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Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Leather Buying Guide Part 2: Full Grain Leather Types

In our last post we discussed the difference between different grades of leather. In this post, we will break down the types of full grain leather used in our belts to help you better understand what kind of belt to buy.

Bridle Leather

Bridle leather is a great choice for a belt that will encounter the elements. Tanned from steer hide using a generous amount of oil and wax, this leather is weather resistant and long-lasting. This is also the reason that bridle leather has a particularly beautiful color throughout shades of tan, brown and even black. Bridle leather is quite firm, making it a great belt for rugged use.

English Bridle Leather

Bridle leather’s English cousin is named for the tanning method used. The method creates “spew” in the leather during tanning which results in a slightly textured finish (known as “draw”). English bridle has many of the same characteristics as bridle, including durability and deep, beautiful colors, but it's a much softer leather with luxurious, smooth finish on both grain and flesh sides.

Harness Leather

Harness leather is the perfect choice for people that like the natural color of leather. The leather is finished with an old fashioned method that gives these belts a rich look. Some of our belts take this a step further, with no dyes used in the process so the belt remains the natural color of the hide itself.

Work Harness Leather

Unlike harness leather, work harness is hot stuffed with heavy oils and waxes. This creates most uniquely finished belts. These belts feature a beautiful “pull-up” effect (when the belt is bent or stretched, the leather will lighten in color, due to the waxes spreading through it) and have a waxy, almost greasy feel that makes them water resistant. Because of the hot dip step of the process, these harness belts will only become more unique as they age.

Show Harness Leather

Another type of harness leather is show harness leather. If you’re a fan of the look of worn-in leather, these belts will achieve that look and feel beautifully. The tanning process gives these belts an oily feel and because of the wax present in the leather, it will have a “pull-up” effect and lighten in color when bent or stretched.

Latigo Leather

Latigo is known for its soft and supple feel without sacrificing strength. Made from cowhide and borrowing its name from saddle straps, belts made with latigo leather have a beautiful natural texture. They are great if you’re looking for a belt that has a soft, smooth feel.

Oil Tanned Latigo Leather

Oil tanned latigo leather has the same soft and supple feel of latigo with the added benefit of improved element resistance. This also gives the leather glossy and oily look, which adds to the “pull-up” effect in the belt. The tanning method used in oil tanned latigo gives these belts potential for a worn-in look very similar to show harness leather.

Buffalo Leather

Buffalo leather is one of the strongest leathers available. Made from American Buffalo hide, our buffalo leather belts come in two varieties: west tan and esquire. The buffalo west tan leather is tanned with oil and wax that gives the finish a subtle “pull-up” effect and accentuates the natural grain of the leather. Buffalo esquire leather is drum dried, giving it a consistent glossy finish throughout the belt. Both feature the softness and durability that is characteristic of buffalo leather. One thing to keep in mind when shopping for buffalo leather products is to be sure that it’s made from American Buffalo (or Bison), which is very different from water buffalo that comes from India or China.

No matter the type of leather used in the belt, all of Orion Leather’s belts are made in the USA using only high quality full grain leather. Check out our store and find the right style belt for you.


  1. You might like to include another type of lather very commonly used in mens leather jacket and that is Lambskin lather. Its usually thinner than buffalo leather, light weight, a bit less durable but more shinny.

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  3. Thanks for these tips! All the while I thought leathers are all the same, now I am aware that there are different types. Another info worth sharing via

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