What is Spazzolato Calf?

The word spazzolato means ‘brushed’ in Italian. It is a term commonly used in the leathergoods industry for a high-shine, full-grain leather, but, generally less glossy than traditional patent leather.

Traditionally, most full-grain leathers (meaning you can see the natural pores of the skin) are dull when they leather the tanning process. The shine is achieved in the shoemaking process using a series of heat burnishing (to close the pore structure), creams and waxes for colour variation and depth and a great deal of polishing by hand and mechanised polishing wheels. However, there are many other variations that have been developed since the 19th century using linseed oil-based varnishes to achieve a perfectly uniform and permanent polish.

Patent leather is the most common, yet it is now often considered a bit old school and a bit flashy outside of black-tie dressing. A slightly more toned-down version of this pre-polished calf has become a staple of most designers and a popular alternative to glossy patent.

Many designer brands now sell a version of a spazzolato calf, and it’s usually just in black as the corrected nature of the colour does not really lend itself to more natural browns and tans. The look grained popularity during the clean, minimalism of 90’s European fashion with designers like Gucci, Prada, Helmut Lang and Jill Sander all launching variations on spazzolato shoes and bags. The semi-gloss finish was a more fashionable, toned-down variation of the more common high gloss patent leather that most people associated with this type of ‘corrected’ leather.

A ‘corrected’ leather is a full grain leather that has been fully dyed to cover any natural imperfections in the hide and left to dry flat in order to maintain structure and a slick, clean finish. The skin is then sprayed with a varnish topcoat to create the uniform shine as opposed to leaving the skin to be hand-polished by the shoemaker.

Spazzolato Calf became incredibly popular in footwear, handbags and small leather goods not just for its look, but also for its durability. The varnished nature of the leather acts as a natural weatherproofing and is often naturally water resistant. The semi-gloss shine is very easy to maintain and requires only an occasional polish with a cloth or light leather conditioner.

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