We’ve all heard of Corinthian leather — that soft, supple, ultra-luxury hide used to trim 70’s era Chryslers. But do you know where it comes from?
Most people would guess Corinth, Greece. After all, nothing says old world craftsmanship like sourcing your leather from a city founded in 700 BC.
It’s a good guess. But it’s about 5,000 miles off.
The real source of Corinthian leather? Newark, New Jersey.
Yup, “The Garden State,” home to Bruce Springsteen and Mike “The Situation” Sorrrentino.
It turns out, there’s actually nothing “Corinthian” about the leather. The term was tacked on by Bozell, the same advertisement agency that coined the phrase: “Pork. The other white meat.”
Bozell first referred to leather as “Corinthian” in an ad for the 1974 Imperial LeBaron. However, it’s most usually associated with Chrysler marketing campaigns, beginning with the 1975 Cordoba.
Who can forget celebrity spokesperson Ricardo Montalbán’s thick Mexican accent? “Available in even soft Corinthian leather.”
Montalbán succeeded in making the Cordoba’s leather upholstery sound exotic. In actuality, a company based just outside of Newark supplied the hides to Chrysler.
In 1987, when Montalbán appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman,” he admitted that the term “Corinthian” meant “nothing.”
Letterman asked: “Is there anything really Corinthian leather? Is that anything?”
Montalbán replied: “They found a leather that was very pliable, very soft and very durable. …(the commercial writer) wanted to find a word that sounded sort of elegant that I could say… And so Corinthian.”
Letterman interjected, “But does it mean anything?”
“Nothing,” said Montalbán, as the crowd erupted in laughter.
So there you have it folks. Corinthian leather actually comes from New Jersey and is definitely not as special or exotic as it sounds.
It was just one giant marketing campaign that endured and no one ever questioned. In fact, to this day used car ads boast about 70’s Chryslers having Corinthian leather.
When you spot one, smile and chuckle to yourself, because now you know it’s all bullshit.
For more old school articles, check out our “Industry History” section.
As you know every lie has some truth in it. Corriente cattle yes they exist and are very common in the Rodeo circuit. The are the roping cattle they came here with the Spaniards in I the 1500s they are a drought resistant type cattle and it has been said that Texas Longhorns came from this breed. Probably more information than you wanted to know but here you go Spanish leather
When I was a church going kid back in the 1950’s we were told that the Christian Bibles given us by the church were bound in Corinthian leather. The term has been around at least that long.
Morgan Wright says
The book of Corinthians is in the Bible
Fonda Cullers says
I bought seven thousand dollars worth of Corinthian leather furniture 3 years ago. I didn’t purchase the $600.00 extended warranty & the motor went bad. Now I have beautiful furniture that doesn’t work. I’m really upset about this.
Jackson Daniels says
Corinthian leather IS real!
In the 1800s and early 1900s, Corinth New York literally produced Corinthian leather.
The village of Corinth was the site of a tannery built in 1855, which by the 1870s, processed five thousand hides a year. By the 1970s Corinth’s leather trade was defunct, a thing of the past. However, the historical Corinthian name still had a nice ring to it and was simply dusted off for use on a modern leather, sourced from a
New Jersey supplier. New Jersey is just 257 miles south of Corinth.