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What is Kidskin?

Greer Hed
Greer Hed

Kidskin is a variety of leather made from the hides of goats. As the name implies, kidskin is often made from the hides of baby goats, or kids, but it may also be made from the pelts of fully-grown goats. This type of leather is lightweight, supple and strong. Although it may be made into almost any kind of leather clothing or accessory, it is most often seen on ladies' dress shoes and is also often used to make gloves for both men and women.

Most leather comes from cattle skins, but many other sources of leather exist. Kidskin and calfskin are generally of higher quality than pigskin or side leather, and tend to cost more accordingly. Calfskin leather is usually the most expensive variety of leather, due to its great shine, depth of color, and tendency to resist scuffing. Kid leather is lighter, stronger and therefore more flexible than calfskin, lending itself to a wide variety of design options.

A young goat.
A young goat.

The first step in making kid leather is preparing the hides for tanning. Preparation includes preserving the hide, removing unwanted protein, hair, and fat, and applying chemicals and salts to the hide to aid in the absorption of tanning materials. Once this process is complete, the leather is tanned and dried. Tanning preserves the hide even further and keeps it from decaying. Modern tanning methods involve the application of either tannins, chromium sulfate, or aluminum salts.

The first step in making leather is cleaning the hides and preparing them for tanning.
The first step in making leather is cleaning the hides and preparing them for tanning.

Gloves made from kidskin have been fashionable accessories since the Victorian era. In the late 19th century, elbow-length opera gloves made from kidskin were an elegant alternative to shorter glove styles that only reached the wrist. These soft leather opera gloves became an important and popular component of lady's formal wear, reaching their peak of popularity during the Edwardian era. In modern times, gloves made of kid leather are usually worn as winter outerwear rather than formal wear, but they continue to be popular with both men and women due to their warmth and soft, supple texture.

Proper care and cleaning of kidskin garments and accessories can help to reduce cracking and warping of the leather, thereby increasing the garment's lifespan. Kid leather garments should be stored at moderate temperatures in an area that is neither too dry nor too humid. The first step in cleaning kidskin is to wipe the leather with a dry cloth to remove any surface dirt. Then the garment may be washed with mild soap and warm water, or treated with saddle soap or leather cream. After cleaning, the leather may be further treated with a leather conditioner and then laid flat to dry.

Discussion Comments


I've had several pairs of kid skin leather shoes, specifically Nunn Bush Barrett loafers with a tassel. They are truly the most comfortable shoes I've ever worn. I just can't find them anymore.


I've found that patent leather shoes do wrinkle right after the first wear. Is that the case with kidskin shoes also? Before I buy a pair? Thanks.


So if given the choice of leather (non-specific) or kidskin shoes, which is the better choice?


I think the phrase "handle it with kid gloves," which means you're going to handle a matter very delicately, probably originated from the popularity of kidskin gloves. After all, kidskin gloves are considered to be high quality and are very soft, so it kind of makes sense.

It's funny this phrase has stuck around, because I don't see too many people wearing kidskin gloves these days! Knit gloves seem like they're a lot more popular, but you never hear some say to handle something with "knit gloves."


@strawCake - Some of your shoes may not be kidskin shoes, it's true. However, the longevity of leather items depends a lot on how you take care of it!

As the article said, leather should be cleaned and conditioned regularly. If you don't do this, your leather items will end up looking pretty awful, no matter how expensive they were.

I saw this process first hand once a few years ago. My mom and sister both purchased the same leather jacket one year. One of them took care of their jacket, and the other didn't. After awhile, there was a big difference in the looks of the two jackets!


I have a lot of leather high heeled shoes, and I can't recall if any of them mention being made of kidskin leather or not. I think most of them just say plain old "leather" on the inner label.

I'm going to guess that some of the shoes I have were made of kidskin, and other pairs were made of lower quality leather. Some of my shoes have held up for many years, while other leather dress shoes have fallen apart after being worn for one season.

Either way, I'm going to pay closer attention to the labels next time I go shopping for dress shoes.

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    • A young goat.
      By: Gerhard Seybert
      A young goat.
    • The first step in making leather is cleaning the hides and preparing them for tanning.
      By: Beth Van Trees
      The first step in making leather is cleaning the hides and preparing them for tanning.