Does Leather Breathe?

One lesson I learned very well as a child is that leather breathes better than just about any synthetic material. I had this lesson repeated to me each time I needed to buy a pair of shoes. My father, who I would classify as a leather expert, would tell me to make sure I got shoes with real leather, and not an imitation or plastic, because then my shoes wouldn’t breathe, and my feet would get sweaty and smelly and gross. At least that is how I remember it.

There is no real way to measure breathability, which isn’t even a word, but we’ll just make things easy by saying leather breathes a lot. This is one of the reasons it is so great in the stereotypical setting of “the hardworking man” with his leather boots and leather gloves. If you are out working hard in the sun, you are going to get sweaty, but the leather will help you deal with that sweaty heat on a manageable level.

How does it do that?

We’ve discussed that leather is very tough, and can be incredibly thick, so how on earth is it able to breathe? When we think of ventilated fabrics, we usually think of things like mesh, which are so thin they barely exist. Well think about it, you have skin. How does moisture and air move through your skin?  You have pores! Well cows are the same way. Since leather is a natural fiber, it has all kinds of fun properties, like being naturally porous, which leads to breathability. This is another one of those hidden downsides of advertisers deceptively tricking people into buying inferior leathers. Any of the “leather” that has plastic in or on it is going to have those pores removed or blocked, and you lose that ventilation. It just gives leather a bad name.