Patent Leathers

How are Patent Leathers made?

Patent leather is leather that has been specially treated to produce a hard, smooth high gloss finish. This fabric was first produced in the US during the early 19th Century.

Patent Leathers Manufacture

The Patent effect on Patent Leathers was initially achieved by coating the leather in many layers of Linseed Oil based varnish. A polish was then applied to create a shiny surface. Nowadays the coating used is usually plastic-based.

The leather from the Patent leather is usually a by-product of the food industry. The most common type of leather is cow hide. Other common leathers that are used come from sheep, goats, pigs, alligators, snake and even ostrich.

Originally only really good qualities of leather were used as Patent leather but nowadays because of the developments in the coating process; almost any kind of leather can be made Patent. The finish that is used is a mixture of Polyurethane and acrylic. This is used because the Polyurethane creates the hard, shiny finish and the acrylic gives the finished fabric flexibility. In the United States this coating used to be applied by spraying it on usually, however because of the damaging effects on the environment it is now done by a process called Aqueous dispersion, meaning that a liquid form of the coating is applied via a waterfall of liquid coming into contact with the hide which is on a conveyor belt.

This is then left to dry using Ultraviolet or Infrared light and then a second and third coat are applied. The top coat is clear and shiny.

Properties of Patent Leather

  • Easy to clean
  • Almost Waterproof
  • Typically Black but can be available in other colours
  • Flexible
  • Coating can crack with wear and tear
  • Does not stretch because of its plastic casing

End uses of Patent Leather

  • Shoes
  • Accessories
  • Handbags
  • Belts
  • Formal or semi-formal clothing
  • Military dress uniforms


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Kelly Mitchell

Written by Kelly Mitchell

Kelly Mitchell, extremely competent and reliable, she is currently in her third year at the University of Lincoln UK, studying Fashion. Kelly is responsible for the Fabrics, Fibers and Leathers sections of our Dictionary


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