Why is Full Grain Leather regarded as the Best Leather?

25/12/2019

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While buying some good leather, whether it’s as a jacket, furniture or the inside of a new car, the quality and durability will vary based on several factors that we’ve looked at, such as the different parts of the hide (butt, curve, shoulder, and head) or the leather tanning method.

The third major factor affecting the grade and consistency of the end result in the leather making is the form of leather material. At a high level, leather grain can be classified into two main categories of leather— “no imperfections” and “lots of imperfections.” There are five types of leather that define these imperfections, and we’re going to delve into what differentiates these types of leather.

Full Grain Leather

Different Grades of Leather

A common misunderstanding with real leather is what the different quality grades are with. Much of the confusion that comes from the way these grades of leather are referred to, such as how “top grain” leather may seem like the highest quality of leather to the casual outsider when it is really only the second-best grade of leather behind full-grain leather. Whether these misunderstandings are due to marketing deceitfulness (the best seen in the pharmaceutical industry) or just a lack of useful information in the field, our goal is to make these words easier to digest and remember.

For real leather, the two major leather classes (less imperfection, plenty of imperfection) can be further divided into the commonly known five grades: full-grain leather, top grain leather, corrected grain leather, split leather, and reconstituted leather (also known as bonded leather).

1. Full Grain Leather

Full-grain leather is the highest grain quality found in leather and is also referred to as the highest grade leather due to its level of quality. It is a type of leather that has the least number of imperfections as it is made from animal hides not sanded, buffed, or snuffed. Full-grain leather is extremely hard leather in terms of hand feeling and uses because it is not trimmed or rasped, which means it is a form of leather that is closest to its natural state.

Although full-grain leather refers to a leather category with fewer imperfections, it can also be further segmented into several finishing choices such as aniline full-grain leather, belting leather, and Nappa leather.

Advantages of Full Grain Leather

Full-grain leather is commonly referred to as the best type of leather that can be purchased. It is a type of leather that is incredibly strong and has patinas that will develop beautifully with age. Thanks to the quality level associated with full-grain leather, brands, designers, and customers looking for quality prefer getting this kind of leather in their bag or leather goods.

Disadvantages of Full Grain Leather

The drawbacks of using full-grain leather include the high cost due to both the expense of the material and the complexity of working with this bag-making material. Since full-grain leather is thicker and less versatile than other types of leather, it is difficult to use to make certain items (unlike vegan leather where thickness can be managed, or top grain leather. Compared to other types of leather, full grain leather is less resistant to stain.

2. Top Grain Leather

After full-grain leather, Top Grain is the second highest quality leather grain. It is also the most common high-end leather used for bags and other leather goods, as full-grain leather is more difficult for manufacturers of tanneries and bags to deal with.

Unlike full-grain leather that comes from animal skin’s actual grain, top-grain leather is mostly made from the junction of grain and corium (a layer of animal skin right above the flesh), which also covers many imperfections from its leather. Top grain leather has a sanded surface in which the outer layer of the leather is sanded to avoid imperfections contained in the hide to counteract this.

The products can be aniline leather, semi-aniline leather, or pigmented leather in terms of top grain leather finishes. In addition, nubuck leather, embossed leather, and patent leather are the types of leather that can also come from top-grain leather.

Advantages of Top Grain Leather

Top grain leather is perfect for a robust, reliable, and more affordable high-quality leather than its full-grain leather equivalent, making it popular with people who want quality and affordable leather bags. The consistency of leather is finer and more consistent in look and feel, and it is also more resistant to stain than full-grain leather. Top grain leather is also used by many high-end designers as top grade leather is easier to fold, cut and form into items such as handbags or wallets, as its leather is more smooth than full-grain leather.

Disadvantages of Top Grain Leather

The downside of using top grain leather is that it is not as breathable as other types of leather, and its use is restricted to specific product categories. It also does not absorb oils or impurities as well as other leather types, so it lacks the beautiful full-grain leather patina.

3. Corrected Grain Leather

Corrected Grain is a grain of medium leather. It is completely sanded down and for aesthetics, an artificial grain is added. The finishes can be made in semi-aniline or pigment and can be used to make Nubuck Leather, Embossed Leather, or Patent Leather, similar to top grain leather.

Advantages of Corrected Grain Leather

Corrected leather of grain is preferred as it is cheap to make and quite sturdy compared to other leather types. It can be made in a variety of colors and has a higher end-quality look that appeals to brands and customers. Therefore, during the production process there is less waste material, which also contributes to its lower cost.

Disadvantages of Corrected Grain Leather

Revised grain leather’s main drawbacks are its lower quality. The revised grain is unbreatable and lacks pliability, making it easier to crack over time. Over time, this type of leather also does not grow a patina that can make it look artificial.

4. Split Leather

Split Leather is considered to be a low leather grade because it is primarily derived from the split sections of top-grain leather (the fibrous part). This method of splitting can be done many times (hence its name) depending on the desired level of thickness and consistency.

To look and feel like top grain leather, split leather lacks the natural quality and toughness of top grain leather because it is only painted and embossed with a grain appearance, but it is much cheaper to make and produce than top grain leather although appearing to have a similar aesthetic. Suede, Bycast Leather, and Coated Split Leather can also be used in split leather finishes.

Advantages of Split Leather

Split leather is an extremely versatile type of leather and many items such as bags, shoes, belts, clothing, furniture and even car interiors can be made with split-grain leather. It’s also a cheaper and more affordable option for real leather that still has a look and hand feel for top grain leather, though not as long-term durable.

Disadvantages of Split Leather

The downside of using split leather in bag or leather goods is that the quality is not as great as full grain or top grain and although it can achieve an aesthetic look similar to top-grain, it will wear out much more quickly from cracks (like corners of a bag) to chipping and tearing leather.

5. Reconstituted Leather

Reconstituted Leather is the lowest of the five leather types. This type of leather is made from scraps of other leather types, such as top grain or corrected grain leather, and binding them to simulate the appearance of genuine leather with latex binders. Reconstituted leather is commonly referred to as bonded leather as the “hot dog” of leather.

Advantages of Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is useful as it is much cheaper to make and produce for certain types of leather good items. Finishing and painting can be applied to give it a certain look and style, and as it is made of leather scraps, it means that parts of leather hide do not go to waste.

Disadvantages of Bonded Leather

The main drawback of using bonded leather is the consistency of leather, as leather goods made from bonded leather will not last as long and will begin to chip off or tearfully with use.

All five leather styles serve their purpose and use case. Each model can be considered a good choice depending on the type of leather good and the required level of quality and price range. In the last article in the leather series, we’re going to dive into the ways you can take care of your leather bag to make it longer.

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