VTG British biker leathers made of sheephide. why?

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by Motorhead82, Jul 15, 2016.

  1. Motorhead82

    Motorhead82 New in Town

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    Years ago i bought a 70s Lewis Lightning. I had wanted one for years but was slightly disappointed by the hide. The design itself was great but the hide seemed too light and flimsy. My tailor told me it was sheephide but i didn't believe him. I assumed, for the cost they would use something at least as durable as my steerhide Schott perfecto. I sold the jacket and years later got a Mascot. Again, same deal. Great design but seemingly flimsy leather but you know what? always listen to your tailor, its now clear that both are made of sheep leather. I suppose i always associated sheep hide with cheap fashion jackets as well as (pretty cool) flying jackets. It didnt seem like something that would hold up to well on the road although both the Lewis and Mascot were both quite nice.
    I always hear people grouse about how new Lewis jackets just cant measure up to the old but I am sorry, I will take cowhide over sheephide any day.
    I am wondering though...why did they use sheep? Are sheep more plentiful than cows in Britain? (I have never been there).
    It's a matter of taste, I am certainly not knocking those old British brands. I think I will stick with my steerhide Schotts and latter day Lewises from now on though.
     
  2. Justhandguns

    Justhandguns Practically Family

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    I am not aware that Lewis made their jackets with sheep skins in the 70s', but anyway, they were a completely different company in those days. And yes, there are/were more sheep than men in some areas in Britain as you can imagine, so I presume that it is cheaper in terms of abundance (even though some fellows here will tell you than top quality lamb's skin can be as expensive as horsehide).

    The other fact, which has been discussed in plenty of occasions, is that motorcycles were less powerful in the 60s' and 70s'. The protection required at those days was certainly less than today's CE armours and synthetic fabrics. Health and safety was not a big issue anyway. So why bothered with a bulky and heavy leather jacket?
     
  3. Motorhead82

    Motorhead82 New in Town

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    That makes perfect sense!
    The Lewis was definitely sheep but whats odd is my buddy from Montreal also has a 70's Lewis with a different tag that was clearly cowhide. So who knows. maybe it was from earlier?
     
  4. ButteMT61

    ButteMT61

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    Probably because they don't crash like Americans do... ;)
     
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  5. Justhandguns

    Justhandguns Practically Family

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    You will probably understand when you look at this version of Hell's Angels....

     
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  6. Peter Mackin

    Peter Mackin Practically Family

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    And we have corners...so we have an excuse when we fall off ;-)
     
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  7. Motorhead82

    Motorhead82 New in Town

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    I keep reading posts where people compare the hide on their vintage LL jackets to Vanson..makes me think I other got ripped off or it was just a typical. Sold it years ago because I'm not a fan of sheep hide
     
  8. Motorhead82

    Motorhead82 New in Town

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    Atypical*
     
  9. RJR

    RJR

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    :D
     
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  10. zetwal

    zetwal I'll Lock Up

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    I read this as coroners ... OUCH
     
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  11. Corsair42

    Corsair42 One of the Regulars

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    The reason your jacket is Sheepshide is because then, as now, you can choose the hide your jacket was made from. Lewis still have Sheepshide as an option along with cowhide and now horsehide. The Sheepshide jackets tend to be selected by customers who want to wear the jacket as casual wear rather than for riding. It also breaks in a lot quicker so you will get that vintage leather look in very short order. However the Sheepshide jackets are definitely not recommended for riding. Also, as many people choose Sheepshide hide these days for its lighter weight and the aforementioned faster breaking in qualities this has in turn led people to believe the modern Lewis jackets aren't suitable for riding - largely because their only exposure has been to the Sheepshide jackets. As a motorcycle rider and owner of a number of vintage and modern, bespoke Lewis leathers jackets I can definitely vouch that their cowhide is every bit as durable and suited to riding as anything else on the market. Although they lack armour, Im able to fit a back protector and/or an armoured vest under my jacket but unlike a jacket with fitted armour, I can wear it casually and without armour it doesn't lose its shape like jackets with internal armour when you take it out.
     
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  12. Motorhead82

    Motorhead82 New in Town

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    Good reply. I was about to give up on the brand.
     
  13. Motorhead82

    Motorhead82 New in Town

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    Here is a question. Hoe does the Lewis cowhide compare to a Schott? Anyone
    Here is a question. How does the cowhide Lewis uses measure up to Schott steerhide. Can anyone answer this for me? I'd love to hear your opinions
     
  14. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    A decent cowhide Lewis is pretty much the same as the Schott stuff - at least as good, if not better, in my experience (subjective as that may be). Tends to be smoothe, like Schott, rather than grainy.

    JHG and others have covered the for whys of the original sheepskin - plentiful, cheap, and there was neither the size and speed of bike back in the day, nor the perception of motorcycle safety gear. Bear in mind that, despite the British military mandating the use of motorcycle helmets in the UK from 1941 (thanks to pioneering research by the doctor who treated Lawrence of Arabia for fatal head wounds following a bike crash in '35), it was perfectly legal in the UK for individuals to ride a motorcycle without a helmet right up until 1973 (although a reported 88% of bikers had already adopted helmets by this point in time). The first national road speed limit was introduced in the UK as late as the mid sixties - in part in response to the 'ton-up boys'. Back then, of course, being able to do the ton on a rocker's bike was such a big deal because not many bikes could reach that at the time. The idea of safety clothing had still not caught on, nor was the leatherclad rocker the stereotype of the biker. Things changed by the tail end of the sixties, but prior to that the motorcycle represented in the main affordable, working class transport, and the stereotypical 'bike jacket' was a likely to be a waxed cotton Barbour International as a leather.
     
