What To Expect From Horsehide (Appearance, Color, Handfeel, etc.)

Discussion in 'Outerwear' started by whorishconsumer, Feb 24, 2021.

  1. whorishconsumer

    whorishconsumer New in Town

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    Bringing over a question I posed in Styleforum, in the hopes I may find some informed input here.

    I have commented elsewhere that while my Real McCoy's horsehide A2 appears to have both a density (surface not thickness) and richness to it, some other Real McCoy's horsehides I have handled appear porous and brittle. However, save my recently-acquired A2, I really only have experience with cow and lamb.

    Could someone edify me by explaining why certain horsehides, such as below, appear dried-out, despite being supposedly heavily treated and dyed? The below is Shinki horsehide and, I believe, vegetable-tanned.

    [​IMG]

    To better demonstrate the comparison I am making as the basis for my question, here is a close-up of the Real McCoy's A2, which is made with horsehide from the same tannery as that above (Shinki) and, I believe, tanned in the same manner (vegetable), but dyed differently.

    [​IMG]

    And, not as up-close, here's a random Saint Laurent jacket in, I believe. lamb.

    [​IMG]

    To me, the latter two appear more supple, not to mention rich in color. I'm assuming the "richness" is in part due to the dying technique, but that doesn't account for the fact that the latter two appear like they can either withstand wear without breaking (horsehide A2) or stretch (SLP), while the horsehide originally pictured appears like it may tear.

    What's not addressed in these photos is the handfeel of these jackets. Having the A2 myself, as well as a lambskin jacket – although not the one pictured above – these feel more flexible and accommodating as compared to the RMC horsehides I recently handled that had the appearance of the image above.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
  2. dudewuttheheck

    dudewuttheheck Call Me a Cab

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    Horsehides, especially vegetable tanned ones, will feel more stiff at first in general, especially compared to lambskin. This is normal.

    However, you cannot just generalize horsehide as a single entity vs. everything else. Different tanneries, different tanning methods, leather thickness, batch variation, etc all play a part in making a leather what it is.

    As has been discussed recently on this forum, even Shinki horsehide is not all the same thing. There are different types and different levels of quality. RMC likes their Shinki a certain way. Having owned three RMC jackets with all three of them being made of Shinki horsehide, I would not describe them as dry or brittle at all. They feel fairly stiff at first, but are not overly stubborn and break in really nicely. That stiffness helps give the tunneling effect on the arms for example.

    However, other horsehides feel and look quite different. Aero's Vicenza for example feels lighter, more flexible, and altogether different in my opinion vs. something like Shinki. Heavier HH such as Horween CXL feels even stiffer than Shinki, for example and there are other examples like that, such as Lost World's fully chrome tanned HH (though I haven't tried this particular leather so I don't know exactly how it feels, I am going off of how others describe it.)

    In some ways, Horween CXL horsehide is probably more similar to Horween CXL cowhide or even Vanson Competition Weight cowhide than it is to Shinki or Vicenza or the like and Shinki HH in some ways has more in common with Badalassi cowhide than it does to Horween CXL HH. At least in my experience having handled and tried on jackets in all of those leathers, that's how I feel.

    In addition, I would also strongly disagree with the assertion that the lambskin you show looks richer than the Shinki horsehide you are showing. To me, it is exactly the opposite. I would also say Badalassi leathers I have handled look richer than the lamb as well. Then again, it's also black and I think brown tends to show off richness of color better overall.

    I'm not saying horsehide doesn't have general characteristics, just that you can't really group horsehide all together easily.

    With that said, it's never going to drape the same way as lamb or feel as soft. It's generally a heck of a lot tougher and more durable though.

    Seriously, neither of those Shinki jackets you show look dry in any way to me. I have had hides that look a lot like that and they were not dry. Stiff? Yes. Dry? Not at all. Maybe you're looking at the unique way horsehide grain looks? The way it breaks is pretty unique. It's not as even as other leathers and has a more striated look, which can make it look cracked in some cases, but that does not mean it's dry.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
  3. El Marro

    El Marro Call Me a Cab

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    It’s all a matter of perspective I guess. To me the first photo you posted looks like exactly the kind of wonderfully grainy Shinki hide that I love. I don’t see any defects or signs that it would tear or not stand up to use. The second photo looks great as well, although much smoother and more uniform.
    As far as what makes them different, it could be any number of things. Every manufacturer has their tricks that they like to use to bring out the grain and in some cases to create the illusion of age and wear on a hide. Some makers wash the hides, some tumble dry them, and I’m sure there are other techniques that are used as well. For that matter, how the hide is photographed can make a big difference in how looks on the screen.
    I’m not sure how well that answers your question but it’s a start anyway.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
  4. dudewuttheheck

    dudewuttheheck Call Me a Cab

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    Take a look at these Shinki horsehide boots that I own.
    Do these look dry? The way the grain looks, I could see it appearing that way, but trust me. These are not dry at all. I can quite easily tell that they are well tanned and not in need of conditioning at all.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    You may not like how this looks, but it's not dry or brittle. It's relatively stiff and the grain is quite pronounced, but this is actually quite unique and desirable to many people, myself included. Also, I must add that I have never seen a lambskin leather with this level of color depth and richness.
     
