“How like a jade he stood, tied to the tree, serviley master’d with a leatheren rein! But when she saw his love, his youth’s fair fee…”(Twelfth Night)
”No, he’s in Tartar limbo, worse than hell: A devil in an everlasting garment hath him; [One] whose hard heart is button’d up with steel; A fiend, a fairy, pitiless and rough; A wolf, nay worse, a fellow all in buff…” (The Comedy of Errors)
Who would of thought that “in the buff” referred to leather? The article “The Fabric’s The Thing: Literal and Figurative References to Textiles in Selected Plays of William Shakespeare“ by Nancy J. Owens and Alan C. Harris tells us: “Buff(alo) leather, or a similar strong and unyielding leather made of oxhide dressed with oil and having a characteristically fuzzy surface and a dull, whitish-yellow color, was typically a material used in the garb of military persons and jailers. Hence, the association for a fellow in buff was to a policeman or to jail personnel. Hence, the association for a fellow in buff was to a policeman or to jail personnel. In the lines above, we are to be sympathetic toward Dromio, who has been arrested and who is now in the pitiless and rough hands of a jailor dressed in buff who keeps Dromio in the ‘worse than hell’ of prison.”
Sandra Clark’s Shakespeare and Domestic Life: A Dictionary defines leather as “the skin of an animal, commonly cattle.” Tanned leather was a luxury item. Shoes made of Spanish leather were thought to be overly luxurious and were sporadically banned.
See also: Cheveril