Sometimes choosing the right leather for a project can make all the difference in the end. Kangaroo leather has a lot of unique qualities that make it perfect for certain types of work.
Kangaroo leather is a type of leather produced from the skin of the Kangaroo mammal. It is one of strongest types of leather available, due to the unique structure of the collagen fibers in their skin. Kangaroo leather is used most often in motorbike clothing, upholstery, cleats, and for whips.
With such great strength characteristics, let’s learn more about how and when to use Kangaroo leather in our leather working projects.
What is Kangaroo Leather?
Kangaroo leather is made from the skins of the Kangaroo. It’s a marsupial mammal native to the continent of Australia. Approximately 35 million Kangaroos live on farms there, each can weight up to about 200 pounds. The Kangaroo is also the national symbol of Australia.
There are many different species of Kangaroo, and most are protected from hunting by Australian national law. A few species, however, are more common and abundant, and allowed to be hunted with a license. Some would say this helps keep the population in control. Others would say it might not be totally necessary.
The Kangaroos that are hunted are generally processed for food and for their skins. The Kangaroo meat is eaten in Australia and around the world, while the skins are tanned and turned into Kangaroo leather. It’s used in a variety of products including shoes, boots, whips, gloves, upholstery, cleats, and motorbike clothing. It is valued for it’s unique strength in the leather world.
Why is Kangaroo Leather so Strong?
Kangaroo leather is very strong due to the structure of the collagen fibers in the skin. Unlike cows, sheep, or other animals kangaroos do not have sweat glands within their skin. This allows the skin to be a much more even, consistent structure.
Additionally, the collagen fiber structure runs mostly parallel to the skin. This helps form a dense, consistent patten throughout the skin. Where other types of animal leather have variations throughout a hide, Kangaroos are mostly the same.
This skin structure also allows this leather to be split into thinner pieces, and still retain much of it’s strength. For example, a split cow leather hide of 20% original thickness retains on average 2% of it’s original strength. A split kangaroo leather skin of 20% original thickness retains on average 50% of it’s original strength. Amazing.
The differences in leather strength are due mainly to the skin’s structure. Cow leather has several layers of varying composition, collagen density, and fiber alignment. When it is cut, the overall structure weakens in multiple places.
Kangaroo leather is consistent throughout, so when it’s cut, most of the strength remains. What strength is lost is mainly due just to lower material thickness, as we’d see in most materials (for example thicker cotton or thinner cotton). So even in thin pieces, this leather is strong and useful. This consistency also allows it to be used for products requiring a sturdy, durable leather.
What is Kangaroo Leather Used for?
Kangaroo leather is used for a variety of applications that require a strong, dense leather. One popular use is in motorcycle clothing and protective equipment. If a rider falls, having protective gear is very important. They’ll often wear leather pants and a jacket. The density and strength of this type of leather is beneficial as it can batter withstand abrasion across pavement better than other types of leather.
This type of leather leather is also used in the manufacture of shoes and boots. The strong leather helps resist wears, abrasion, and scuffs, making the products look and perform better and longer. For example, soccer (and football) cleats are made with it. Bags and purses are another product made from this sturdy material that fares well with everyday wear.
Another popular use for kangaroo leather is in whip making. Since whips are long and thin pieces of leather (some being many feet long), they require a strong leather. The leather retains its consistent strength even when cut into long, thin prices, thus making it the leather of choice.
Small leather products and accessories are also made from kangaroo leather. Preference can drive the choice of the material, and overall appearance of the finished product. When deciding on leather for a project, kangaroo is one option to definitely keep in mind.
What is K-Leather?
K-leather is a shorthand term used to describe kangaroo leather. Most often, it is used in reference to kangaroo leather cleats used for soccer and football. K-leather is a marketing term that is easier to reference than fully saying “Kangaroo”.
K-leather goods are valued for their density, strength, and smoothness. It is also used often for gloves, bags, purses, and even golf accessories.
Kangaroo Leather Boots/Kangaroo Leather Cleats
Worthy of mention, one of the leading uses of the material is in kangaroo leather boots. Also referred to as kangaroo leather cleats, these are the shoes that soccer (football) players wear on the soccer (football) field.