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  5. Jin431

    Jin431 One Too Many

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    different finishes for different applications. it depends what the manufacturer is wanting for a specific jacket pattern build. horse hide comes in different weights and it can be tanned with various techniques so not one is the same from another even though they are processed in the same tannery. also fashion brands tend to use lamb skin which is naturally more supple compared to your steer/cow/horse because some people don't want to deal with breaking in jackets.
     
  6. TheDonEffect

    TheDonEffect One of the Regulars

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    Yeah, I echo alot of what was mentioned. Another comparison could be drawn to denim, the mainstream offerings are essentially broken in, soft, supple, etc etc, whereas alot of expensive raw denim feels like a bastard love child of sandpaper and cardboard. Mainstream brands take raw denim and work them over to their spec, whereas raw denim gives it to you as the name indicates.

    Leather is similar in some respects in that there's no one defining characteristic since any of the characteristics can be adjusted based on how the tannery wants to make it, and even within those batches there are a ton of deviations, and on top of that you're dealing with a dead animal skin and not a uniformly woven fabric. With that said, HH tends to be a lot more stuff and robust than lamb, hence lamb's popularity because of its off the rack wearability. Cow has a ton of durability and if often made to be more flexible to be softer and wearable out the gate. HH then starts to get you into a more niche market segment, much like raw denim, with a consumer that wants to break in the material to ultimately get a more personalized fit and character, a was poetic nostalgia to garments of yore. As such, alot of the popular HH you see were made with more of a masochistic charm, lol.

    So I always felt it was important to see and feel whatever you're buying if possible, or have good trust that the maker will produce a jacket in a somewhat predictable fashion. Someone just posted another thread recently that showed the widely varying CXL hides, where some are matte and smooth akin to paper while others have more of a sheen with a ton of wrinkles akin to foil. I think that's one of the things that especially the higher end makers have in common is a more consistent leather quality.

    Looking at your photos, I think I know what you mean. The Shinki in the first has a ton of wrinkles, creases, that conjures up comparisons to when you have dry skin or an aging face, and as I move down your photos, the texture is more uniform. So I think what you're referring to is the appearance of cracking in the leather, ie a more dry appearance, while the others look to be younger looking, uniform, crack free appearance.

    What's interesting is that on these boards, the first jacket would probably be more prized for its character rich appearance, while to the layman (myself included) would likely prefer the more uniform look with the rich appearance, which also feel real good and therefore gives off the perception of a premium feel.

    So let me say this, HH, much like raw denim, is highly regarded with their respective enthusiasts, and it's a labor of love to endure the break in period, much like how beer heads seem to think that the more bitter beer tastes, the better it is. Of course I'm being facetious and don't want to reduce all enthusiasts so simply, but in the end of the day, horse will never feel like a lamb jacket, and if you like uniformity and tight graining, you may not get horsehide.

    I spent the weekend breaking in my CXL jacket, and at points I wondered why didn't I just stick with my naked cowhide jacket which has a more lamb like feel to it. But it's developing nice character, aka wrinkles/cracking/graining/charming imperfections, and as it warms up has a great, interesting feel. But I had a good laugh with a friend when I showed how my jacket can stand on its own, and seeing someone's recent post of 3 years of use and it can still sorta sit up made me take pause... that aspect never goes away?

    Anyway, I would love to find a black goat overdye.
     
  7. dudewuttheheck

    dudewuttheheck Call Me a Cab

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    @TheDonEffect I like the raw denim comparison. It's not a one to one as you said, but it's not the most mass market friendly and requires work to get the most out of it.
     
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  8. Jin431

    Jin431 One Too Many

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    I was writing this up word for word but accidentally hit post reply too early but nevermind since you so eloquently summed up what I wanted to express lol
     
  9. Blackadder

    Blackadder Call Me a Cab

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    Assuming you are coming from premium designer brand to the repro Amekaji brands, what some of these top Amekaji brands are trying to achieve is to simulate how the materials feel and age but at an accelerated pace. So your RM A-2 may look and feel like a dry beef jerky in a much shorter time than an original A-2 and yes this is because of the processing as many have pointed out. I am sure if you had started with Schott or Lewis Leather horsehide jackets, you would form a completely different expectation of HH.
    If your view of HH is limited to RM then it would be a bit skewed. I am sure you can read all about veg tanned vs chrome tanned elsewhere on the internet so I am not going to get into that again. You mentioned the dyeing process and I think you are onto something. RM sometimes actually often times hand overdye the jackets so the top coat would fade quickly. One final process in dyeing is setting and it looks like RM deliberately skip that step or reduce the setting so the color can come off quickly and one of the results is that the surface dye may seem/feel flaky and dry without the setting coat.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
  10. TheDonEffect

    TheDonEffect One of the Regulars

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    Mmm, this is a great explanation and gives me more insight on what I'm probably totally missing, and beef jerky comparison is perfect.

