The Different Types of Leather: Explained

When you look at a product made out of leather do you ever ask yourself, "What kind of leather is this made of?" Well, if your response is "Is there more than one kind?" then be prepared to learn a thing or two about leather.

By definition, leather is animal (or reptile or fish) skin that has been dried and exposed to any number of chemicals during the tanning process. For purposes of this post, I will talk specifically about cow leather, which is by far the most common. 

When something is made out of "Genuine Leather," it says little about the quality of the leather itself. To put it in perspective, it's like looking at the tag on a sweater and seeing that it's made of "100% Wool". This tag covers a lot of ground. As we all know, wool can range from a fabric so stiff and itchy that even the thickest shirt can't protect you from the itchiness, to fine gauge cashmere at the other end of the spectrum. 

While there can be variation within each group, leather can be divided into the 4 categories listed below, which have been ranked in descending order of durability. 

  1. Full Grain Leather contains the outermost layer of the hide.
  2. Top Grain Leather has the outer layer of the hide sanded off to remove imperfections. A new, faux grain is then stamped on and a protective urethane coat is usually applied to increase durability.
  3. Nubuck has the outer layer of the hide sanded off to a napped finish similar to suede
  4. Suede is made from leather "splits"--the inner layers of a hide--and is sanded to a napped finish

Please note that I left off other types like Patent and Corrected Grain leather, which can be generally be lumped into Top Grain.

As you may have noticed, Full Grain Leather is the only one that keeps the outer layer of the hide. Since this was the part of the hide that had to stand up to the elements--just like your own skin--it is by far the most durable. At Benchmark Bags, our goal is to give you a product that will look good and stand up . To insure this, we only use full grain leather in our products.

If you'd like to learn more about the differences in leather you can read more here.