Chicago 1905. The leather industry booms as an offshoot of the area’s meatpacking trade. Tanneries line the north branch of the Chicago river. An immigrant from Ukraine named Isadore Horween sees an opening and establishes I. Horween and Co.
At the peak of the industry there were around two dozen tanneries. But a century later, only one of them remains in Chicago–Horween Leather Company. It doesn’t hurt that they have demanding repeat clients like the NFL and the NBA.
The process is like this: Horween hangs the hides to cure, removes the fur, softens them in vats, cuts them to size, then ships the tanned hides uptown to Wilson Sporting Goods, where the leather is embossed for better grip. Then the game ball is snapped, and, finally, your favorite QB makes a 4th-down conversion to win the game.
No, we’re not going into sporting goods sales; we like the way Horween leather feels on our feet, and around our waists. Some of you do too. Those Wolverine 1000-mile boots? Also made from Horween leather. And now we’re offering Horween leather belts from W. Kleinberg.
To see more of the process, check out these photos at Selectism that Nick Horween shot of their factory.