A Brief History Of Leather

Leather has undoubtedly played a crucial role in the development of civilization due to human ingenuity and resourcefulness. Leather is a timeless raw material - from early man to the present day, leather has played an essential role in almost every era of design and fashion. Evidence that leather was used for clothing is represented by Paleolithic paintings from Lerida, Spain, which depict numerous simplistic leather clothing items. More concrete evidence, dating back to the Bronze Age, is the frozen body of a hunter who was found in the Alps wearing bearskin clothes and deer shoes.

In prehistoric times people used dried animal skins as clothing and shelter from harsh conditions. By 1300 BC, primitive societies began to use animal skins to create artifacts, and the skin's role as a food source became secondary. The earliest civilizations developed techniques for softening and preserving leather products, such as smoke and animal fat. These methods of processing and preserving animal skins have been used for generations. 

During the Homeric era, around 1200 BC, leather was used by the Ancient Greeks to craft sandals and other garments, and nowadays, they are still recognized for the leather sandal industry. The prevalence of leather production took off and was revered by pharaohs and queens in Egypt for its durability and multiple uses. Later, leather was used in Rome to create over-shirts and protective armor for soldiers.

Leather was used to create outerwear by our ancestors and determined their status – if archaic homo sapiens had leather clothing, it meant they could hunt and dress in leather and thus support their family. In the Middle Ages, leather was a luxury commodity. It was used not only for producing clothes and shoes but also for saddles, harnesses, and gun holsters, and only the wealthiest could afford it. That's when the specializations that deal with the processing of this noble material were created: tanner, shoemaker, and saddler.

The scale of manufacturing and the procedures used to make leather changed as societies became more advanced and developed. During the Middle Ages, professional tanners and leather artisans began to form advanced trade guilds to maintain tool ownership and control over the supply of materials as innovation increased. An alternative to vegetable tanning was not developed until the 19th century. Unlike traditional vegetable tanning, chromium is used today in 80 to 90% of tanneries worldwide because it reduces the preparation of leather and simplifies production.

In the Victorian Era, leather was associated with the bookbinding industry. Some novels written by iconic authors such as Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde are immortalized in gilded leather and hunted by collectors at auction for thousands of pounds.

Leonthe Limited Collection Leather Bags

Due to a focus on craftsmanship and tradition, the current leather clothing and accessories market constantly draws inspiration from previous eras. To create the leather goods of the future, contemporary fashion designers continue to draw inspiration and reference from historical periods, such as the vintage aviator style that is representative of the Second World War and the rugged leather boots that are reminiscent of Western cowboys.

​Because of their ancient heritage, historical styles will always be relevant in leather fashion. However, designers are also regularly looking for new, innovative ways to showcase this iconic textile and its versatility. Exotic rawhides such as crocodile, snakeskin, and ostrich are increasingly featured on runways and the pages of high-end magazines, alongside unique leather finishes such as patent leather and suede. While it's not easy to predict future fashions or trends, it's safe to say that leather will always have a place in modern culture, whether for stylistic or functional reasons.


If you are looking for genuine leather bags handmade by the most skilled craftsmen in Italy, then confidently choose a LEONTHE bag.

LEONTHE perfectly mixes timeless design, precious materials, and minimalist accessories - all while keeping up with the highest quality standards.