The leather patch has adorned the backside of denim jeans since the beginning. It served a purpose then, but we specifically moved away from it to a vegan alternative.
MEET THE JEAN
WHY A LEATHER PATCH IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Levi’s installed a leather patch on its jeans back in the late eighteen hundreds for two reasons. First, it was a great opportunity to use your butt as a billboard for its brand. The two horse trademark illustration became quite iconic and helped the brand attract new customers who liked how the jeans looked on their friends and co-workers.
The second reason was fraud prevention. The leather patch helped customers determine the pants were genuine Levi’s as native English speakers, foreign language speakers, and illiterate people could recognize the symbol and the brand.
Also, just to add a fun piece of trivia. That leather back patch is technically called a Jacron. Now there is something you will never need to know (but will maybe come up at a weekly bar trivia sometime!)
WHY AGAIN&AGAIN USES VEGAN PATCHES INSTEAD
We love the back patch and how it looks on a jean, but we did not want to add leather to our product. As is likely obvious from the many design choices we have made, we have no problem bucking tradition. This seemed like another great place to do so. Leather adds no functionality beyond aesthetics to the jean, so we replaced it with a woven patch that looks just as good.
Replacing the leather patch with a woven one from our friends at Label Weavers, also makes our jeans completely vegan. No cow (or other animals for that matter) were harmed or needed to produce our jeans. Being vegan is great for environmental reasons too.
Replacing the leather patch with a woven one from our friends at Label Weavers, also makes our jeans completely vegan.
The first reason is the water footprint. Apparently, cows are thirsty. It takes approximately 500,000 gallons of water to raise one cattle and 5.5% of that can be attributed to the leather. Given each cow produces an estimated six Kilograms of leather, that’s 4,444 gallons of water per every Kilogram of leather. Obviously, one Kilogram of leather is enough for a lot of Jacrons, but why waste any of that water?
Second, the tanning process can be quite harmful to the environment and industrial workers. Roughly 80% of leather worldwide is tanned using chromium (III) oxide, a water pollutant and documented carcinogen. One instance of chromium poisoning in Hinkley, CA was made famous by the movie Erin Brockovich. It’s toxic stuff.
Some argue that as a byproduct of the beef industry, leather is just a product made from material that would otherwise go to waste. Two problems with that argument. First, byproduct or not, leather tanning still uses chromium. Second, leather represents roughly 10% of the value of the cow, essentially subsidizing the beef industry. That may not be such a good thing as beef cattle production accounts for 3.5% of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Avoiding leather will not single handedly solve that problem, but it may help. Either way, we’re all about saving cows.