Sheepskin and shearling are often used interchangeably and that is not entirely inaccurate since they both originate from the skin of a sheep or lamb. However, these two terms don’t always mean the same thing.
The variance between these two different types of leather comes from how they are processed and used. Here’s what you need to know.
What Does Sheepskin Mean?
In most cases, the term “sheepskin” refers to leather created from the skin of a sheep. Its processing and tanning method is similar to the other types of leather like goat skin or cowhide.
Sheepskin leather is used to create almost any leather product you can think of including bags, shoes, and outerwear. Men’s sheepskin jackets are especially popular due to their lightweight and soft velvety feel.
What Does Shearling Mean?
The term “shearling” refers to a yearling lamb who has been shorn only once. In terms of leather jackets and other leather products, this term is used for sheepskin leather with its fur intact.
Men’s fur shearling jackets and coats created with shearling leather have the fur on the inside and the hide on the outside. This gives them a durable and somewhat weather-resistant exterior that prolongs the jacket’s lifespan on the outside. Plus, the fleece/fur on the inside is exceptionally soft to the touch and warm.
Difference in Warmth
Shearling jackets and coats are as warm as it gets. The rugged exterior prevents the cold breeze from reaching your body, while the fur on the inside acts as a flawless insulator. It traps most of your body heat within the jacket/coat and keeps you warm even in sub-zero temperatures.
Sheepskin, on the other hand, is like having a built-in thermostat. Its warmth and heat retention adjust automatically depending on the weather. This allows you to wear sheepskin outerwear in slightly warmer seasons like spring and early fall without feeling uncomfortably hot.
In terms of raw heat retention, shearling is the superior option.
Difference in Cost
High-quality shearling is considered a fur product – making it remarkably expensive compared to other types of leather. This higher cost stays consistent between jackets, bags, shoes, and other shearling leather products. Sheepskin leather is noticeably cheaper by comparison.
The high cost of real shearling makes it inaccessible to most people. Some sheepskin leather jackets bridge this gap with faux fur lining that looks and feels very similar to real shearling fur. The use of real sheepskin leather makes these much more durable than fully faux shearling (you can learn more about that from our guide on faux leather vs real leather).
The term sheepskin refers to leather from sheep hide and shearling is mostly classified as sheepskin leather with its original fur intact. Shearling is much better at retaining heat while sheepskin is more lightweight and costs noticeably less.