So what’s the big deal with full grain leather? Isn’t it the same thing as genuine leather?
There are lots of options out there in the world of leather. With names like Genuine leather, Bonded leather, Top Grain leather, Suede, and Full Grain leather, it is hard to know what is what. On this page I hope to simplify and explain the meaning of each with definitions.
Genuine leather means that natural leather fibers were used in the material. All of the leathers described above fall under the “Genuine Leather” category. However, this label is most commonly found on bonded leather products (because it’s the only claim they can make!). It stands to reason that if your product is built from a higher quality leather then you will market it as such.
Bonded leather is made from the scraps of genuine leather that would otherwise be thrown away. These scraps are ground together then adhered to a sheet of fibrous backing. The whole sheet is then coated with a polyurethane sealant and stamped to replicate the pattern of the grain.
Suede is made from leather where the uppermost smooth surface of the hide has been split away and the resulting “split” has been sanded to achieve the soft velvety feel. It is very supple and is used widely in outer garments and lining cases and holsters.
Top Grain leather is made by splitting or sanding off the top natural grain of the hide to remove imperfections. It is then embossed to recreate the hide’s surface with an artificial grain pattern, providing it with an consistent look across the face of the hide. Top grain leather while still strong and relatively long-lasting does not quite compare to strength and durability of full grain leather.
Nubuck leather is a full grain leather where the top natural grain has been lightly sanded to achieve a velvety feel and matte look. Nubuck is tougher and longer wearing than suede while suede is more supple.
Full grain leather is leather in its most natural state. This leather retains its outer and strongest layer meaning that all the character and imperfections from the animal’s life will be showcased on the outside of the hide. Only a small percentage of hides tanned will measure up to this high standard due to the fact that too many abnormalities on a hide will disqualify it from being used as full grain.