How do the likes of Loake, Trickers and Sanders choose the best leathers to be used in their shoes and boots?

There is no recognized international grading scale for assessing the quality of leather.  For their finished products Loake, Sanders and Trickers tend to use terms such as ‘burnished calf’ and ‘polished leather’.  Other manufacturers may use terms such as ‘Grade A’ or ‘1st Grade’, but this guarantees nothing.  If it so chooses a tannery may label its hides ‘A Grade’ but this could be made from the nastiest piece of leather.
Price itself can be a misleading guide so the leather buyers at Loake, Sanders and Trickers have to use their vast experience in assessing hides along the following lines:
1    Assess the outer finish of the leather.  Better leathers should have a silky smooth, consistent finish.  Rougher leathers tend to indicate lesser quality and will show signs of wear sooner.
2    The underside, if unlined should also feel fairly smooth.  If the manufacturer has bothered to take the trouble this side should have been gently buffed as should the edges, proving an attention to detail.
3    Flaws in a hide can be removed by buffing but this can weaken the leather so minor cosmetic flaws may be a sign that the leather has not been buffed and are acceptable so long as they are not too deep.
4    The colour of the finish should be uniform over the surface of the shoe.
5    Inferior leather may look as if the finish is sprayed on.
6    A premium quality leather will not feel spongy.  If you bend it and pull it the fibres should show no sign of tearing or breaking.
7    Better leathers should feel fairly heavy since they will be dense.  A lightweight leather is more porous and inferior.
8    Crucially the leather should be supple.  This is a clear indication that the tannery has treated the leather well.
9    When the hide is bent the colour should remain unaffected.  In good leather a few fine wrinkles may appear but there should be no sign of tearing or damage.
10    Look for the quality of the stitching, is it tight and uniform?  Also buckles should be made from brass or stainless steel or are they cheaper looking and nickel plated?
11    If the edges of the leather have a blue or green tinge then they are likely to be chrome tanned and therefore more prone to stretching.
12    Where is the leather from?  Developed countries such as in Europe and Australia tend to have better levels of quality control than less developed countries.
Being sure of choosing good quality leather shoes is therefore not so easy.  Consequently sticking to responsible brands with a high reputation to protect such as Sanders, Trickers and Loake is the safest option.  They have stringent quality control departments and aim to produce shoes and boots of consistent high quality.  Poor quality shoes will soon show their true colours when the leather starts to crack, stretch and tear.

Highly skilled experts at Loake select only the finest hides for their shoes.
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