Looking to expand the horizons of your knowledge? Looking to deck yourself out with the cream of the crop? What exactly is English bridle leather and how can it benefit you?
All this and more today as we explore the history and some of the benefits and drawbacks of English bridle leather in all its forms.
Essentially, English bridle leather is a type of leather with a specific finishing process - this process thus becomes the defining difference between this variety of leather and all others. This finishing process, though it might at first seem arbitrary, is the entire reason for the defining difference between this leather and others, giving it a unique appearance and overall feel.
Owing to the unique manufacturing process, this leather is bestowed with a specific set of unique properties. For this reason, it is often best suited to specific people with specific needs and ideals in leather. In this way, it has often been linked with Chromexcel (as made with the chrome finishing process) and other types of leather similarly unique in their ever-varying properties.
Thanks to the hot-stuffed drum-dyed manufacturing and finishing process, this is a leather well-suited for instances where leather needs to be sturdy and resilient while also maintaining a professional and classic appearance.
Some of the classic uses of English bridle leather occur in the manufacture of leather boots, leather belts, and especially horse tack. Indeed, much of the classic equestrian gear uses English bridle leather as its foundational material before progressing onward with others.
Confusingly enough, the term horse tack does not actually refer to a single piece of equipment, but rather to all of the different pieces of equipment under the umbrella term.
By this logic, horse tack is anything made from leather that is used in equine activities such as this, though sometimes this can even stretch to any equipment used in equine activities, regardless of whether it is made from leather or not.
This can include anything from bridle reins, saddles, whips, chaps, and various other random bits and pieces.
In fact, the whole history of English bridle leather is tied up with its presence in the equine community. This high-quality leather was originally developed for use as bridle leather and thus for the manufacture of horse tack and other bridle gear. In this way, it is a very traditional leather, regardless of whether it is now vegetable-tanned or what color it is (dark brown or black or otherwise).
Bridle leathers are, however, originally vegetable-tanned leathers, beautifully crafted from only the best materials. This tanning process - in which the leather is preserved so as not to rot later down the line (it is skin after all) - uses all-natural sources and materials. Typically this is done with oak bark or some sort of extract of it.
The vegetable tanning process has been shown to produce stiffer and harder leather than the chrome tanning process or, indeed, a hybrid of these two processes. Given the fact that English bridle leather is often called upon for the purposes of work (specifically working outside with horses and the like), this added strength and stiffness is a necessity.
Where English bridle leather differs from other varieties of leather that have been tanned using the vegetable tanning process is actually in the finishing process. This involves hot-stuffing the leather with oils and waxes before any sort of dye is applied. The practical idea is to give the leather a subtler texture and an understated sheen, more akin to a matte than a gloss effect, incredibly appealing to some.
Traditionally, this process was only enacted with the highest quality animal hides that exhibited uniform grain structures and very few imperfections on their surfaces. So, while high-end leather goods like this are meant to work, they are also meant for exhibiting, too. These smooth criminals are not, after all, just going to be resting up in the barn all day long.
So, as we have already elucidated, there are clearly some very real benefits to owning and sporting an item made with English bridle leather like, say, a pair of boots.
- Overall, a leather item manufactured in this way is going to look stunning and will be almost entirely without flaws. You can rely on such a leather item to be made with some of the best available leather, period, allowing you to have as uniform an appearance all over as possible.
- If properly cared for, an item made from English bridle leather will last a mighty long time. This is, after all, a working leather, so it is meant to last and last for a good while.
There are, however, some drawbacks that you might want to consider before jumping out of your seat and into a new-bought pair of English bridle leather boots bought on finance.
- Due to the sturdiness of the finished product, English bridle leather items are going to take considerably longer to break in. Much as vegetable-tanned leather items are stiffer than chrome-tanned leather items (or indeed those tanned with a hybrid of the two), English bridle leather items are going to be even stiffer. Be prepared to endure a bit more pinching at the toe and rubbing at the heel.
- You will also need to work a little harder to maintain the exceptional matte sheen that your leather items are blessed with out of the box. Bridle leathers take polish well, but they have also been known to harbor scratches and scuffs within an inch of their lives, so tread with caution. Though this is work leather, it is also for show.
- It will take longer for an aged patina to develop on the boots, though this will eventually become more pronounced as a result.
So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are now feeling ready and able to go out into the world with your newfound knowledge of English bridle leather.
FAQs English Bridle Leather
IS ENGLISH BRIDLE LEATHER GOOD?
This depends on your conception of good, though it is a well-known fact that English bridle leather is of considerably high quality - so, if this is the kind of thing you are after, then buckle up and prepare to be supremely satisfied.
WHAT IS ENGLISH BRIDLE LEATHER FOR?
Traditionally, English bridle leather was used for the manufacture of horse tack - that is any piece of equipment for equine activities that would have been made from leather. It is not, however, limited to these uses anymore and has since found a home in the wide open arms of your resident leather enthusiast as one of the finest examples of the form still in production. The idea back then was for English bridle leather to be used for working around horses, and so while there are no strict bounds for its use nowadays, it is better suited to working environments owing to its stiff and hardy makeup.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ENGLISH BRIDLE LEATHER AND REGULAR LEATHER?
English bridle leather is a form of real leather that is differentiated from all other forms of real leather by a quirk of its finishing process. The manufacturing and tanning process is aligned very much with the vegetable tanning process, though the finishing process diverts away from it to form its own subsect. The leather is instead hot-stuffed with oils and waxes before the dye is applied which gives the leather a more subtle texture and sheen, more like a matte than a gloss.
IS BRIDLE LEATHER REAL LEATHER?
Indeed it is, though it differs from all other varieties of real leather in its finishing process. Real leather tends to be tanned using either the vegetable tanning or chrome tanning process, English bridle leather falls in the former camp, producing what is usually agreed to be firmer leather. The finishing process involves hot-stuffing the leather with oils and waxes before any dye is applied, which results in a subtler texture and surface sheen. In turn, this makes the leather harder and stiffer, perfect for work-based applications.