There are a lot of questions regarding pony hair, haircalf, or in industry terms, hair-on leather. What the heck is it? Is it pony? Is it cow? Well, it is most commonly cow, although it can be done with buffalo or any other animal for that matter (shearling is the sheep version of this); but it is usually not actual pony. Basically, it’s the hair side of the animal. It’s considered a “pelt,” same as fur.
The leather that we are most familiar with is actually the underside, the non-hair side of the skin. Haircalf (the most common term, but in fashion, pony hair is used to make it sound sexier) is more expensive than the average leather. The cost is in the finish of the hair since it needs to be treated; chrome tanning is the process that gives the hair its super-shiny sheen. Most of the time it’s cut down short (this is necessary for any use other than that of a rug, as in the kind you expect to see in a cowboy’s house) and dyed. If you’ve ever been to a farm, I don’t need to tell you what the natural colors are – solid black, black and white, brown and white, or tricolors of black, brown and white. It’s dyed white first and any color or pattern can then be put on it, even a metallic one. As with leather, prices vary widely depending on how many of these treatments it has had. In general, the haircalf version is also more expensive than the leather counterpart because it’s harder to work with during manufacturing.
The care for haircalf is pretty simple. Don’t get gum or oil on it, and you can pretty much clean it nicely with a dry cloth. If you get something on it, use a slightly damp cloth, but then dry it with a dry cloth immediately after. Always go with the grain of the hair! It can also be sprayed with the same silicone spray for suede, but whatever you do, stay away from Scotch Guard (even their warning says not to use it on anything other than fabric). I guess the question you all want answered is now obvious. No, it’s not considered exotic since it’s just plain ol’ cow. But if you’re looking for an alternative to humdrum leather, haircalf is definitely more unique and bold.
Burberry London Calf Hair Trench Coat (on NET-A-PORTER for $6,500)
Christian Louboutin Rougissime Calf Hair and Leather Clutch (on NET-A-PORTER for $1,350)
Valentino Rockstud Slingback Pumps (at Barneys New York for $1,445)
Elizabeth & James Cynnie Calf Hair Bucket Bag (on NET-A-PORTER for $595)