Leather through the ages - The Fabulous Life of Fashionable Leather

Pharaohs and their queens were the first to use it. The royals and senators of Rome soon caught on. And before you knew it, all of the civilized worlds looked upon it as the ultimate symbol of luxury. Yes, we are talking about the ubiquitous appeal of leather to the luxurious elite. Unlike many others whose allure faded with time and changing fashion, leather’s appeal never waned. In fact, it simply grew from century to century while changing in style and form from decade to decade.

Leather doublets

A raging trend among nobles of the 16th century, like Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester, were leather doublets, meticulously ‘slashed’ to enable the underlying fabric to peek through.

Long before it was used as opulent upholstery and luggage, leather was used to clothe the rich and carry their valuables. From the cloaks of kings to the covering armour of the highest generals in the land, from the chatelaine purses of noblewomen to the satchels of wealthy merchants, leather covered them all as an undeniable statement of fashion. Footwear in leather evolved from sandals to dress shoes and increased in their styles and colours through makers like Bally, Salvatore Ferragamo andTod’s, to name a few.

Leather Purses

Chatelaines were chains attached to leather purses and often bejewelled to show off the wealth and prowess of the lady it belonged to. Many believe they were precursors to the strapped handbags of today.


The turn of the 20th century, however, was the dawn of high-fashion and couture as we know it today. Born in that era were fashion stalwarts like Gucci, Burberry, Chanel, Hermès, Prada, Fendi, Coach and Louis Vuitton. Each of them embraced leather in their own signature way through the decades, highlighting its glamorous appeal. The bejewelled chatelaine purses of the 19th century became the Birkin’s, Diamond Forever Classic’s, and Baguettes of today.


The story goes that Jean Louis Dumas, then director of Hermès, bumped into British actress Jane Birkin carrying a straw basket as a bag on a flight from Paris to London. When asked, she responded that she had not yet found a bag that could carry all her essentials and open easily. This conversation resulted in Jane designing the iconic Birkin, a process that took almost three years! By the time she auctioned it for charity, it was beset with her personal beads and stamps.



Leather handbag

Formerly known as the Sac à dépêches, Hermès officially renamed this iconic high-handle leather handbag as the Kelly in 1977 after the soaring popularity it gained through Grace Kelly’s endorsement. She was first seen with it in Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch A Thief. 

Popular culture adopted leather bags as a necessary luxury and christened them a ‘wardrobe essential’. Pure leather handbags and wallets continue to be a coveted accessory for their timeless appeal and sophisticated aesthetic. Evolving from purses and shoulder bags to styles that match every personality, there was soon a leather bag for every bent of mind – think clutches, totes, hobos and satchels, and the diverse array of personalities they depict.


Blending classic styles with everyday functionality, bags like the Ruby Weave are now a staple in every fashion savvy woman’s wardrobe.


While hide is used in a variety of apparel from pants to dresses, it is most commonly found today on jackets. Taking inspiration from the armour of Roman soldiers, German pilots of the First World War were the first to sport leather in the form of bomber jackets. A decade later, Manhattan coat-maker Irving Schott collaborated with Harley Davidson to design leather jackets for bikers. Rugged enough to survive the harshest winds, these ‘biker’ jackets were quick to become popular, especially among the ‘daring youth’.


Leather Jacket

Dubbed the Perfecto jacket, the Schott-Harley Davidson collaboration replaced the buttons of WWI bombers with a more convenient zipper. This shortened version became an icon of popular culture when Marlon Brando donned it across films.


 By the end of the Second World War, the leather jacket was worn with pride by veterans and civilians alike, but the 50s was when it truly burst onto the world of fashion. This world, it seemed, simply could not get enough of the James Deans and Marlon Brandos. Movie stars, rock stars and celebrities across the globe sported leather jackets in a variety of styles and colours. Soon, the quality of the leather used began to matter far more than the brand that tagged it with quaint Italian makers taking the market by storm. Fashionistas soon realised the beauty in letting the characteristic charm of leather simply shine through.


By the 70s, films like Grease and their actors John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John fashioned pop-culture. Women were now included in the fold of leather as pants and vests made their way into the must-have leather wardrobe.


Leather Jacket

The leather jacket still carries a vintage appeal although it has come a long way from the button-downs of the 20s.


 Whether it's our leather bags or jackets, The Leather Boutique prides itself in giving all the glory to the superior quality leather we bring to you. From design to execution, the hide is held in high esteem and cared for with passion. And rightfully so, given its decorated history!

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