The Quality Story - Chapter 5: Leather Markings FAQ
Truth is, sometimes beauty is only skin deep...like with cows. Their poetry is notoriously terrible, but man, their hides are nature's art. We don't believe that flawlessness equals beauty. Beauty is when we're able to see something as it really is. This is true with humans too. There are lots of quality people who are really beautiful not in spite of, but because of the marks life has given them.
Our Full Grain Leather is special because it's durable, natural, and it tells a story about a cow's life. Maybe the leather in your bag was from a real Casanova. Maybe he got tipped a lot. Maybe the bulls really liked the way she moooved. We don't know for sure, but we want you to see those stories and add your own as you carry your bag around.
We cut the nasty looking marks out and throw them away and the cool or insignificant ones we leave.
Marbly lines generally regarded as not cool marks on mothers, unless the mother is a cow or pig and then they're more than cool. Stretch marks appear when the animal grows quickly or gets really fat for a time in life for some reason.
The veins and stretch marks are what give the leather that cool marbled look. Did you know that if they slaughter a cow in the winter in a place where it's really really cold, that it'll have more pronounced veins because the blood rises closer to the surface to keep them warm.
Almost all thick leather wrinkles when it is bent back on itself. Kind of like when you squat down in a pair of leather shoes and wrinkles appear about 4" from the toe.
These pesky insects don't leave cows alone either. Ticks, mosquitoes and other bug bites show themselves as a tiny black or white spot. You ever see birds sitting on top of cows? They're filling their craws with these bugs.
It's common to see very fine holes on leather if you look closely. Cows have hair too and if it isn't completely removed in the initial tanning process then you'll see them.
Itching oneself against or running scared through barbed wire, mesquite bushes or cactus will cause long thin black lines. If the bulls liked the way the cow moooved, then she'll get hoof marks which are usually up to an inch wide and a few inches long. The bigger scars happen when they got gored or kicked hard. Two small single black scars not far apart are often bat bites. Those are found on cows in more jungly areas.
If a cow sleeps on it's right side for years or has a habit of rubbing one spot with his horns or any kind of regular friction in one place, you get a callous. These markings are usually smooth, not raised, small and circular in shape.
The mark of a cow well loved. Brands can be shapes, letters and numbers. We only use the nice and smooth healed up ones. In third world countries, some ranchers don't have enough money to buy a branding iron, so they heat up a piece of iron and draw a picture on the cow. Whatever's clever, right?
Which leather is better, the old or the new?
The "new" leather is the same quality as the "old" leather. We just stopped letting some of the cooler marks fall onto the cutting room floor.
Will the scars and marks hurt the construction?
Nope. Any mark or scar that is possibly weaker than other areas, we cut out and throw away.
Are the animals tortured before they are slaughtered?
Absolutely not!!! With some pigs, we do use waterboarding and sensory deprivation techniques previous to slaughtering them, but cows do not require any special handling.
What if I want a lot of marks?
If you don't get lots of marks, please don't return it in hopes of the next one having more. But hopefully, the Divine Bovine will smile upon you and you'll receive a bag that tells a cool story. If it doesn't have a lot of story on it, then you'll have to add your own by using it hard.
What if I don't want any marks?
Not all cows live hard lives and so not all hides have a lot of scars. If you order Black or Coffee, the thin or small scars won't stand out much. They show up nicely on Tobacco though. People who like the Chestnut color (red/brown) seem to like more perfect leather and we're very aware of that. It's not right or wrong; just a preference. Generally, we cut the big scars out of the chestnut leather, but there will always be a few here and there. If you get your bag and you really don't like it, send it back and we'll take care of you. We're not worried in the slightest. And remember, it's not the scars that make the bag, it's the bag. The marks just add to it.
Can I get Chestnut and Coffee with cool marks?
The amount of markings on Chestnut will be less than on other colors because we cut more of the bigger scars out of that leather. We know that, in general, Chestnut people aren't too big on large scars. Marks tend to blend in with the Coffee, but you'll still see them.
Are some scars more valuable, or sought after than others?
Yes. Absolutely! For example, most of our designs have pigskin interiors, which generally have a smooth matte quality. Often, these pieces will have a scrape or scar-type marking on it. These are, in fact, scars associated with the romantic life of the pig. More than most other animals, the pig is known for its violent mating behaviors and is aggressive, selfish and generally demeaning to its female partner. The male pig bites, scratches, gouges and anything else he can think of to have his way (in some rare cases pigs have been known to use other strategies, like cleaning the pigpen, bringing flowers, showing kindness to her relatives, etc,). Thus, many female pigs, at least the desirable ones, are pretty scarred-up. In the pig culture, this is a sign of status. The best hides for our purposes (i.e. creating the best leather bag possible) are the female hides because they are so much larger than the males and therefore we can get larger solid pieces (and girls just have better skin). Therefore, our pigskin will sometimes have various scarring patterns. We refer to these as 'love scars'.
How will this affect my warranty?
This won't have any effect on an existing warranty or a new warranty.
Why haven't you done this before?
Saddleback started and grew strong exactly because of allowing scars and marks and brands on our leather. It's what made us into who we are today. The marks became less and less frequent since the people cutting the leather didn't understand why anyone would want leather with imperfections. So, they thought they were helping us and and it just kind of stayed that way until now.
If you are using more of the leather per hide, will the price go down?
The marks and scars have always represented a very small amount of leather. And actually, the bags now may cost us more since the leather cutters spend extra time placing various scars and brands, which they didn't do before.
Can I see what it will look like before I buy it since this makes the leather so much different from bag to bag?
We have some pictures of the sorts of marks that might be on your bag, but we don't have shots of every piece. We wouldn't ever send out something that we wouldn't send to our own mom and dad. You'll love what you get.
Is this truly cooler leather or are you just trying to save some money on cheaper hides?
I'm pretty sure that if you ask anyone who's been watching Saddleback for any length of time, they'll tell you that we're not so much about the money as we are about creating things that bring people joy. It's art and it's quality and we just like it. It makes us happy. And don't forget, Saddleback has a steady history of constantly improving quality in design and materials. There have been several changes to designs that cost us more money to make, but that we did for no other reason than to raise the quality bar. It just seems like the right thing to do. So, to go against everything that we are known for, stand for and teach would be really inconsistent and pretty risky too. And the hides are the same expensive quality hides that we've used for years, but we're just not cutting out as many of the stories.
If this is so great--as you say--why are you the only ones doing this?
I suspect that other companies think that nobody would like it and they're not willing to take the risk to learn if it's true or not. Also, there are so many variables in the marks and scars on each hide that it's very difficult to teach a person which ones to cut out and which ones to leave. It could get very expensive if the cutters aren't trained well and they allowed some of those nasty looking lumpy scars onto the bags.
Can I still buy the old style if I just don't like this change?
Once we're out, we're out, but surely you'll be able to find some on eBay as people are wanting to sell theirs so they can buy one of these.