The cleats are firm, yet flexible, and provide a smooth, strong surface for consistent striking of the ball with the foot. Kangaroo leather used for cleats is often referred to as K-leather. Some players prefer the natural leather material, while others have moved on to using synthetic leather materials for their cleats.
Is Kangaroo Leather Waterproof?
Kangaroo leather is not, on its own, waterproof. While it is a very strong, sturdy, and durable leather, it would need some sort of protectant added to make it more wear-resistant when used in wet or very humid conditions.
Like other leathers applying a proper shoe polish and wax can help make it more water resistant. Further, water repelling leather conditioner with wax, or wax dressings can be applied to the leather to make it more water resistant.
Depending on the type of substance used, some can be used to help make the kangaroo leather waterproof. However, the stronger the layer of water proofing (often wax), the more difficult it is to later reach, clean, and condition the leather underneath.
Annual Production Volume of Kangaroo Leather
Each year, approximately 1-3 million kangaroos are processed for food and leather. This is small in comparison to the global leather production of cattle, sheep, or goats.
However, kangaroo leather has a dedicated, global market. While limited to legal hunting and harvesting by Australian law, these numbers can vary yearly based on the animal population and allow limits.
The export industry of kangaroos is roughly at about $133 million, about $10 million of that from kangaroo leather. Kangaroo meat, considered very low fat, is exported to about 60 countries annually.
If you’re interested in all types of leather produced, click here to read an article I wrote about global leather production.
Kangaroo Leather Care & Maintenance
Any type of leather will benefit from proper maintenance and care, Kangaroo leather included. A good-quality leather will perform very well, and last for years with proper cleaning, conditioning, and storage.
For any step in leather care, generally test on a small area to ensure the cleaner or finish you’re applying will not react poorly with the material. Once you know it’s safe, clean away 🙂
How to Clean Kangaroo Leather
Kangaroo leather can be cleaned by first moistening a lint-free cloth and gently rubbing it over the soiled area. Microfiber cloths work well for this. If the dirt is deeper or you want to thoroughly clean the leather, try using a dedicated leather cleaner.
They are formulated to be gentle on leather while removing dirt, dust, and grime. In general, they usually also prepare the surface well for receiving a conditioner and later if necessary, a finish.
How to Condition Kangaroo Leather
Kangaroo can be conditioned like most other leathers. Once the surface has been thoroughly cleaned, the conditioner can be applied using an applicator or soft cloth. Conditioner is generally applied in small circles, allowed to soak in, then the excess wiped off with a clean cloth.
Kangaroo leather conditioners can be specialized blends, leather dressings, creams, or oils. Once conditioned, the leather is ready for a finish or protective coat, if desired.
How to Make Kangaroo Leather Water Resistant
A wax protectant can be added to Kangaroo leather to help make it water resistant. Once cleaned and conditioned, the wax can be applied to the leather thoroughly. After a few minutes, the wax is generally buffed out and leaves the leather with a surface that is smooth and has a pleasant shine. It also provides a barrier that helps repel water.
How to Store Kangaroo Leather
Kangaroo leather should be stored in a cool, dry, dust-free location. Generally, leather products benefit from low-average humidity environments. Air flow is also beneficial, as it allows the natural fibers of the leather to “breathe”.
If kept in a sealed environment, the humidity might rise and the leather start to deteriorate, and mold. In an environment with too-low humidity, the leather can start to dry and that could lead to cracking and weakening of the fibers.
A good place to store kangaroo leather is a dressing room or closet that have an average livable temperature, humidity level, and frequent airflow.
While leather can be made from any animal (click here if you’d like to read an article I wrote about similarly-strong yak leather), Kangaroo certainly stands apart with its strength and durability. It is worth keeping in mind when considering what to use for your next project.
Are kangaroos killed for leather?
Kangaroos are allowed to be hunted each year, up to a quota set by the Australian government. This both for population control, and to yield the materials of the kangaroo, including meat and leather. Most species are protected and not hunted.
Does Adidas still use kangaroo leather?
Yes, Adidas, and other global soccer cleat manufacturers still make kangaroo leather cleats, using k-leather in the production of some of their soccer cleats. While some players prefer to wear synthetic materials, others prefer the natural leather.