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When comparing a textile to an animal skin, we need to start by understanding that we are about to compare a plant by-product to an animal by-product.
Waxed canvas is heavy cotton that has been impregnated with a paraffin-based wax. Depending on the type and amount of wax, the process can make the cotton canvas water repellent or waterproof.
Leather is used in a variety of consumer products and is most often cow leather. We’ve covered types of leather in other articles.
For the sake of comparing the qualities of both materials, we’ll compare a rugged waxed canvas with full-grain leather.
There’s no point getting into the various levels of quality since a premium waxed canvas is a much better material for a bag than bonded leather. (Bonded leather is the lowest grade of leather.)
However, if we are comparing a premium grade of waxed canvas with the top grade of leather, full grain, then we have set up an interesting discussion.
Waxed canvas has its roots in mid-sixteenth century sailing. Waterproof sailcloth worked better wet or dry.
Fish oil and grease was used until specific recipes for types of cloth, and levels of waxing, were developed. Many of these techniques are still closely guarded secrets in today’s manufacturing.
Uses quickly transitioned from sailing to military uniforms and bags due to the durability and ability to weather tough conditions.
Fashion brands have adopted waxed canvas for apparel for the same reasons—repellent qualities, durability with the added attraction of beauty. The natural patina created by use mimics the aging of fine leather.
In considering a product made from waxed canvas, determine the ounce weight of the fabric. An 18 oz. waxed canvas means that one square yard of the fabric weighs that amount.
As you approach the heavier weights, the flexibility of the fabric goes down while the price goes up.
Waxed canvas is not always less expensive. Heavy materials can approach the price of high-quality leather.
We have covered leather history and properties of leather in other articles. However, to add to this discussion, we’ve got to understand why we might be comparing leather to waxed canvas.
Are you trying to determine which material may be more water repellent? Waterproof? Certain waxes and finishes can render leather water repellent or water proof.
Manufacturers of luxury yachts might request specific finishes or coatings for the upholstery leather. Beach side resorts may do the same for their deck furniture.
If you are comparing bags or apparel, leather is typically a porous material that is not typically processed to be waterproof.
Yes. A leather jacket or bag could withstand a run to the car in a rainstorm.
Both are great options.
If you are looking for a product to withstand the elements, waxed canvas has been the choice for generations.
If you are looking for durability, they both have proven themselves.
Depending on the type of canvas or leather, canvas is normally the lighter weight choice.
Waxed canvas products tend to be more flexible, and more compact when empty.
Beauty is in the eye of the consumer. The look and touch vary greatly in both materials.
So, which is best? Who are we to give advice on such a personal decision?