Veg v. Chrome Tanning

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Superfluous, Mar 4, 2014.

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  1. Don Tomaso

    Don Tomaso A-List Customer

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Germany
    There are many fields in which such a "naive" way looking at it - pure = best, blend = less - would simply give you a nonsense result, so I call this a weak point.
    See, I can argue with that.
     
  2. andyfalzon

    andyfalzon Vendor

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    422
    Location:
    europe
    My German friend, the "pure = best, blend = less " it applies to leathers. You can't argue with that.
     
  3. BuzzTheTower

    BuzzTheTower New in Town

    Messages:
    39
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Regarding chrome tanned goatskin for Navy jackets, I believe that it is all chrome tanned, and most, if not all, of the leather was tanned and sourced from the United States. The rumor in the book Hell Bent for Leather is just that, a rumor, with no basis on documented facts that I have personally seen. There were many jacket makers in the 1930s-1940s in the USA, and goatskin was a staple, though horsehide was more common. One company was H&L Block of San Francisco, a goatskin tannery that made the decision to build leather jackets to increase market share and profits.

    I've handled a large number of original Navy jackets, in many different contracts, and from what I can tell, they are all chrome tanned. The paperwork for a 250K order of M-422A jacket to Gordon & Ferguson states chrome tanned goatskin (they were close to the Pfister & Vogel tannery). All the parts were to be made in the color "chocolate" (except the lining), and how would an overseas tannery know what chocolate means? The panels are all supposed to match (i.e. no sleeves that are brighter a color than the body), and often, with overseas tanneries, color variation would have been a problem. Can you imagine how much leather would go into a 250K order of M-422A jackets? How do you ensure that the color is uniform?

    That being said, I've seen dark russet G&F M-422A jackets, and some that are quite dark. The leather was in near-new condition, so nothing altered the shade.

    I really doubt that goatskin was shipped in from overseas. It could have been, but who used it, and to what degree? Do we have any proof that it was used? What about Army Air Corps A-2 contracts done in goatskin? Who supplied those hides, as they were big contracts, too? That goatskin had to pass rigorous gov't and military requirements, and over and over, the words chrome tanned are used.

    I cannot speak for what anyone else likes, but the chrome tanned goatskin that I've handled on many original Navy jackets is fantastic. Thick, with large grain, and with a stunning, beautiful finish. The percentage of goatskin I've seen from WWII that I would describe as yucky is very tiny - most of it gives me tremendous feelings of jealousy as I wish tanneries today would so easily make hides like those of the 1940s. I use both chrome and veg-tanned goatskin now. I have two tanneries that do great work, and the results are a bit different. The chrome goatskin is much softer, and I love the finish. The veg-tanned goatskin is stiffer, and some love that, while others think it feels a little hard for a jacket.

    Here's the information I gave the customer regarding thread in WWII Navy jackets:

    ====================
    Thread: during WWII, nylon was desperately needed for parachutes, so yes, cotton thread was used on the earlier contracts. Once out of the M-422 series, we see Nylon used on the AN-6552 and AN-J-3A series, and all jackets after that. The thread is much more stable in the prodution process (slides more easily through the leather and machines, and doesn't break anywhere near as easily as cotton).
    ====================

    The information given doesn't mean that cotton thread breaks easily on completed jackets, but means you have to have your machine set up properly to sew with it. Nylon thread is so strong, you can sew with no worry of breaking it when going over thick layers of leather, and that's why the Navy intended, after 1943, to use nylon, rather than cotton. Yes, cotton was used on the M-422/M-422A contracts, and after that, we see the use of nylon.

    Cotton thread, in copleted jackets, is very strong, and holds up quite well.

    As for chrome tanned horsehide, I've also seen mamy originals from WWII that have stupendous, beautiful leather, and I am sure that it was chrome tanned. The regulations call for chrome tanned leather, and there would be no reason to use veg-tanned leather unless companies had it available in large quantities, and it passed inspecition. Charles DiSipio posted documents years ago from several tanneries that were offering ther goods for "leather flying jackets", which is assumed to be A-2s, in certain grades and colors, and their soft hand. I can't remember what I did with those files, but if I'm lucky, I may find them.

    We cannot know how many jackets were done in horsehide and cowhide, though. It's too complicated to tell the difference, and with tanning methods being so different, how could anyone be sure that a jacket is horsehide or cowhide? I took apart a rather rotten Monarch A-2 jacket that has holes in the back panel, lots of little holes. What were those holes? On the inside of the back panel was a massive letter M with a circle around it, a brand in the animal's skin. I thought that was funny. It was intense enough that it caused holes in the panel.

    I hope that helps!
    John
     
    Last edited: Mar 18, 2014
  4. BuzzTheTower

    BuzzTheTower New in Town

    Messages:
    39
    Location:
    Seattle, WA
    Another funny note. In the book Hell Bent for Leather, it is stated that A-2 jackets never had silver snaps, ever. This isn't true, as Cable Raincoat and S.H. Knopf used silver snaps, and in a little moment of hilarity, they show General Douglas MacArthur's A-2, made by Cable Raincoat, with the silver snaps shining in the light for all to see. It was a good book in it's time, but the information should be read with a grain of salt.
     
  5. Fanch

    Fanch I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    4,475
    Location:
    Texas
    That was incredibly interesting and informative. Thanks. :thumb:
     
  6. Always without an argumentative tone or superior presence concerning his knowledge and opinion.
    HD
     
  7. Sloan1874

    Sloan1874 I'll Lock Up

    Messages:
    8,326
    Location:
    Glasgow
    +1
     
  8. hpalapdog

    hpalapdog One of the Regulars

    Messages:
    295
    Location:
    uk
    This is one of the G&F jackets I used to own. It's the thinner type of goatskin with a crisp hand rather than the more rubber like feel. The lack of creases on the arms suggests in was never a soft leather. The jacket had enough use to wear through parts of the lining. I think it's veg tanned. The feel is closer to stiffish modern veg tanned goatskin rather than a softer chrome.

    Perhaps a simple PH test would show if bark tannins are involved in tanning ?


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    This is the mid 1950's Foster G-1. Came NOS in a sealed poly bag and box. Soft from first wear. Chrome tanned.

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    Last edited: Mar 19, 2014
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