Hi everybody. I thought I’d make a quick post today about leather thickness after Curt asked about his buffalo leather jacket vs his cowhide one. Now as I’ve said many times, a leather hide is split into two or more layers when they process it. The top layer that had the hair on it is called the top grain layer. The other layers below it are the split grain layers.
So just how thick do they make the splits? How do they know how thick to make them? Well after all these years of making leather, the leather industry has come up with some standards for leather hide thicknesses. There basically are three main thickness levels, with some differences in each one.
The three levels are:
1.0 mm (or less) used for fashion leathers, purses and so on.
1.3 mm (1.3 to 1.5 average) This is the most common for motorcycle jackets and riding leather.
2.0 mm only used in Naked Leather.
So lets review those levels a bit more, shall we?
When you want a lightweight fashion leather jacket, ladies bikini, halter top, some vest, skirts, shorts and purses and other small leather items, the 1.0 mm or less is often used. You don’t need it thick to protect yourself from a fall off your bike. In fact you want it thin so it’s soft, light and flexible. These can be made of lambskin, sheepskin, goat, pig, cowhide and buffalo. But normally the first three types of hides are used.
1.3 mm on up to say 1.8 but an average of 1.5 mm is used in motorcycle jackets and other leather items for bikers and heavy use. So why the different thicknesses, why not all the same thickness? Because every hide is different and different in thickness. Let’s say they make a top grain thickness layer of 1.5 mm.
Ok, so now the rest of the hide, the split side, comes out to 1.3 mm. That thickness, 1.3 mm, is the standard for quality motorcycle jacket leather. So they make a jacket out of that and it is a quality motorcycle leather jacket, but only 1.3 mm. The next hide they again make a 1.5 mm top layer. But this time the split layer is 1.6 mm thick.
So they leave it like that, or make it 1.5 mm. That’s why there are different thicknesses. 1.3 mm thick leather hide is the minimum for a quality motorcycle leather jacket. So you can have a 1.3 mm thick buffalo leather jacket, and a 1.8 mm thick cowhide leather jacket and both are quality jackets, see?
Now on to the last thickness, the 2.0 mm. ONLY naked leather jackets are this thick. A naked leather jacket is the top grain split, with no buffing, sanding or altering the top grain. It’s a full grain hide, and they are hard to find that requires no altering or buffing. 2.0 mm is the thickest most any leather jacket will be.
Now, you can still have a top grain jacket that is only around 1.5 mm thick. It all depends on the leather company. Some figure a 1.5 mm thickness is plenty, so they never go over that. Or they make some 2.0 mm but also some 1.5 mm. Is a 2.0 mm jacket better than a 1.5 mm one? Well I suppose, but not by much.
The leather standard for motorcycle leather jackets and heavy leather wear is 1.3 mm. So if it’s a good leather company and they make quality leather, than a 1.3 mm leather jacket is a quality one, just like their 2.0 mm one. But a top grain leather jacket almost always is at least 1.5 mm thick and over. So, now you know more about why some jackets seem thicker than others, yet both are quality jackets.
Now, most stores and dealers that carry leather jackets will have no idea what the thickness is. They should know what type of hide it is, if it’s a top grain or split grain, and if the top grain one is full, naked or analine. So you very well could look at two that are exactly the same, yet one is a bit thicker than the other.
Damn, some short post this was! I hope that makes the thickness of leather a bit clearer for you. As always, just stay with a quality leather dealer and you should be fine. Let me know if you have any questions!