What is Pebbled Leather?
It’s that leather with a pebbly surface - we all know what it is.
But… What actually is it?
Is this surface natural? …or how is it made?
Is it good leather or bad leather?
How do I look after it?
In this blog, I hope to answer some of the questions and dispel the myths about pebbled leather.
What’s the story with pebbled leather?
I don’t suppose I had thought about it much, but I used to think pebbled leather was just another type of natural leather surface. It looks rather like the skin of a rhino, so why would it not be..?
Pebbled leather goes under a number of other epithets: pebble-grain leather, pebble leather, Scotch-grain leather.
There’s a clue to its origins in the name Scotch-grain. According to the tale, a busy leather-worker in Scotland, back in the day, left his hides piled up on the pebbled floor of his workshop. When he got to the bottom hide, which had been sitting there for weeks, the weight of the other hides had left a pebble design on the leather.
Rather than throwing it out (us Scots are known for being both thrifty and inventive...), he used the leather to create some shoes - and his clients loved them. The rest is history.
The other story I’ve heard, which I think I like even more, is that the Scots originally created the texture by using the barley dross from producing whisky. The leather would react and shrink (don’t ask me the science!), resulting in the interesting texture and an exceptionally hardy leather for all weathers.
Nowadays, this attractive leather is made by stamping a pattern onto the hide. This method is sometimes called embossing, but that can be used when a design is stamped on, such as the Beckett logo on the desk pads. It is also sometimes called printing the leather, but this term also includes when color designs are added. For accuracy, let’s just call it pebbling the leather.
But what kind of leather do the tanners use to create pebbled leather? You will have to ask the tanner!
Full-grain vs. corrected vs. faux pebbled leather
Pebbled leather can be made from almost any type of leather.
We source our pebbled leather from Italy, where we work with a gold-rated tannery, called Mastrotto Tannery. This tannery is renowned for producing fantastic leather - but also for being environmentally conscious and for treating its employees ethically.
We use the best quality full-grain leather for our pebbled leather. Other companies might use corrected grain or faux leathers, which are not as good - and the pebble grain can be used to hide this fact. Let me explain a bit more.
Full-grain leather uses the entire thickness of the hide. This type of leather is most resistant and ages best, slowly changing in texture and color over the years.
Adding the pebble-grain has no impact on the qualities of full-grain leather. Why do it? Pebbling results in an attractive finish that is resistant to scuffs and is easy to care for. Some say the coarse surface makes it naturally weather resistant.
Corrected-grain and split leather have the top layer of the hide shaven off and replaced with a false grain. It is quite common for pebbled leather to be made from the middle section of the hide.
This is often because the hide is of poorer quality and the tanner wants to remove marks. It might also be to attain a leather that is 100% uniform so that there is no difference between one product or another.
In the process of ‘correcting’ a grain, you damage the leather. It becomes less waterproof and will last less time. As it ages, it doesn’t develop as richly in texture or color as does full-grain leather.
Faux leathers and vegan leathers are generally made from synthetic materials, especially plastics, and are not as strong or as long-lasting as real leather. They are cheaper than natural leathers and can be mass-produced with a pebble-grain surface in a factory.
These faux leathers are not breathable and will not develop as they age.
There is no argument - full-grain pebbled leather is the best.
How is full-grain pebbled leather made?
Our Italian tannery uses traditional tanning methods - but with several modern advancements that have minimized damage caused to the environment. This process has been perfected to produce a soft calf-skin leather that is strong and durable, while avoiding using several harmful chemicals that are often used in tanning.
The tanner then dyes the hides to produce the desired color. Again, we are proud to say that our tanner constantly makes sure that this is done with the environment in mind.
Then comes the pebbling stage! Tanners pass the hide through a big roller with the pebble texture (or stamp it with large plates). This embosses the design onto the leather.
The pebbled leathers are then finished off. They are cleaned and moisturized to ensure that they remain in top condition until they arrive at the destination.
Beckett Simonon insists that no coating is added at this stage because we believe in using natural leather that will age gracefully over many years to come - if well cared for.
How to care for pebbled leather
Pebbled leather is very easy to care for and is resistant to use and abuse - this might be why it is so loved by men!
Never polish your full-grain pebbled leather - rubbing will wear away at the attractive design. Instead, you want to clean, moisturize, and follow some leather-care guidelines.
How to clean:
It is unusual to have to clean pebbled leather because the color and texture laughs in the face of dirtiness. That said, if you are anything like me - cooking in my leather slippers, it’s not unusual that I drip occasional splashes onto them!
If you do need to give your leather shoes, boots, sneakers, bags, or slippers a clean, start by gently buffing the leather with a shoe brush. This brushes away any build-up of dirt and dust.
You can then clean the leather by diluting a gentle soap (such as soap flakes for hand-washing your clothes) in warm water and dabbing this soapy mix on the leather with a cloth.
Make sure that you then allow the leather to dry before then adding a leather cream.
How to moisturize:
Regular moisturizing is essential for all leather goods. You can either use a colorless leather conditioner or find one that matches the color of your leather to reinforce the tone.
Add the cream in little circles using a cloth.
If your pebbled leather gets wet, it’s no big problem. Just wipe dry with a cloth and then allow to dry naturally (away from any artificial heat source).
With shoes, you can use a wooden shoe tree to naturally draw the moisture. Otherwise, stuff the footwear or bags with newspaper.
Never store an authentic leather product while still damp - this can cause mold to grow, which can permanently damage the leather.
There are products out there that can be sprayed on or applied to pebble leather to create a waterproof coating. This is controversial for leather lovers, and should be used with caution.
These are often chemical-based products that can damage leather appearance and durability. However, there are some gentle more natural sprays, such as Saphir Leather Protector, that is designed to defend and care for your leather.
Once your product is dry, make sure to apply some moisturizing creams to restore the lost moisture and nutrients.
If the leather got a soaking and ended up with watermarks, these creams are effective in reducing the blemish.
Scratches and marks:
One of the strengths of pebble-grain leather is that scratches and marks are not very probable - the disruptive pattern masks most little scuffs.
First, try to rub it with your finger. Sometimes this is enough with a natural leather because of the oils in the material and in your skin. Rubbing smoothes off the damage and the oils help to generate a protective layer.
The first rule about leather is that it’s a robust, lion-hearted material, and a few scratches enhance the rugged look.
The important thing is that the leather maintains its health. To do this, add leather cream to the mark and give it a little buff.
If your scratch is very deep or unattractive, you might want to invest in a leather filler, or take it to a leather professional to repair.
Finally, store your pebbled leather shoes and accessories well.
They should be kept in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight to avoid them drying or the color being affected.
Keep in a dustbag (like we provide with all our shoes, sneakers, slippers, and bags) so that they stay clean and don’t scratch. Avoid plastic bags because this can lead to a build-up of moisture and create the ideal atmosphere for mold.
When you are traveling, protect them using these dustbags and stuff your footwear to avoid them getting damaged (you can use light, travel shoetrees, or if you stuff them with your other clothing, you free up more space in your baggage). If you want to be extra cautious, you can wrap your weekender bag in the dustbag before putting it into the overhead locker on the plane.
If you are storing your leather goods for a prolonged period, remember to take them out every now and again and add a little leather cream to keep them fresh.
Beckett Simonon chooses classic styles, and classic leathers, that you will love wearing for years. Pebble-grain is a versatile leather that looks good and is hardy.
Take a browse through our catalog and leave me a comment below to tell me which is your favorite.
Thanks for reading! Stay tuned for upcoming posts.
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