Ah.. Patented Leather.. the material that instantly glams our shoes up a notch. Also the material that the classic Ferragamo ballerina made so popular. Do we really understand what we’re buying?
What is Patent Leather?
After obtaining the skin of an animal, tanneries need to prepare, preserve and treat the skin such that it will be stable enough to be used to make products such as shoes, bags, jackets and so on.
Patent is a type of leather finishing performed to the leather in order to achieve the glossy finish. It involves coating the leather with polyurethane/acrylic (a type of plastic) and then vacuum sealing it such that the plastic adheres to the leather. The glossy finish is due to the plastic.
Why Patent Leather is not preferred?
- Leather loses its breathability
When leather gets patented, it gets coated with a layer of plastic and loses its breathability – one of the top reasons why you buy a leather shoe in the first place. Because the pores of the animal is coated, it prevents sweat from your foot from escaping. Patented Leather shoes are especially bad for people with sweaty feet. You’ll find that your shoe stinks at the end of day!
So if you purchase patent you will find yourself paying a premium for leather but getting quality close to a synthetic.
2. Lower/lowest quality leather are used for patented finishing
Because the leather will be coated with a layer of plastic, manufacturers tend to use lower quality leather or leathers with defects as these imperfections will not be as obvious under the plastic coating.
When you are paying top dollar for a product, you would want to make sure you are get top quality for it.
3. Patent tends to crack after some time
Patented shoes tend to crack at the point where our foot bends and flexes to walk. This is inevitable in the long run – hence patented shoes are designed to last a long time. Furthermore, the high humidity in Singapore shortens the lifespan of patented leather making it more susceptible to cracking over time.
What about PU Shoes (aka polyurethane shoes, faux leather, synthetic leather)?
If not made in fabric, almost 90% of shoes in the lower price point (entry prices such as SGD 29.90) are made in PU.
PU is a synthetic leather -a material that resembles the look of leather but does not have the qualities of real leather. PU can also have a patented finishing – likewise it involves coating the synthetic leather with a layer of plastic.
You still achieve the same glossy look as patented leather but it is even stiffer than patented leather hence making it uncomfortable to wear.
Similar to patented leather, the synthetic is also coated with a layer of plastic to achieve that glossy finish and the result is? Sweaty smelly feet.
Any benefits to Patented Leather/Patented PU then?
The benefits in wearing patent are few. It is mainly in the looks as it instantly makes your shoe a little “dressier”. It is also relatively easier to maintain – dirt marks can be easily wiped off unless some other finishing such as suede. The material is also waterproof (only on the side that is coated!) so no worries about spilling coffee on your shoe.
Personally, I think the choice of whether to buy patent leather or not depends on what you want the shoe for. If the shoe you are thinking of buying is cheap and you don’t intend to keep it for a long time (willing to throw it away after 3 months), then PU would give you the same look as patent leather. However, if you really want a good comfortable shoe that will last you a long time, go for leather but please avoid patent!
Hope this gives you a better idea of what Patent Leather is and the pros and cons to consider before making your patent leather purchase the next time!