what is latigo leather

What is Latigo Leather? [Complete Guide]

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Different leathers are sometimes distinguished by their origin, their composition or the tanning & finishing methods used. 

This is the case of latigo leather, a cowhide that is distinguished by its particularity of undergoing two successive tannings, first a mineral tanning with chrome and then a vegetable tanning, giving it particular characteristics.

It is considered a "pull-up" leather because it undergoes a treatment that makes it particularly "greasy", distinguishing it from other vegetable tanned leathers.

Latigo leather is mainly used in the manufacture of shoes and boots because it is extremely resistant and patina incredibly well with time. Indeed, thanks to its double tanning, it is more resistant than other pull up leathers but also more flexible than other vegetable tanned leathers, which makes it incredibly versatile and therefore appreciated by many designers, despite its high price.

If you came across a latigo leather item during your last shopping session and want to learn more about this leather before making your decision, you've come to the right place. Here's what we'll cover in this article

Women's Leather Backpack
Women's Leather Backpack
Leather Work Backpack
Leather Work Backpack
Brown Leather Backpack
Leather Business Backpack
Ladies Leather Backpack
Ladies Leather Backpack

What Is Latigo Leather?

The term "Latigo" comes from Spanish and is derived from the word "whip" because Latigo was mainly used at first to manufacture leather whips. It is a unique cowhide that undergoes two successive tanning processes, chrome and vegetal, benefiting from the specific characteristics of these two tanning processes.

Indeed, it is soft thanks to its vegetable tanning but extremely durable and greasier thanks to its chrome tanning, making it an original and unique leather on the market. 

It is an expensive leather, at least more expensive than a lot of cow leather because it undergoes two tanning processes, which takes more time and resources. While chrome tanning is relatively quick (about a day), vegetable tanning uses natural extracts from oak, spruce bark, quebracho or other natural materials containing tannin (the molecule responsible for turning the hide into leather) and takes several days. 

Latigo leather also has the particularity of being a "pull-up" leather, meaning that it is impregnated with oils and/or wax to give it an extra layer, making it greasier and offering a richer coloration that offers an authentic touch and has the particularity of aging extremely well thanks to the patina phenomenon.

It was used for a long time in the equestrian field, to make whips and then horse reins, which are also called "latigo" in the field of saddlery, then, from the 1970s, cowboy boots.

📷 Credit: OA Leather Supply's Youtube Channel

When was Latigo Leather Created?

The origin of this leather can be found at the end of the 19th century when a tannery named Poetsch & Peterson and located in San Francisco was renowned for producing golden latigo. Later, its production spread and was concentrated by the Horween Leather Co, a famous American producer of chromexcel and shell cordovan, whose production was dedicated to the manufacture of G. H. Bass mocassins. 

Today, its production is not so concentrated and several manufacturers around the world produce it. However, some tanneries are known to produce a quality Latigo like Maverick Leather Company for example.

Initially, latigo was not a mix of different tanning processes but was a leather tanned with aluminum salts and a mixture of binders and protein sources. Later on, it switched to chrome tanning with the use of chrome sulfate. This allowed for irreversible tanning.

Today, the formula has evolved further to lead to the mixture that we know: a first chrome tanning followed by a vegetable tanning, giving the leather unique properties.

How Latigo Leather is Made?

As you now know, the uniqueness of latigo leather comes from its manufacturing process. This process is essential for a quality finish and therefore follows a rigorous process, each step of which offers a specificity to the final result. Let's examine the 6 critical steps one by one.

1. Chrome tanning

Once the hide is cleaned and prepared, it is placed in large baths in which chemical compounds such as chromium sulfate and chromium salts are added.

This process is now used by the vast majority of tanneries in the world because it is faster, less expensive and highly effective in producing soft, supple leather with beautiful coloring and optimal durability. This process is fast, from a few hours to one day. 

2. Vegetable tanning

Once out of this first bath, the leather is immersed again in a mixture of extracts of vegetable origin. This process does not involve the use of chemical elements but only natural extracts containing tannin.

Oak bark and spruce are most often used, but other vegetable elements can be used (quebracho, tara pods, olive leaves, rhubarb roots or mimosa). When leather is only tanned with plants, it is more sensitive to discoloration, but also more fragile. Pre-tanning with chrome avoids this.