    Yeah, I often wondered what leather that's designed to break in quickly to the point that it's very intentional does in the long run.
     
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  11. Blackadder

    Blackadder Call Me a Cab

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    It is not just leather Buzz and RM often pride themselves for using the traditional nylon 66 and therefore can reproduce the sunburn effect of original nylon flight jackets. You often hear/read about terms like teacore 茶芯 and sunburn 日焼 in the Amekaji circle. Then there are those who mess with the denim and indigo dye to recreate the original vintage 501s feel and/or accelerate the fading.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
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  12. Carlos840

    Carlos840 My Mail is Forwarded Here

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    That's like asking "what to expect from wine".
    There are a lot of different horsehides, with a lot of different characteristics.
    The only think you can really answer is "expect differences"
     
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  13. dannyk

    dannyk One Too Many

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    As someone mentioned even within the same batches there can be considerable deviation. Leather is the living skin of individual animals. One way to think is say you have a twin, or best friend who lives next door. You’re the same age, growing up in the same environment, eating basically the same diet, getting the same amount of sun/weather, both for the sake of this argument playing the same sports and living very similar lifestyles. Your skins appearance and characteristics may have way more in common than say mine, but they still won’t be 100% matches. You both will still have different thickness, oil contents, scars from different accidents. Now just instead of you and your twin; make it two horses or two cows from the same ranch. Who’s skins both go to Shinki or Horween for tanning. They both get used for the same processing. They will both come out slightly differently because they are different to begin with.
     
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  14. glider

    glider One of the Regulars

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    I think the question was about the differences between horse hide and cow hide and so far no one has attempted to answer it.
     
  15. dannyk

    dannyk One Too Many

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    Because there is no discernible difference. Horsehide has a tighter fiber structure which theoretically makes it slightly more abrasion resistant and water resistant. But to the eye, hand, touch, look; they are almost always identical. And 90% of any difference is tanning method and finish. Any inherent characteristics to horse or cow can be negated or enhanced based upon its tanning and finishing method. So people are tying to explain that. Saying it matters about each hide itself, where and how it’s been tanned and has any top coat or finish been applied. Even lifelong leather workers when just handed leather with no background can find it almost impossible to discern the difference. In general a lot of horse for whatever reason is skiived or cut thinner and cow a little thicker. But heavy horse exists just look at like Lost Worlds. So to anyone curious it’s not really an issue that can be answered. Pick a hide that looks good to you and buy it. There’s definitely differences with goat, Buffalo, kangaroo, kudu etc... but horse and cow are treated basically the same and used for essentially the same things.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
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  16. Mich486

    Mich486 One Too Many

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    Hmmm cow? He’s looking at 2 HH jackets from The Real McCoy’s made out of Shinki.

    They look different as they have been finished differently but without more details is difficult to know why. As others have said Shinki HH doesn’t all look alike because it goes through different tanning methods plus the makers sometimes apply their own finishing touches. More info is needed to provide an aswer.
     
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  17. El Marro

    El Marro Call Me a Cab

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    Nobody has attempted to answer that because that was not the question. Nowhere in the title of the thread nor in the body of the original post does it ask about differences between horsehide and cowhide.
     
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  18. Will Zach

    Will Zach One Too Many

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    Good point above about horse being split more often than cow. Maybe it has to do with the cost, as well as stiffness. Thick horse tends to be stiff as hell.
     
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  19. handymike

    handymike I'll Lock Up

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    In regards to hand/feel, a horsehide jacket will usually be stiffer than a lambskin one. I bought into the horsehide “hype wagon” years ago, and every vintage HH jacket is still relatively firm. That said, they tend to hold up much better than their suede, calfskin, or lamb equivalents. I like the characteristic sleeve creasing you get with a HH jacket, but this also can happen with Steerhide. Steer/cow tends to loosen up a bit more over time, and feels a bit “spongier.” This is a generalization as I did own a supple Horsehide jacket from Thedi which didn’t crease as fast. Because of the different structure of HH and SH, a HH jacket will get creases with a more sharp edge (more like a line or pucker- think of RAW denim- great comparison) whereas a bovine skin will develop more of a “roll”.
    The feel of the leather really does come down to tanning. There are very stiff cowhide jackets and supple horse ones, but I don’t think lamb is going to ever be as burly. Lewis Leathers offers a Rutland Sheep that is gorgeous, it it thicker and more substantial than most lamb I’ve felt, but will still break in with drape over time.

    Edit- I hope the OP returns at some point.
     
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2021
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  20. TheDonEffect

    TheDonEffect One of the Regulars

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    Yeah, from my experiences which is not remotely close to be all encompassing, HH tends to be stiffer and robust than cowhide, my theory is that it's perhaps due to horses being able to live longer vs. cows?

    But yeah, this will probably be my one and only HH, if I want a teacore/pullup, I'll go steer next time around although those leathers with those characteristics tend to be stiff as well, but seems to break down. I would really dig a teacore/overdye black goat leather, but I have yet to see a maker with one.
     

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