Thursday, October 1, 2015

Define Patent Leather

Define Patent Leather

The patent leather typical in formal shoes, soldiers' dress shoes and high-fashion women's shoes and handbags only looks synthetic. It is actually plastic-encased leather. Antique patent leather was available in black only, but modern patent leather is available in any color. It is easily emulated for faux patent leather, commonly used in women's fashion.


    Patent leather dates back to the U.S. Civil War. The 1922 reference "Practical Tanning" describes patent leather as being made of heavily-varnished cowhide. The varnish contains linseed oil, turpentine, "lampblack" and naphtha. Lampblack is simply soot deposits of the type you would find inside a kerosene lamp, mixed with oil.


    Modern patent leather is still made of cowhide, but its glossy surface is a coating of polyurethane plastic. Instead of using lampblack, the leather is painted with the acrylic paint commonly used in handbags and shoes. Therefore the patent leather can be in any color.


    Because it looks synthetic, patent leather is easily emulated. Faux patent leather may be vinyl or simply a smooth leather with a heavy coat of acrylic paint. Polyvinylchloride, or PVC, fairly closely resembles patent leather. PVC is a versatile plastic that can be manufactured in a high gloss, and in any color. PVC is popular among fetishists, but is also widely used in manufacturing shoes and handbags.


    Because of its comparatively high cost, patent leather is a high-fashion item (hence the demand for lower-cost faux patent leather). Most manufacturers use top-grain cowhide in making patent-leather items. This is the smooth, top layer of flesh, with hair removed. Because patent leather is by definition very smooth, manufacturers must select hides without visible defects.


    Because patent leather is thickly coated with polyurethane, it must be treated as a plastic item, rather than a leather one. Patent-leather polish does not contain the oils or dyes of ordinary shoe polish. (The dye is unnecessary, because the paint is encased by the polyurethane.) Instead, patent-leather polish typically contains silicon, which produces a high gloss.


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