New Kangaroo Russell Classics! (How we got there!)
Baseball and soccer players have always known the wisdom of wearing kangaroo athletic shoes. No leather is tougher, nor softer nor lighter weight. Kangaroo has the highest strength to weight ratio of any leather known to man.
Up until now it has just never been practical to make an entire Russell shoe or boot out of kangaroo as the kangaroo leather we saw here in the US was always so thin that we could not use it to make shoes or boots. It had very little structure or rigidity so we always had to line it with cowhide, which defeated the purpose of lightweight kangaroo leather. We have incorporated kangaroo tops and gussets in a number of our boots and shoes for many years but our customers wanted “lighter” boots so we went to work.
Russell Moccasin’s Production Manager, Joe Gonyo, an avid hunter and outdoorsman himself, began exploring kangaroo leather availabilities right at the source... in Australia. After receiving several samples of kangaroo leather and then testing it for workability through the plant, testing for waterproofness and durability, Joe requested some adjustments in the tanning process and then ordered several newly-minted K-Roo hides to make some of our Russell Classics in kangaroo leather. Now thanks to the Packer Leather Company from Australia and their amazing K-Leather (kangaroo), Russell introduces five new styles of kangaroo boots and shoes fashioned from their incredible fine grained, lightweight, flexible and strong waterproofed Alabama K-Roo Leather.
For the following reasons:
Substantial weight savings.
Superb water resistance.
Supreme comfort (soft, pliable leather... literally no breakin period)
Kangaroo leather is 20% lighter than cowhide from the outset. But when split before tanning (as all leathers are, including cow hide and goat hide must be for making boots and shoes), kangaroo retains more of its tensile strength... better than any other leather in the world.
When kangaroo is split to only 20% of its original thickness it retains 30% to 60% of its original tensile strength. This is significant! Cow or calf hides, when split to 20% of their original thickness, (which is a necessity to make the leather usable for boots, shoes, gloves or garment manufacturing), retain only 1% to 4% of their original strength.
Kangaroo has 10 times (10X) the tensile strength of cowhide and is 50% stronger than goat hide... while being 20% lighter in weight!
What is the price penalty you pay as a customer?
Negligible! The cost of kangaroo is nearly identical to many of the premium leathers we utilize in making Russell boots and shoes. Less expensive actually, than our famous French Veal leather, so there is no tradeoff between performance and price. This is a win/win situation for everyone.
Russell’s Joe Gonyo, also reports that the new K-Roo leather from Packer Leather sews up beautifully, pulls up over our wood lasts easily, allowing finished kangaroo products to flow smoothly through the production facility. (Joe has a big smile on his face these days!).
Why is kangaroo so strong?
Without launching into a long and dull scientific explanation riddled with words that none of us can pronounce, much less understand, allow us to give you the basic information... kangaroo vs. cowhide.
In the words of an Australian kangaroo leather expert, (are you ready for some science?)
“The molecular composition of kangaroo skin differs significantly compared to cow or goat skin. The collagen fiber bundles in cow and goat skin are arranged in a complex weaving pattern, often at angles of 90 degrees to the skin surface. Kangaroo fiber structure is formed from long uniform, threadlike molecules of collagen twisted together parallel with the skin surface like a rope.”
This same expert also points out that the diet of the kangaroo is usually poor as they live in a harsh environment which results in virtually no fat within the fiber or skin structure. There in lies one of the important differences between kangaroo and cow or goat hides. Because a kangaroo carries not fat on its body, there are no “voids” in the hide (empty areas where fat is cooked out of the raw hides during tanning). “Voids” in cowhide and goat further hide reduce the tensile strength of the leather.
Translated, kangaroo hide grows linearly to the body. Cow and goat hide grow up, or vertically, meaning that when the leather is split many of the connecting tissues within the original thickness of the hide are cut or broken, which then causes inherent weakness in the structural strength of the leather. Throw in the the “voids”, caused by removal of fats in cowhides and goat hides during tanning... plus the vertical vs. linear growth of the cowhide vs. kangaroo hide... and there is the simple answer as to why kangaroo is so incredibly strong and durable.
Ecological Note: There is no shortage of kangaroo leather... nor kangaroos. Only about 2 million kangaroos are harvested each year in Australia. The average population is 25 million. The kangaroo leather industry employs more than 4,000 Australians and accounts for more than a $270 million contribution to the Australian economy every year.
Click here for New Kangaroo Russell Classics