Leather Throughout History
Leather is one of the most versatile and prevalent materials on the planet with a vast array of uses and purposes. From primeval garments to the catwalk handbags of today, revered artefacts to genuine leather sofas, the considerably useful properties of leather have made it one of the most valuable commodities history has ever known.
The history books have clearly demonstrated that leather was used as a practical and functional material as far back as the Ice Age. Trying to survive in such a bitterly cold environment it is thought that even then, pieces of leather were roughly sown together to be worn as protective garments from the elements. These crude forms of leather coats, shoes and hats were vital in keeping many men and women alive in these times. Although we have come far in the way we dress, leather coats and shoes are still incredibly sought after today, and demonstrate just one of the many uses that man has found for this versatile material.
Much later in the history of man, the Egyptians found many other uses for leather besides as clothing. Their considerable skill in tanning leather and changing its properties made it possible to create tools and decorative ornaments from the material. The Romans also used leather throughout their vast Empire as knowledge of its versatility quickly spread across the globe. After the battle of Pompey, a tannery was discovered which was found to have been creating leather armour and weapons to equip the Roman soldiers who fought in 79AD. Shields, harnesses and protective garments were all found in the ruins.
The 12th century saw improved finishing of leather, increasing its malleability and more was know known about dyeing techniques. It was during this time that leather began to an aesthetic quality, making it a coveted material not just for purposes related to its functionality. In the 14th century leather started to be used to cover chairs and seats, a real leather sofa in the making. Experts and master craftsmen began to hone their skill until the act tanning leather and creating leather furniture became something of an art form.
Progress continued in Italy in the 16th century when leather began to be woven into complex and beautiful tapestries, especially in Venice. Even chests were now being lined with leather to waterproof them and make them more hardwearing. Books were now more commonplace and leather was a perfect material with which to bind them. This being a time long before the age of advanced transport methods, horses were saddled and other riding equipment was fashioned out of leather on account of its durability and comfort.
The early 20th century saw the use of leather become even more prevalent. The infamous brown leather flight jackets worn by members of the military were known to be some of the most durable garments made. Protecting aviators from the more extreme weather conditions they were often exposed to, these garments were now lined with wool in order to add a fleecy warmth to the sheer strength and durability of the leather.
In the 21st century, leather is still a part of everyday life with a status level that many other materials will find hard to achieve. A genuine leather handbag, jacket or pair of leather shoes are still considered to be the height of fashion. As a symbol of affluence, leather is also prevalent in the home, a real leather sofa being one the most popular forms of seating arrangements in lounges and living rooms across the world. From basement offices to top floor conference rooms, a stylish and comfortable leather sofa is often the preferred choice of decor. Many other businesses such as coffee shops, bars and restaurants also use leather seating in their establishments for their combined prestige, aesthetic, comfort and durability.
Seeing man through an incredible number of trials and tribulations over the last few thousand years, this natural material has transpired to be one of the world’s most useful, practical and sustainable resources.
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