredibly dated.
 

thor

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Hi hpalapdog; are you certain that WWII USN goatskin was sourced from India? I would imagine that back then, the military would be especially keen to keep all facets of military clothing procurement and manufacturing domestic.
Just wondering....
 

andyfalzon

Vendor
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europe
The US could have bought raw skins from India and tan them in US

There is no way to tell the tannage from looking at photos. Even if you hold the item in your hands it is still very difficult or impossible.
 
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Otter

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Hi hpalapdog; are you certain that WWII USN goatskin was sourced from India? I would imagine that back then, the military would be especially keen to keep all facets of military clothing procurement and manufacturing domestic.
Just wondering....

Hi Thor, I remember reading that this was the case I just cannot remember where now. Aparently they had serious problems with the volume of goatskin required for the expansion of the USN in WWII and had to look outside the US for additional sources. India was the obvious place, being full of goats.
 

Ishmael

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Lol!

I do not believe that Goodwear, Himel, RMC, Freewheelers, Eastman, and certain other respected leather jacket manufacturers use veg tanned hides for marketing purposes and/or to sucker their clientele. Rather, they perceive a genuine benefit to veg tanned hides. There must be something to it.

Freewheelers use combination chrome/veg tanned leather. Was just reading an interview (in Japanese) with Yasui-san today where he states that he believes that combination tanned is the best blend of durability and aesthetics.
 

andyfalzon

Vendor
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422
Location
europe
I am sorry but when I hear the term "blend" this comparison comes to mind:


0000000576_1.jpg


Blended Whisky price GBP 20

vs

4350-6469glenfiddich197436yobox.jpg


Single Malt 36 years old, price GBP 1450
 

wild_balls

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WESTCOAST OF SWEDEN
The US could have bought raw skins from India and tan them in US

There is no way to tell the tannage from looking at photos. Even if you hold the item in your hands it is still very difficult or impossible.
Speaking of photos. Here are some of great pictures taken of horrible conditions in a tannery somewhere!



 
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