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Vegetable Tanned Leather vs. Chrome Tanned Leather


If you didn’t read the article on Vegetable Tanning, be sure to check it out. There are also other methods of turning a raw cowhide into leather. One of the most common methods is called chrome tanning or chrome tanned leather. Here are the differences.

Vegetable Tanned Leather

Vegetable tanned leather refers to the tannage, or method of tanning the cowhide into leather. It’s called “vegetable” because of the natural materials used in the tanning process like tree bark. Vegetable tanning or veg tan as it’s sometimes called, is one of the oldest methods of tanning known to man. It’s literally been around for centuries. It takes up to 6 weeks to complete the veg tan process.

Some advantages of vegetable tanned leather are that it can be made thicker and have more body than straight chrome tanned leather. This helps our bags maintain their shape. Vegetable tanned leather also tends to age better, developing a rich character and patina over time. 

Vegetable tanned leather has that classic leather smell that is absolutely intoxicating and addictive. You’ll know it when you smell it. If you haven’t smelled a quality vegetable tanned leather, you’re missing out!

Chrome Tanned Leather 

Chrome tanned leather is one of the most common types of tanning. It refers to the chromium used in the tanning process. It's a popular method of tanning because it's quicker than vegetable tanning and results in a softer, more pliable leather. Chrome tanned leathers are typically thinner and not made in very thick "weights" (weights are how leather thickness is denoted).

An advantage of chrome tanned leather is it tends to be more water repellent than a straight veg tanned leather. Because of these traits, chrome tanned leathers are often used to make shoes, boots, gloves, furniture and in the automotive industry. After all, you want your boots to be more pliable and water resistant. 

Perhaps the best way to think of the difference between a straight chrome tanned leather and a straight vegetable tanned leather is to think of the difference between a leather glove and a leather saddle.

Combination Tanned Leather

Since there are advantages to both of these methods, it can make sense to combine the two. Indeed, there is a combination tanning method, often called vegetable retan, veg retan, or semi-vegetable tanned. This method seeks to capture the advantages of both and strike a good balance.