Despite Doc Marten’s high-end prices, leather is surprisingly cheap to produce. This means there are plenty of cheaper leather products available in high-street stores which offer the same desirable qualities. Unlike other materials, it’s lint and dust-free and so it needs little maintenance yet keeps intact, often leather items can simply be wiped clean. Also, genuine leather doesn’t peel or crack, which keeps its original luxurious look for years.
This quality simply cannot be replicated with synthetic materials; hence why many brands have and still rely on leather.
Recently, however, designers have been criticised for using the material - the industry has been exposed as unethical and cruel. Many wearers of leather assume that the material is simply a by-product of the meat industry. In some cases, this is true as the otherwise wasted animal skin farmers can use it for profit. However, to produce leather of the highest quality, the skin from young or even unborn calves is used as this achieves a much softer finish. Therefore, in some instances, this proves the more brutal aspects of the leather industry, as it is so overshadowed by the meat industry and many ignore the leather making process.
Moreover, the process of tanning leather is incredibly toxic to the environment. Carcinogenic chromium is often used to colour the material which in turn results in this dangerous chemical permeating the water table. In response, many big-name designers have chosen to bypass the use of leather in their designs. Stella McCartney, an active PETA supporter, refuses to work with fur or leather and encourages other designers to do the same. There are many alternative fabrics such as PU or PVC which can be used as substitutes to the sometimes criticised ‘unethical’ material.
Despite this, there are ways to meet in the middle when it comes to buying leather. Using vegetable dye to tan the material rather than chrome is much less damaging to the environment. This process has been employed by brands such as Terra Plana for their products. Alternatively, you can reduce the production of leather itself by simply buying second hand or vintage items. The leather industry is consequently becoming a much more controversial trade, but by recycling, leather made products it can be argued that much of the brutality can be avoided.