I joke with my fiance that if we have a daughter, we could name her Patina. Even though I am joking, it does sound like a good name right? RIGHT?!
Besides just being a word fit to name your child, patina is something beautiful that develops in quality leather goods (as well as other material). What exactly is patina? Well the dictionary definition breaks it down this way:
For leather in particular, I would say it is when a leather good takes on elements of its owner. The color of a pair of boots darkens because the person spends much of their time in the sun, the edges and back of a belt take on indigo from the owner's raw denim jeans, and a satchel picks up scratches from being tossed around all the time. A nicely developed patina on a leather product will make the item more beautiful as it ages, not uglier.
For us denimheads, patina in leather is similar to the fades we work so hard for in our raw denim clothing. Patina, just like the fades on your jeans, helps tell your life story.
It is important to note that not all leather goods develop patina equally. Most any kind of leather that is not full-grain will not patina. Not only are you spending a little more for quality, you are also getting something that will be more personal. You are getting a product that tells others who you are, reminds you where you have been, and what you've done throughout your life.
Some examples of developing patina below:
My Dakota Leather Satchel by Portland Leather Goods.
Brand new on the right, after lots of use on the left.
My Big Dude Wallet & Braided Lanyard made by JC Leatherworks. Brand new on the right, aging nicely on the left.
My J & FJ Baker Oak Tanned Leather Belt made by Carmine Jack Leather.
Brand new on the right, after some heavy wear with raw denim and being through several thunderstorms on the left.
When I first started looking into quality and handcrafted leather goods, I was astonished by how much products cost compared to what I usually found at Target and Kohls. However, what I was getting from those stores were usually poorly made and wouldn't last me that long before falling apart. Let's do a comparison using wallets...
Take for instance this wallet from Kohls, that is retailed at $40.00. Made of genuine leather, it is designed to look good initially and that "genuine" label makes it sound like it is well made. Not so fast. Genuine leather, as it turns out, is one of the lowest grades of leather and products made out with it tend not to last long.
My $40 genuine leather wallet started falling apart after a few months and needed to replaced within a year. Which means I would spend another $40, and be doing so every year.
Now, let's look at a full-grain, handmade wallet from a leathercrafter. Not only is the leather far superior, it is also more likely to be vegetable tanned. Vegetable tanned leather is much more environmentally friendly than the much more popular technique of chrome tanning. It is also considered to be more durable as well.
Regardless of the quality of leather, the wallet being made would be useless if it wasn't put together well. Another benefit to a wallet being crafted a skilled artisan is that it will most likely be hand stitched over machine stitched. While there are many pros to machine stitching, hand stitched leather is considered much more durable and resilient.
For most, the unique qualities of a handmade wallet are not important. We live in a fast-paced, instant gratification society and waiting patiently for a handcrafted wallet just isn't worth it. That is unfortunate because skilled trades such as leathercrafting, woodworking, and shoe making are being replaced by soulless, factory made, big box store items.
When you first hold a wallet specifically made for you, it is yours. There is no other wallet like it. While there are similar ones, the wallet in your hands has the natural scars and marking from the leather hide used. It will also develop character and patina to your lifestyle. The most important part? The wallet will most likely last you the rest of your life and will tell its own story.
However, it all comes down to the cost. An upfront payment of $40 for a wallet is much easier to stomach that $85-$150. But remember that the cheaper wallet won't last and you will be spending another $40 in a short period of time. So in five years, you might spend $200 on five cheaply made wallets
It started off as a hobby that quickly lead to an obsession which became a passion.
I started off making belts, wallets, and other small leather items from kits I'd buy at Hobby Lobby. I wasn't very good and I really didn't have enough space in my place for all the necessary tools. Not to mention the constant sound of me trying to use a mallet to make stitching holes was most likely driving my neighbors up a wall! Add in a pair of shaky hands and it was going to be really difficult for me to become much more than just an amateur leathercrafter using pre-cut kits.
I was going to give up all together but I just loved everything about leather. Since I couldn't really craft in my living space I would spend much of my free time scouring the internet, learning as much as I could about one of nature's best gifts to man.
That's how I stumbled into the related worlds of boots and denim. I bought a pair of Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots for 40% off and got some pre-worn Gilded Age raw, selvedge jeans off of Ebay. Little did I know the rabbit hole I would go down...
Just like I did with leathercrafting, I started to read and learn everything I could about boots and raw denim. I started a blog, Stylin' Asian, wrote reviews, and posted terrible pictures I took with my phone on Instagram and the website. Yet still, I wanted to be more productive...
So I let my passion for all things leather, boots, and denim drive me to create a unique business to help companies who are actually making quality goods fight off the department stores and fashion name brands. That is how Branded By U LLC came about. As of right now I am making Feature Pages for companies and promoting them on social media (primarily Instagram) for free. Who knows? Maybe one day this little marketing website of mine will blossom into a full time job. Regardless, I am getting away from the depressive work of social services and office drama to do work I enjoy. I am meeting passionate, skilled workers and finding hidden treasures. I have the most beautiful, supportive lady. Life is good.