What is Horween Leather? What makes it so special?
“For more than 100 years and five generations our goal has been to make the world's best leather.”
This bold mission statement is on the front page of Horween Leather’s website. It says a lot about their company. Horween Leather Co. isn’t content to create good leather; they insist on making the best leather.
But what makes this leather so incredible?
It comes down to Horween Leather’s long-standing tradition of valuing quality. For over 120 years, they’ve used demanding hand-tanning processes for one reason: they work.
These slower processes rely on human skill and expertise. Artisans look at each hide and tan it based on its needs. The result is better than machine-tanned leather based on average speeds.
Horween Leather is any leather produced by Horween Leather Co from Chicago. In an old building along the Chicago river, hides are cut, shaved, tanned and glazed by hand. The leather produced in this building is considered the premier American leather. Primer Magazine writes:
Their goal has been to make the world's best handcrafted leather by using formulas that do not cut corners, and choosing components strictly for their quality in order to make a perfect naturally tanned leather. Like the leather they produce, they only get better with age.
"Horween Leather never cuts corners. They air-dry their leathers and make each piece to order. And like the leather they produce, they’ve only gotten better with age."
Is Horween Leather full grain?
All Horween leather is full-grain leather.
In fact, they are one of the few tanneries left that process from a raw state in the USA. They hand-select clean, unblemished native hides for their manufacturing process.
They do their best to make as much usable leather as they can from each hide, selecting the part of the hide that makes the most sense for the crafter.
Does Horween Leather patina?
Horween tannery stamp on our straps
Patina is what happens when sunlight, bodily oils, dirt, and natural wear-and-tear come into contact with the leather. It refers to the changing color of the leather as it oxidizes, as well as the color changes and scratches that inevitably occur over time.
Patina sets full-grain leather apart from its cheaper, “genuine leather” counterparts. While “genuine leather” aims to stay the same as time goes on, leather with a patina embraces its history.
So it’s no surprise that Horween Leather products always develop a beautiful patina.
What is the history behind Horween Leather Co?
Horween has been producing beautifully-tanned leather since 1905.
Isadore Horween came from the Ukraine, where he spent years learning to tan hides. He immigrated to Chicago to further develop his art.
He founded Horween Leather Co. in 1905. Back then, the company specialized in creating durable leather strops to sharpen knives.
Growth and Expansion
Isadore Horween had two sons: Arnold and Ralph Horween.
Both men played for the Chicago Cardinals in the National Football League. This inspired them, and they helped expand Horween Leather Co. to create quality sporting balls.
To this day, the NFL uses their pebbled leather for their footballs. The NBA also works with Horween Leather to produce official Wilson basketballs.
When Horween Leather Co. was founded, it was one of the dozens of Chicago-based tanneries. As tannery rows became less necessary, other tanneries moved out of the densely-populated city. Many moved overseas to capitalize on the low costs of labor in other countries. By doing this, they often sacrificed quality in exchange for low costs.
Horween stayed put. They refused to reduce the quality of their product for the sake of saving money. Instead, they put tradition at the cornerstone of their success.
As a result, they’ve been in the same building in Chicago since 1920.
Today at Horween Leather Co.
The result of Nick Horween’s influence on the company is a Horween Leather Co. that is a perfect blend of old and new. Heritage-quality techniques are tempered by a modern vision. The company continues to grow while staying true to its roots.