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  15. Monitor

    Monitor I'll Lock Up

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    Great post, Edward, and I would just like to add that all the LL jackets that I have handled were considerably heavier than Schott Steerhide. Truth be told, what Schott refers to as Steerhide is actually a slightly lower grade hide by their own admission, with the so called Naked Cowhide being their high end product.
    Naked Cowhide will range from like heaviest Aero FQHH in the least to Vanson grade stuff, but I personally would still rate LL cowhide slightly higher than even the Naked Cowhide 'cause it's got a much tougher protective coat which makes more water repellent - this being said strictly from a motorcycle safety gear standpoint. Otherwise, they're equally heavy and similar looking hides and saying that one clearly outperforms another would be a lie.
    At some point LL began using pretty mediocre hides though, the stamped grain kinda stuff but nowadays they're as good as anyone else and it also needs to be noted that LL will, in general, show better workmanship than Schott. Then again, more premium stuff from Schott is as good as it gets. My Schott 618HH was a fantastic high end jacket but it's still not comparable to my Schott Confedi CR.

    In short, I prefer current LL cowhide to Schott steerhide.
     
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  16. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    That's interesting; I wasn't aware that Schott considered the naked cowhide to be the "better" of the two. My Schott is a 618; I'd always had the impression - probably just my vintage style bias, of course - that Schott regarded the 613s & 618s - both in steerhide as standard - as their superior option, and the 118 in naked cowhide as the more basic one. I'm sure the 118 was much cheaper as well? I've never tried a 118 on, though I wouldn't turn one down if it came along crazy cheap and in a size down from my 618. I did see the cafe racer equivalent of the 118 (the 141? Basic CR, 3 pockets, naked cowhide) in a London vintage store for just £100 a few months ago, which seemed a very good deal for UK prices, but didn't bite as cash was tight and the CR is not my thing. At half that, I probably would have, though!

    I've never owned Schott HH; I'd consider one, though, as long as it was the stuff without the felt backing.

    As with so many British brands, LL's quality control is reputed to have dropped in the 70s, and lower quality hides were widely in use. They still made a lot of great jackets in that period, but you had to be careful when looking through the rails for a good one - I suppose a bit like buying a cheaper jacket today, where you can get a great Perfecto type for noy much money, but you have to hunt through the ten on the rail for that one really great one...
     
  17. Monitor

    Monitor I'll Lock Up

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    Yep, the Naked Cow is Schott's best hide. But the Naked Cowhide jackets are always a little bit pricier than the Steer ones, even now.

    Schott Steerhide may be a lower grade, arguably top grain hide depending on the definition of the term, due to the applied protecting coating that seals up the pores of the hide thus making it water-repellent. This protective finish also hides natural imperfections of the hide such as scarring, insect bites, etc. Steerhide may also be very slightly sanded as well but it's definitely not stamped or nothing of the sort. It's stiffer and shinier in appearance, and starts off somewhat plastic-y feeling but as with any Schott hide, little wear will bring out the grain and character in no time. By my observation, this is the stuff 80% of all Schott jackets you see floating around is made of.

    The so called naked Naked Cowhide has little if any applied finish, only what's been used in the tanning process, and thus displays much more natural grain compared to Steerhide. It's also the reason why they have to pick only the cleanest hides with the least scarring, bite marks, etc. for Naked Cowhide 'cause due to the lack of the top coating, there's nothing to hide these imperfections. That's also why Naked cow has a dull, mate finish and is softer. It is also, in my experience, considerably heavier. Gail often says Naked Cow is not as water-repellent as Steer but then again, it doesn't appear to be any less susceptible to elements than most other hides I've handled. It's closest to the kind of hides LL is using.

    You also had Schott Dur-O-Jac product line which is the worst of the three 'cause of the lowest grade leather used in the production of these budget jackets. These were made from a highly processed, sanded leather which was then stamped with a textured pattern. Corrected grain leather, if you will. Feels and looks fake. I've had one of these, it's really crappy but also super heavy and tough. Luckily, these budget jackets were always clearly labeled as such.

    Lastly there's the shittiest stuff Schott is outsourcing but these are really mall fashion jackets not meant for riding.

    Schott HH is my favourite by far. It will definitely look like crap when new, so plasticy and shiny that I've had people confusing it with vinyl, but it ages better than most hides I've handled in my not so humble opinion and once fully broken in, you really would have trouble finding a nicer looking leather. Same story with Vanson Comp. weight leather. Felt backing was a crappy move but it's not like it affected the quality of these jackets in any way. They've stopped using it since, anyway. Schott HH also becomes softest of all the leather they use.
     
    Last edited: Jul 20, 2016
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  18. Edward

    Edward Bartender

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    Yeah, the felt-backed stuff only applies to a very specific period; I gathered they'd stopped doing it
    in repsonse to customer feedback. I'd love to handle a Schott HH, just to see how they compare. Might try a 118 sometime - they seem to be cheaper here than a 618, though before buying another schott, I'll probably wait til the pound recovers again, and I visit the US, to avoid the premium UK outlets put on them. Is there any significant difference in cut between the 118 and the 618, or is it really just down the the size labels being "one down"?
     

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