3. Dyed Tumbling

Once out of their second bath, the hides are placed in moving drums to be dyed. This allows the leather to be agitated so that it absorbs the different dyes in depth to obtain a homogeneous and uniform texture and coloring. 

As the drum rotates, the leather softens, its pores open and it is more easily impregnated with the dyeing agents.

4. Fat-liquoring / Oiling

Once the hide is dyed, a mixture of grease and oil is applied to it. This allows the hide, by absorbing these components, to be more malleable, soft, stable and offers the unique look of pull-up leathers.

Without the addition of these components, the leather would dry out quickly, causing cracking. This phenomenon is avoided. Once oiled, the process does not need to be repeated unless the leather is overexposed to water, heat or other elements that may have removed the oil layer from the leather. 

5. Wet-stuffing

The hide is then introduced into a rich mixture of emulsified oils or fats to make it more durable. This is an intermediate step between fat-liquoring and hot-stuffing.

6. Hot-stuffing

This is the final process of creating latigo leather. This one involves once again emulsified oils but also wax and fat but this time heated in large heated barrels.

This heat allows the agents to better penetrate the leather and saturate it with a goal to give moisture back to the fibers, in order to keep a certain flexibility until its final work in saddlery.

Leather Duffle Bag
Leather Duffle Bag
Leather Weekender Bag
Leather Weekender Bag
Leather Holdall
Leather Holdall
Black Leather Holdall
Black Leather Holdall

What are the characteristics of latigo leather?


The latigo leather is a leather of excellent quality because of the characteristics it acquires during its tanning. Indeed, it is both durable and supple, which makes it well suited for the creation of objects subjected to rigorous activities or intensive use

Texture & Feel

Latigo leather is soft, firm and smooth to the touch. Its wax impregnation gives it a greasy appearance, but some tanneries offer other types of finishes, either matte or glazed, which is the exception.


Latigo leather is a hybrid in terms of flexibility. Its double tanning makes it softer than vegetable-only leathers, but less supple than chrome-only leathers. It is still soft enough to be worked in many industries and retains that softness well over time. It is a leather that can be cut and sewn quite easily.


Latigo leather is a strong and very durable leather. It is water resistant which increases its durability considerably and it is also flexible, offering a better resistance to various tensions. Over time, it develops a patina that makes it authentic and unique.


The original coloring of Latigo, which is due to the tannery Poetsch & Peterson, is close to golden yellow. However, over time, other colors were developed, depending on the trends and tastes of the times. Today, latigo leathers are mainly found in burgundy colors but also in black, brown, and more rarely in red or navy. 


The tanning process of latigo leather gives it a good water resistance, provided that it is not overexposed to water or that its protective layer is not weakened. Be sure to regularly apply a waterproofing wax treatment to regenerate the protective layer and prevent water stains on the leather surface. 


Latigo leather is quite easy to maintain thanks to its double tanning. You just have to let it dry when it is wet while taking care not to stick it against other objects/materials to avoid stains due to potential color transfers

To clean it, all you need is a saddle soap, a soft, lint-free cloth and distilled water (leather does not like minerals in water). Be sure not to rub the leather but to make circular movements, patting the surface of the leather.


Latigo leather is an expensive leather because its manufacturing process is tedious, time consuming and requires a number of elements and handling. The average price is estimated to be between $180 and $250 per hide. But because of its durability, your finished product will last longer, avoiding recurring changes, thus making your investment worthwhile over time

📷 Credit: Ashland Leather Co.'s Youtube Channel

What is Latigo Leather Commonly Used For?

Latigo leather is an extremely versatile leather and has many interesting properties for many industries. Indeed, it is a strong, durable, flexible leather that resists well to humidity. Many applications of this leather exist today such as:

  • harnesses
  • laces
  • cords
  • straps
  • collars and leashes for animals
  • bags
  • boots and shoes
Vintage Leather Tote Bag
Vintage Leather Tote Bag
Leather Tote Bag
Leather Tote Bag
Leather Shoulder Bag
Leather Shoulder Bag
Brown Leather Handbag
Brown Leather Handbag

What are the Advantages of Latigo Leather?

