As fall rolls in, leather abounds in jackets, boots, satchels and gloves. Its precedent in style is ancient and diverse. Indubitably, Hephaestus wore a tasteful walnut-brown leather apron as he banged away at his metalwork on high. Black leather brings to mind a biker’s motorcycle jacket embellished with large silver spikes, or a Cistercian monk’s leather boots. The secret agent with her ubiquitous leather gloves is also a hallmark of leather’s mystique. Leather is powerful, hallowed and enigmatic.
English professor Dr. Andrew Osborn, who taught for three years on the Rome campus, proudly dons his leather jacket once autumn’s chill nips the air.
“It is a tough leather jacket … I have a high tolerance of pain and I am actually secretly a very tough guy, and my wife doesn’t let me ride motorcycles, so I need to flaunt it when I can,” Osborn said, who haggled for a streamlined, zip-up dark brown jacket in the streets of Florence.
Whether to flaunt toughness or to imitate Italian style, many University of Dallas students make pilgrimages during their Rome semesters to Florence’s leather market for satchels and jackets. Senior Cecilia Lang bought leather boots during the trip to Florence.
“I have to polish them and wax them, but I know that I’ll have them for years and years,” she said, arguing that their beauty makes the extra care worth it.
Sophomore Nick Terranova agreed. In describing his inherited jacket, he speaks of the augustness of leather.
“Leather items are often considered status symbols; they convey among men a rugged masculinity,” Terranova said. “My dad bequeathed to me this jacket that he wore when he was younger … [with] a ridiculous pattern on the inside. But it’s the sort of thing you would wear as a blossoming man.”
Though Terranova has not yet found an occasion to wear his jacket, he said he has high expectations and likened the leather jacket to the armor of Iliadic days.
The delicate care which genuine leather necessitates sometimes renders it impractical. Sophomore Stephen Williams, who usually wears an authentic leather letterman’s jacket, can be found substituting fake leather on rainy days. He makes this sacrifice only when atmospheric conditions demand, as water can damage real leather. Despite the extra care leather demands, Williams heartily agreed that aesthetics make the effort worthwhile.
Though a classic fall staple, leather also takes extraordinary forms. Father Bernard Morton of Cistercian Abbey bought his first pair of Texas cowboy boots after escaping Hungary. He now has exotic boots of ostrich, eel, crocodile and lizard skin (which he gave to a former student).
Fr. Morton received the ostrich pair, complete with the Abbey crest, when a former student of his, who had entered the Western wear business, wanted to gift him a pair.
“They are my Sunday best. I wear them with my habit,” Morton said. “Several people who don’t know me just say ‘I want to talk to the priest who wears the boots.’”
Beyond the fame of his leather, Fr. Morton appreciates leather’s practicality.
“It’s natural, it breathes, it smells good, it feels good … and it’s very, very comfortable,” Fr. Morton said.
Our Lord said to clothe the naked, and, given these benefits, I suggest we clothe them in fine leather goods.