I recently had an email from someone who wanted to know if a leather jacket I had was really tough, not a soft leather jacket. He seemed to indicate that if a leather jacket was soft to the touch it was not a tough leather jacket. So I thought I’d clear up that question in a post today.
How tough, or long lasting a leather jacket is depends on several things, but softness is not one of them. Leather that is soft and flexible to the touch has just been treated very well to get that way. The real test of how rugged a leather jacket is depends on the type of hide, the layer of the hide used and how thick the hide is.
A top grain leather is the layer of hide at the top, where the hair use to be. That layer is the strongest part of the hide. Leather hides are always split into several layers. The layers below the top grain is the split grain leather, which is a bit weaker than the top layer.
Next comes the type of hide. Buffalo, cow and pigskin leather is tougher than lamb and goatskin. So a leather jacket made from the first 3 animals is going to be tougher than one made from the last three.
Finally we have the thickness of the leather. As I said, leather hides are split into several layers. Splitting them thinner gives them more leather to make more leather jackets. However a thinner leather layer is naturally going to be weaker than a thicker one.
Most high quality motorcycle jackets are made from the top grain layer and about 2.0 MM thick. So a 2.0 MM thick top grain, cowhide leather jacket is about as tough and rugged as you can get. A 1.5 MM thick, split grain cowhide leather jacket is not as tough, however it’s still a good leather jacket.
A 1.2 MM thick, split grain goatskin leather jacket,,,,, well,,,, that’s not a good choice for a motorcycle jacket. However it’s perfectly fine for a fashion leather jacket. So again, the softness of a leather jacket is not how you tell if it’s tough or not, it’s the other three I just mentioned.