Latigo leather may cost a little bit of money, but that's because it deserves it. Indeed, thanks to its double tanning and oil/wax finish, it offers characteristics that are practically unique on the market

  • It is more supple than vegetable tanned leathers
  • It is moisture and water resistant, making it perfect for accessories and clothing that are exposed to water. It is also easier to maintain
  • It is extremely durable and resilient, even developing a beautiful patina over time, making it unique and authentic. As an added bonus, while it may be somewhat stiff at the time of purchase, it will soften over time, improving comfort for shoes for example.
  • It is a versatile leather that can be used for accessories, small leather goods such as wallets and belts, or large leather goods such as boots or even saddlery accessories.

What are the Disadvantages of Latigo Leather?

Latigo leather, after being tanned, dyed and finished with oils/waxes cannot have all the possible types of finishes. Indeed, due to its elastic and greasy nature, it is not suitable for stamping or modeling, reducing its potential finishes and therefore uses.

It is also a heavier leather than other types of leather. As a result, it may not be as comfortable over the long term because of the weight, which on large pieces can be restrictive.

Latigo leather is also more expensive than other similar leathers. This is due to the complexity and length of its manufacturing process and the use of many elements during the process.

Finally, due to the high presence of wax or oil inside the leather fibers, it is possible that if the leather is wet or in contact with certain light colored absorbent materials, it may color bleed due to color transfer. This is not a frequent phenomenon, but it can happen.

The best way to avoid this is to let your leather dry (or not get wet) and not to put it in contact with wet surfaces. You can also apply a water-resistant sealant or beeswax to reduce this risk.

How to Care for Latigo Leather?

Latigo leather is easy to care for. With a few simple steps of cleaning, maintenance and storage, you can enjoy its beauty for many years

How to Clean Latigo Leather?

When it comes to cleaning latigo leather, nothing could be easier. Always remove dust and residue from your leather before washing it. To do this, you can use wipes without perfume or alcohol or a lint-free microfiber cloth

Once you've gotten rid of these little impurities, get another clean, soft cloth, warm water (if you have, prefer distilled water to mineral tap water) and mild soap, saddle soap being the best option. 

Be careful not to get the leather too wet, your cloth should be damp, not soggy. When applying the soap, and this is true for all types of leather, do not rub the surface but alternate between tapping and slow, gentle circular movements. This way, you preserve the fibers of the leather and thus its longevity. 

Then let it dry completely before moving on to the next step: conditioning.

How to Condition Latigo Leather?

Your latigo leather is a leather that needs to live to develop its patina. It is therefore not recommended to condition it too frequently. Let it breathe, scratch, simply live. You can condition it more frequently if you wish to keep its "new" aspect, but it would be a shame to deprive yourself of its patina, and it will not improve its natural properties, on the contrary, it can damage it.

You have to estimate yourself if your leather needs a little glow up. For example, if you have exposed it to a lot of heat, sun or dry climates, you may want to consider conditioning it earlier than recommended. 

In general, one to two conditioning sessions per year are more than enough to moisturize your leather and maintain the natural beauty and characteristics of Latigo leather.

The application process is the same as for washing: a soft cloth, specialized conditioner and gentle circular application over the surface to facilitate the penetration and even distribution of the conditioner. If you have applied too much, feel free to remove it with another cloth. 

You can also apply beeswax if you notice that the waterproofing layer has been affected. Melt it in a bowl in a water bath and apply it with a cloth or a soft brush. 

Finally let your leather dry well before moving on to the final step: storage.

How to Store Latigo Leather?

We recommend storing your latigo leather piece in a place that is protected from humidity, heat and sunlight. It is important that this room is ventilated to avoid air that is too dry or too humid. 

You can store it in a dust bag, as long as it is not sealed. Indeed, moisture could accumulate and promote the development of mold or, conversely, your leather could dry out and crack

📷 Credit: Mackenzie Leather Edinburgh's Youtube Channel


Latigo leather is an excellent leather, which is perfect to be used in the design of pieces facing intensive use or harsh environments. It is an ideal compromise between chrome tanned and vegetable tanned leathers, bringing together the best of both worlds, without bringing together their shortcomings, except for its difficulty to be worked with certain techniques (stamping or embossing).

So yes, it is a relatively expensive leather, which should rather be considered as an investment because, with proper care, you can be sure to keep your leather for years!

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Tan Leather Backpack
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Small Leather Rucksack
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Baptiste is an adventurer with a passion for urban and wilderness exploration and adventure, and a lover of vintage objects with timeless charm. As a Founding member of the Eiken team, he tries to share his passion and expertise for travel and vintage fashion through his articles.

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