Naked leather and aniline

how to color leather


Well in this post I’m going to tell about the last step leather takes. First we picked what animal we want the leather from. Then we picked how we want the leather split and how much if any we want the leather smoothed. Now we need to color and treat the leather.

Just like in the first steps different treatments can be good or bad. I’ve seen some really bad leather jackets where the first time it got rained on all the brown color washed out like water paint! The treatment and tanning process is actually a lengthy process. I’m not going to get into all the steps, only the basic ones you should know.

How a hide is colored and treated will determent how good the coloring holds up, and what the leather is called. You want to know what the difference is between a naked leather jacket and a vegetable dye leather jacket. There are lots of sales pitch terms also, like “super dyed”, “fully treated” and so on. Let’s take a look at the common types.

Naked Leather

Only the top 5% or so of hides are good enough to be treated as naked leather. What they do is soak it in a transparent dye that does not hide the natural markings of the leather. It soaks all the way through, not just a top coat. They most always use the top full grain leather for this, and do nothing else. So it’s the best cut of leather and the most closest to the real way the leather was.

Because it has to be the best cut of leather, using the top, full grain layer, using the least amount of processing, it’s called naked leather, and is the most expensive. So if you see a jacket that says full grain naked cowhide or buffalo hide leather, it’s the best you can get, for a tough motorcycle jacket.

Full Aniline

Most places just call it an aniline jacket, or whatever the leather product is. This is almost the same as naked leather, as the dye used in making a naked leather garment is aniline dye. It is made the same as naked leather, but does not have to be top grain, or full grain. If it says split aniline jacket, it was made using the weaker bottom split layer of leather. However a top or full grain aniline jacket is a good quality jacket.

Vegetable Dye Leather

Any type of organic matter used to dye leather is called vegetable dye. The leather is immersed in a tannic acid bath and repeated several times. Leather treated this way is very strong and stiff and will not stretch. This type of leather is often used for belts, saddles, harnesses and stuff like that.

Colored dye leather

You can dye a leather any color you want. There are a lot of different ways they dye leather. Some are cheap and flake off, or wear off. Others are soaked into it and become part of the leather. A colored leather jacket is popular with women. You can get a good quality colored jacket, but you can’t call it a naked leather jacket. If your looking for a quality colored jacket, find a good brand name and they will carry quality colored leather.

Other finishes

With all the different chemicals and stuff out there, a lot of leather gets treated with dozens of different things to make it look shiny, colorful or more expensive. Some is nothing more than a spray paint they cover cheap leather, running off in the rain and smelling like rubber.

A lot of the patchwork leather is sprayed with a shiny coat to help protect it, but in time it flakes off and then you have exposed raw leather under it. Soon it looks like a hundred mice have been chewing on it! You would be wise to stay away from a really shiny leather jacket.

So, what the hell is the best type of leather motorcycle jacket to get? Well, cow and buffalo is the best type of animal leather. The top layer after they split it is better than the split layer. A full grain top layer is even better as it’s the natural hide with no sanding. Finally a naked leather or aniline treated leather is the best treated leather. So, here’s a break down of the best you can get for a rugged leather jacket.

The best

Top, full grain naked cowhide leather jacket
Top, full grain naked buffalo hide leather jacket
Top, full grain aniline cowhide leather jacket
Top, full grain aniline buffalo hide leather jacket

Almost as good

Top grain naked cowhide leather jacket
Top grain naked buffalo hide leather jacket
Top grain aniline cowhide leather jacket
Top grain aniline buffalo hide leather jacket

Good, just not the best

Top grain cowhide leather jacket
Top grain buffalo hide leather jacket

Ok, but could be better

split cowhide leather jacket
split buffalo hide leather jacket

Then the rest is a lot of combinations. Don’t forget pigskin is also a good hide, and sheepskin is fine for fashion jackets and vest. There’s a lot of other products made from leather that also don’t need to be so picky about, like gloves, hats, mask, wallets, bags and so on.

As for patchwork leather, it’s only good for ebay auctions where you can get two for $12.00 bucks! So now that you know how to get a good quality leather jacket, my next post will talk about the best way to treat and maintain your leather jacket so it will last for years.