November 13, 2009

The Politics of Leather

ENVIRONMENT/FASHION - What is the most environmentally friendly garment you can wear?

The answer is uncoloured natural leather. And fur too.

Its not obvious at first, but let me explain how this is.

Leather is made by curing and drying animal rawhide and skin, it is an all natural process and the leftovers go into the meat and food industry. There are modern ways to cure leather, using different chemicals but the most commonly used method is Tannin, a natural chemical found in wine, beer, tea, fruits, berries, chocolate, etc.

So if you buy products made from leather, which is either not coloured or coloured using natural dyes, there really is no environmental damage done in the making of leather products.

The biggest complaint about leather (and fur) is from animal rights groups like PETA, which chiefly complain about the mistreatment of animals, the consumption of meat and the wearing of animal skin.

However I would like to point out these people are frequently self-righteous hypocrites.

  • #1. They frequently forget about the shoes, boots or jacket they are wearing. (Oh look, they're made from leather!)

  • #2. If they are vegetarians or vegans they have to take vitamin pills and supplements in order to stay healthy (pills made from mammals or fish).

  • #3. They're only concerned about the killing of "cute fuzzy animals" like cats, dogs, pigs, horses, cattle, bears, etc. They have little or no concern whatsoever for reptiles, snakes, fish or insects.

    Humans are omnivores. We are meant to be nomadic tribesmen, living off the land and hunting for food. Likewise the clothes we wear is meant to be suitable to the climate, and thus leather and fur, byproducts of our hunting, come in awfully handy. Leather requires very little effort to dry and cure and it provides us with durable clothing which is warm, doubles as protection against the elements and injury, is resistant to ripping, long lasting and lets face it, damn sexy to look at.

    If you buy a good quality leather jacket you could wear it for 10 years or more, depending on how well you take care of it and minor repairs like resewing buttons back on.

    In contrast you could go out and buy a jacket made out of synthetic materials and it will last you 3 - 4 years before it rips and becomes unwearable.

    The PETA people would argue you could buy synthetic leather, but I must point out the chemical process used for making synthetic leather is both environmentally damaging and hazardous to the health of the people making it. There is also "vegan leather", but that is both expensive and difficult to find (and it uses a lot of plant material, which means it isn't environmentally friendly).

    Its an ironic thing actually. Eating animals is environmentally friendly because it means there is less animals producing CO2 (a greenhouse gas). Wearing leather is likewise environmentally friendly because the process of making clothing using oil polymers pollutes. (Acrylic, plastic and all synthetic polymers are made from crude oil.)

    Eating vegetables is certainly healthy, but it has to be balanced. Certain necessary vitamins and proteins (like creatine) can only be gained from eating meat. Humans are omnivorous for a reason and you can't fight evolution.

    In conclusion: Leather is not as bad as some people think. Its natural, its longlasting and its so hot and sexy you will sometimes need to take it off. *wink*

    NOTE: I do not recommend leather upholstery for your car or truck. It slides too much and you will end up regretting how hot and sticky it gets.


    #1. Buy something that is both well-made and functional, so you can wear it again and again.

    #2. Go for something classic. Don't buy anything complicated that might go out of fashion really quickly. You want to be wearing the same jacket 10 years from now and it will still looking freaking awesome.

    #3. When in doubt, go for black or brown. They're easy to match with and look really good.

    #4. If you're worried about animal cruelty, don't buy suede or lamb leather. Look for sheep, deer or cow.

    #5. Check the lining to get an idea of the quality of craftsmanship. The smaller the stitching / thicker the thread the more robust it is. Avoid cotton linings. Check the thread to see if its polyester or cotton (polyester is stronger).

    #6. Buy local if you can. The quality will be better than mass-produced imported.

    #7. Watch out for cheap buttons and zippers.

    #8. Ignore big brand names. If its a big brand name its likely made in a sweatshop in Asia, which means its 99% advertising and 1% quality.

    See Also:
    Is Fur Dead? Fashion Vs. Anti-Fur
    The Rise of Ecofashion
    European Ecofashion
    Canadian Fashion and Chic
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