Calf leather is generally regarded as the crème de la crème of leathers. This is made from the skins of young cattle. It is finer grained, lighter in weight and more supple than the hide of older cattle. It is also less likely to be marked by scratches, insect bites etc. The surface of calf leather is also largely untreated by sanding, buffing, or snuffing (turned it into suede). During the tanning process, the animal’s hair, its insides and the skin’s epidermis have been removed – that’s all. As a result, it does not naturally show the mirror-like polish so beloved of military drill sergeants (“bulled” boots). Rather, it has a soft sheen, when well-looked after – that can be turned into a shiny gleam if that’s what you want, by building up layers of wax, via the bulling process. Most good-shoe fans like the natural look of calf leather, however – as seen on the Loake Aldwych here – a smart black Oxford shoe.
Calf leather can also be Burnished (or artificially Antiqued) as seen on the Loake Chester here on the left. Burnished leather is given an antique dressing or stain with a rag. Burnishing and polishing then gives a warm patina to the leather, making it look nicely aged without being actually worn out.