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Where Leather is Made – Five Tanneries to Know

As a key material in heritage fashion and culture, leather features heavily in our daily articles, and most likely, in your daily get-up. And while most of us have got up to speed with where our selvedge denim comes from, the origins of some premium leathers can be overlooked at times. For this very reason, we’re outlining five prolific tanneries from across the globe who produce and supply stellar hides to the some of the finest brands out there.

Horween 

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‘Image via Horween’

Perhaps the most widely known tannery of them all, Horween has been producing some the world’s finest leathers since 1905. Horween Leather Co. tan all of their hides in Chicago, Illinois, including their famous Chromexcel, a luxury leather that goes through at least 89 processes and a secret blend of natural oils and greases to achieve its famous sheen and Shell Cordovan, a lustrous equine leather that goes through a meticulous six-month tanning process.

Shinki Hikaku

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Image via Shinki Hikaku.

Shinki Hikaku stands as one of Japan’s most respected tanneries. Based in Hyogo Prefecture, Kobe, Shinki Hikaku has been producing leather since 1951. Specializing in equine leathers, they are especially known for their Shell Cordovan which takes almost a whole year to produce, using specially selected horsehide from Europe, and perfected tanning processes. Indonesian bootmakers, Sagara, recently collaborated with Shinki Hikaku to produce a pair of their Legacy X service boots using the tanneries famous leather.

S.B. Foot Tanning Co.

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Image via Red Wing.

Founded Silas B. Foot and George Sterling on the banks of Trout Brook, near Red Wing, Minnesota, S.B. Foot Tanning Co. has been producing some of the finest American-made leathers since 1872. They are the main supplier to Red Wing Shoes, and you can see their full grain and roughout leathers on Red Wing’s heritage boots and shoes, such as the famous 875 Moc-Toe boot. S.B. Foot also supply leathers on a contractual basis to the military and sell stock leathers by the yard.

Hermann Oak

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Image via the Leather Shop.

As one of the longest standing American tanneries, Hermann Oak is still known to this day as one of finest producers of leathers in the world. Based in St. Louis, Missouri, Hermann Oak pioneered the vegetable-tanning process in America, and supplied leather to the military throughout both World Wars (and us on our Bank Bag!). They now supply tanned vegetable-tanned cowhides of superior quality, such as Harness and Bridle leathers, as well as raw hides for drum skins. Hermann Oak also aims to employ ecological processes wherever possible to reduce the environmental impact of their leather making.

J&FJ Baker

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Image via J&FJ Baker.

J&FJ Baker are the last standing Oak Bark Tannery in England. Based in the rural town of Devon, J&FJ Baker’s team consists of local craftsmen who’s skills have been passed down through generations. Once the standard in British leather making – vegetable tanning using bark from the oak tree is a process that J&FJ Baker are keeping alive the U.K. – by producing some of the worlds finest leathers which are supplied to high-end bag makers, and shoemakers such as Crockett and Jones.