Goatskin's the Pepsi to cowhide's Coca Cola. Goatskin leather has forever been in the shadow of its prestigious bovine rival, but makes a pretty snazzy leather in its own right. You may not even be able to tell the difference between the two at first, but the discerning eye will find a world of distinction.
For starters, there's the feel. Goatskin leather's inherently soft and supple texture is thanks to a largely inherent supply of lanolin, permitting it an endurance and vitality hard to rival. This feature's given it stardom all throughout history, from bookbinding and drumheads to living large as a sassy alternative to wrist-length gloves during Edwardian era England. Today, it's use has shifted from formal to more practical needs. It's most common to find in gloves, boots, lady's footwear, and other materials requiring a uniquely soft touch. You have to wonder how animals with such tough and scary looking horns jutting out of their heads can make such supple material. I guess there's a softy behind every terrifying beast. Belle's got the right idea.
Goatskin leather comes in two broad categories: there's the traditional goatskin, and next to this, you have the softer and dexterous kidskin, which is derived from younger goats (kids). It is widely used to pacify troublemaking children, where their supervisor would gesture towards a kidskin material and suggest they could be next.
Kidskin is very often (but not always) found in suede form, where the kidskin is repeatedly sanded down to achieve a thinner cut, and finished on its flesh side. The result will offer a particularly softer hide, with a tradeoff for longevity and durability. Suede is a unique leather that requires unconventional treatment methods to maintain. We'll get to that in a second.
Goatskin leather, on the other hand, is similar to traditional cowhide, albeit much softer. It offers more protection than kidskin, is strong, durable, flexible, and delights in an exceptionally smooth and fine grain. As was mentioned earlier, it will often possess an inherent store of lanolin, allowing it to retain oils for extended periods of time without excessive care. A nice bonus feature, considering its affinity for handwear, which is exposed to more grime and debris than most other leathers.
That said, both goat and kidskin leather will require upkeep, just like any other leather.
Goatskin is porous material that absorbs substances readily from the environment around it. To keep your goatskin leather from drying out, it should be kept in a cleanly environment with balanced humidity and temperature. A wooden box, or a breathable dust bag will work excellently. Don't store it in plastic, however ("How Should I Store Leather?"). It's important the goatskin is able to allow some moisture through its pores - you can read about the whole breathing process here. Bottom line: goatskin leather should be protected, not suffocated. A little air to breathe is the flavor of life.
If your goatskin leather plans on going the distance, it's also going to need to be cleaned and conditioned periodically. Spot dusting should happen anytime you see debris on the surface - don't give contaminants an opportunity to absorb. Throughout the year (about 2-3 times), it's also a good idea to give the goatskin a more thorough cleaning. Chamberlains have a recipe for this, "Straight Cleaner no. 2." It's alcohol based and specially formulated to deeply cleanse leather, pulling out dirt and grime rooted in leather pores. Give it a try! (But remember to test first in a discreet area).
As for conditioning, Chamberlain's got you covered there too, lucky dog. It's called Leather Care Liniment no. 1. You may have heard of it. It's our star player, and conveniently only a few clicks away. Feed leather conditioner to your leather 2-3 times a year, and always after deeply cleaning your goatskin. If leather cleaner is used without leather conditioner, your leather could dry out from having lost many vital lubricants. Like leather cleaner, any leather conditioner should be tested in a discreet area prior to use.
We've got a different story for kidskin. If it's not suede, it can be treated similar to goatskin leather, although you may want to go a little easier on the maintenance and spotdust more frequently instead. It also doubly important to test any leather treatment before you use it on kidskin. If your kidskin is made of suede (which there's a strong chance it will be), you will need to care for it differently.
Suede has a lot less protection than your usual finished or full grain leather, and will be more vulnerable to wear and stains. You'll want to take extra good care of it, caring for any spills or accidents as soon as they occur. This is usually accomplished with a soft suede brush (and perhaps a damp rag). Avoid getting this leather very wet, as that can lead to color and textural changes. Instead, it's best to apply a protection spray ahead of time to give a line of defense against incidental tragedies. Make sure your conditioner is specifically designed for suede and soft leathers, and test it first in a discreet area. For cleaning suede, brush it regularly, and use sprinkle corn starch over the surface and leave overnight to pull out existing stains.
Other than that, keep an eye on kidskin and goatskin leather both to ensure maximum protection. The leathers are very valuable (especially kidskin, which is considered a finer quality leather), and should be cared for appropriately. Keep an eye on texture and color, clean regularly, and make sure they're in a happy environment. Show that you care, and your goatskin leather should take care of itself. It's got a stubborn streak, after all. Big attitude, pointy horns, yet super-soft under that big bad facade. It's such a romantic.
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