Why Choose Suede Fabric Over Leather?
Leather is standard on aprons fabricated in Canada. For all intents and purposes, Leather is historically « correct ». But is it practical? Can you clean it? Are you getting the best quality possible for your money? Will your Grand-Son be able to wear it? The simple answer is no!
The leathern I proffer in my aprons is a hand-picked suede fabric. I hand-choose it for its colour, texture and longevity. I export it from Canada to my fabricator in the UK. And yes, it is less expensive, even at $18 m2.
Grant it, many insist an authentic leathern be real sheep skin, or lamb skin for correctness. In fact, leather is obligatory for aprons of the Grand Lodge of Ontario. That said, I still do not recommend a leather apron. It does not wear well, it yellows, it will crinkle and it will eventually disintegrate. On the contrary, a suede fabric will stand up to wear and especially to the test of time. It will rest the brilliant colour when you first wore it. And you can spot clean it.
« Vestaments » of our Masonic History
My Lodge proudly holds the apron and regalia of Our Paster Master and the first Grand Master of Quebec: M.W.Bro. John Hamilton Graham who seceded from the Grand Lodge of Canada in 1869. Although his regalia are not museum quality, they have endured 140 years. Sadly its leather is deteriorating at a fast pace. The gauntlets are severely tarnished.
I’m not claiming John Hamilton Graham’s regalia would be better looking if it had had a suede fabric. This auspicious regalia was not handed down because of its historical value. Nonetheless, many Grand Aprons today might see more service if they had this choice. Grand Aprons are valuable « vestaments » of our Masonic history and the heritage of those Brethren who wear them!
In my District, it is our tradition to buy and perpetually own the Past District Deputy Grand Masters’ regalia. Sadly, when a P.D.D.G.M. passes beyond the veil, there are few who want to inherit.
Our District’s aprons are less often passed down to a second owner. They will have frayed, the bullion will need replacing and because the leather has deteriorated, they are sadly replaced. A replacement is simply cheaper than a restoration. This would occur less – and could be less expensive if – at least – the leathern insert were a suede fabric and still held its colour and lustre.
Not Cheap Vinyl
I proffer a Superior quality suede fabric with a soft, napped, white finish. It is not your average, cheap vinyl that will not last two -30° nights on the backseat of your car. It is more than 3mm thick, has a tightly-knit cloth background with a brushed-emulsion surface, a soft knapped finish and is frankly the best material I find on Fabricville’s shelves. My suede fabric is identical in touch, feel and sight to expensive leather and just as thick and luxurious. It is not cheap vinyl, it will not crack and it will not peal away.
A Masonic Apron Must Have Character
In my opinion, a yellowed apron does not “have character”. A Past Master in England once insisted I buy a leather apron. I did so when I was first installed in the Chair of King Solomon. Within three years, my yellowing apron had lost its character and I was quickly deceived. The best I could hope for was to carefully apply a high-quality, golf shoe liquid wax, dye. I’m less sure today that this was a good move either.
What do I personally like about suede fabric the most? It can be spot-cleaned with a face cloth and face soap – on the way out the door to Lodge. Remember that pen spot on your apron? I don’t; I carefully removed it. A leathern must be presentable and practical at all times. A quality suede fabric does not tarnish or yellow, as leather tends to after a short few years. As for crinkles, I can carefully smooth them out with a dry towel and careful steam ironing – DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME – not too hot, prolonged heat will destroy it!
Great care must be taken not to soil a leather apron. One accidental pen mark and it is ruined – it cannot be repaired. I have seen perfectly good D.D.G.M. aprons replaced because their leatherns deteriorate and just cannot be cleaned.
If Leather is Your Choice
If leather is your choice, no matter! No worry. My UK suppliers use the highest quality, authentic sheep-skin leather – not goat-skin with a polished, vinyl-tanned surface. In many cases, when you buy leather in the U.K., fabricators upgrade the liner and pocket material just because of the price of leather.
Nonetheless, I see to it my suede-material aprons are sewn onto my fabricator’s “best quality” aprons. My Scottish tailor asks me why do I bother? Because, is my response. Because it is my way of personalising My Regalia and ensuring the Best Quality possible from My door to Yours. I forgot to mention, my suede fabric aprons cost you less, but that is an after-thought. Unlike expensive leather, my hand-chosen material will outlast and outshine leather in every aspect, especially durability.