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I was given a reusable water bottle last week by a UK tanner. It is unusual in my life these days to get a gift from a company, and this one is particularly useful. Many years ago, gifts of this sort were nearly always small leather goods - wallets, diaries, leather covered clothes brushes, shoe polishing cases and the like.
With changes in the way we all live these items started to gather dust and have been largely terminated; a water bottle is simpler and safer as well as sending a sustainable message.
Yet, at the weekend, I saw an article in a major newspaper about a travel shoe horn. Yes, one of those clever devices to help you put your shoes on without trampling down the heel. This one, from the brand Ettinger, is foldable and made of metal and leather, fitting into a stitched leather pouch. “Small but perfectly formed” was the description.
Anyone who flies regularly will remember that we used to be given little shoe-horns in the pack they hand out with face-masks and ear plugs. This long since stopped, so I have a little collection I have kept and I always pack one to use at the end of a flight. My current favourite is from PanAm in the 1980s.
Longevity is the first step on the sustainability route
Two things strike home considering all this. Many of these little items were about taking care of clothes, footwear and other property. They reinforced the mindset that says purchasing should be more considered and less impulsive; it should as far as possible be of objects that we want to last and will look after. After all longevity is the first, and biggest, step on the sustainability route.
The second, much overlooked, aspect is that having leather around makes our lives better. GST Autoleather have been posting that most of us have four leather items with us at any one time, and Cotance reminded us that we all have one “special” leather item (I talk about this in more depth in my column in the upcoming November-December edition of ILM magazine). Leather is not an ordinary material. It is a natural, organic material – however tanned – which counterbalances the depressing harshness of our modern lives with cities, crowded public transport, dominated by technology. A modern world of steel, of glass, of plastic where we have to fight to find tranquillity.
Leather in everyday items
So, whereas a year or two ago I would have looked askance at a quite expensive leather covered travel shoe-horn, today, I think these items are worth every cent. We need more leather-covered everyday items, not fewer. We need leather to humanise the society that we live in, and to remind us (and our children) that we buy things to look after them, not to throw them away.
Dr Mike Redwood
October 31, 2018
Follow Dr Mike Redwood on twitter: @michaelredwood
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