A Personal Musing on Horween

Disclaimer: All views are mine and mine alone. 

It’s not hard to find Horween leather being used as a badge of quality. While Horween leather certainly has its perks, I caution against thinking that Horween is the end-all indicator of supremacy in a crafted product.

Perks

Horween has pedigree, quality and is easy to work with. The Horween tannery in Chicago is one of the oldest tanneries in America, being founded in 1905. It is widely used in the industry for high-end brands and advertised accordingly (Alden, Allen Edmonds, Brooks Brothers et. al). Having worked with the leather before, it is soft and supple in the hand and allows itself to be cut easily.

Costs

Naturally, Horween is expensive. Although this is more readily applicable with regards to their cordovan leather (in which they enjoy a monopoly in North America) their other hides are also costly. This may be due to the fact that they still produce largely on request, and I think the brand name and marketing also plays a part.

Burnt Orange Horween leather with embossing for a notebook.
Burnt Orange Horween leather with embossing for a notebook.

A Reflection

With all that being said, leather production has been around since time immemorial. Horween’s 1905 inception date looks positively adolescent next to some of the European and Moroccan tanneries, with the oldest tannery still in existence approaching its 1000th birthday. “Younger” tanneries may not boast of as storied a heritage but I think the point is that age is no guarantee of effectiveness (although it must also equally be admitted that youth is no guarantee of innovation).

There is also the other matter of correct application. Chromexcel is a wonderful leather by Horween but has to be applied to the right goods. Soft and oily, its qualities shine through when made into shoes or wallets as they mold to your body with time and resist water penetration. However, its oily nature must be taken into consideration; a Chromexcel couch will be soft but will also turn your clothes brown. The same applies for writing instrument cases: some expensive pens are made of precious resin that oils can damage.

Horween samples. Note the oily surface texture of the leather.
Horween samples. Note the oily surface texture of the leather.

Miscellanous 

That eponymous leather is chrome tanned and thus uses chromium in the tanning process. Those with sensitive skin may want to take this into consideration when buying a leather product due to potential allergies. This Moon and Sixpence writing instrument case is constructed from Tempesti leather; being vegetable tanned (i.e. tanned from vegetable sourced tannin) it is highly tolerable for those who suffer from metal related allergies, and also minimises the chance of resin damage to fountain pens.

Writing instrument case. Note the natural cork lining that cushions and shields the pens from knocks and any oils that may emanate from the leather.
Writing instrument case. The natural cork lining also cushions and shields the pens from knocks and any oils that may emanate from the leather.

An added bonus of Tempesti leather is that it is very environmentally friendly; waste leather does not contain any toxic substances (no azo-dyes, nickel, PCP or chrome VI, only plant-sourced tannin) and only by products of the food industry are used; no animal is killed for its leather.

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