Signature Materials: What is Filson Bridle Leather?

Filson Dawson leather bags.

Leather has been in mankind’s toolbox for centuries. It is used for everything from boots to armor. It can be made from virtually any animal’s hide, though the vast majority comes from cowhides. While several different processes can be employed to transform a hide into a useful leather, chromium and vegetable tanning are the main methods in use today.

Factory floor of leather working.
Filson Bridle Leather is tanned by Wickett & Craig, One of the few remaining vegetable tanneries in America, who’ve been perfecting their craft since 1867.

What is it?

Bridle Leather is vegetable tanned, a gradual and deliberate process in which de-haired hides are steeped in solutions made from the barks of various trees. Tannins released from this plant matter react with the collagen fibers in the hide to arrest decomposition. The hides are moved through increasing concentrations of tanning liquor throughout the process. The addition of nourishing waxes and tallows in the final stages transforms the hides into durable, lustrous leather that withstands the elements and hard use. Bridle Leather earned its name from the toughness that makes it uniquely suitable for horse tack.

Hands rolling leather hides.

Why do we use it?

There are good reasons Filson uses Bridle Leather for our products. For nearly 125 years we’ve manufactured clothing and gear built to survive the world’s harshest environments, and believe that the wallet you carry should meet those same tough standards. Its rugged durability also makes Bridle Leather the perfect candidate for belts and bags that last a lifetime. Vegetable-tanned leather is naturally processed with no dangerous chemicals, minimizing the potential for disastrous environmental impact. Because our Bridle Leather is time-consuming to produce, it’s not inexpensive, but we believe the results are well worth the investment.

Where does it come from?

Filson Bridle Leather is tanned by Wickett & Craig in Curwensville, a small town located along Pennsylvania’s West Branch Susquehanna River. One of the few remaining vegetable tanneries in America, Wickett & Craig has been perfecting their craft since 1867. Their tanning yard houses 72 large vats filled with their proprietary tanning solution, which is continually recirculated and replenished to ensure even absorption by the hides over the course of two weeks. Though we could source our Bridle Leather from numerous places across the globe, Filson has partnered with Wickett & Craig for more than a quarter century because with stringent standards that match our own, the quality of their leather is unsurpassed. In short, Wickett & Craig is the best in the business, and we’re proud to call them our business partners.

Vats of vegetable tanning solution at the Wickett & Craig factory.

Who Makes it?

Jeremy Bennett, Filson’s Manager of Product Development for leather goods, says of Wickett & Craig Bridle Leather: “The balance of firmness, strength, and core-fiber density really sets it apart from other leathers on the market.” A seasoned veteran in the design and production of leather goods, Jeremy has worked with every type of leather out there and understands their intricacies better than anyone. For each of our Bridle Leather products, Jeremy and the rest of Filson’s design team choose the ideal Bridle Leather hides from the stacks of hides in our factory, all of which are precisely graded by thickness and weight.

What makes it special?

There are a few ways of dyeing and finishing leather that distinctly affect its final appearance. One method is top-coating, which seals the pores and creates a uniform surface, hiding any imperfections. Another involves aniline dyeing, in which soluble dye is applied and allowed to penetrate the surface of the leather, yielding a deep and lustrous finish. Because the pores are open on both sides, aniline-dyed leather is quite stable and able to uniformly absorb and discharge the environment’s ambient moisture. Aniline-dyed leather will display natural marks on the hide, so only the cleanest, most blemish-free hides qualify. All Filson Bridle Leather is aniline-dyed and gets better with use, with each piece developing its own unique character.

Bridle Leather holds a valued position in Filson manufacturing, and we’re constantly seeking new ways to put it to work, from smaller items like keychains and wallets to the handles on duffles that easily handle the heaviest loads.
Signature Materials - Bridle Leather_7

All of our Rugged Twill bags include saddle-grade Bridle Leather carry straps.

Filson Medium Weatherproof Leather Duffle Bag



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