5 Types of Leather & Where They’re Found - HIDES

5 Types of Leather & Where They’re Found

Although we may describe a jacket or a wallet as being made with “leather”, that often doesn’t do it justice. Why? Because leather materials are as diverse as the number of leather products you can find on the shelf. There are different types of leather, differing in texture, weight, durability and more. This post will take a look at the different types of leather materials used to make various leather apparel, and how their make affects the buyer (ie. budget, style). 

5 Basic Types of Leather 

The type of leather you buy is important for a few reasons. First, different types of leather confer varying levels of quality. Some are tougher or delicate better suited for accessories over apparel and vice versa. Naturally, the quality of a type of leather extends into its appearance, which will likely influence what leather accessories you consider or ignore. And there’s also cost - a deciding factor that’s heavily dependent on the type of leather used in your handbag, backpack, or whatever accessory it is you have. With that said, the five main grades of leather we will discuss today are: 
  • Full-Grain (Top-Grain Leather)
  • Corrected or Embossed Grain Leather
  • Split Suede Leather
  • Nubuck Sueded Grain
  • Reconstituted Leather (Bonded Leather)
There are several variations of leather types such as pebble grain leather, pigmented leather, and printed leather that tend to fall under broader categories. However, the five mentioned in this article are the major categories. 

Full-Grain (Top-Grain Leather)

As its name suggests, full-grain (or top-grain leather) is the upper layer of a hide which is split into layers by a machine. The thickness of these layers can vary based on factors such as the time of the splitting and the application. After the layers are split, the hides can be coloured and then manufacturers can add a variety of protective finishes. One interesting feature about this type of leather is that you will see natural scars and hair cell patterns if it remains as uncorrected natural grain. Ultimately, the full-grain sort is the best type of leather out there since it’s the strongest and most durable. 

Corrected or Embossed Grain Leather

A step down from full-grain leather is corrected or embossed leather. This type of leather is free of the scratches and scars that full-grain leather has, giving it a flawless albeit less genuine appearance. To produce this type of leather, manufacturers have to buff or sand the hide after it has been split. They may go as far as replacing it with an embossed finish to give it the appearance of having hair cell patterns. Keep in mind, that the original look and feel found in full-grain leather are not present with corrected grains and they’re less durable. Embossed leather is commonly used in shoes and handbags. 

Split Suede Leather

The second or lower layer that remains after removing the full-grain layer is what’s used as split suede leather. This type of leather can also vary considerably in terms of thickness, based on the application that manufacturers use. Split suede leather is the byproduct of hide tanning it and is cheaper to produce. It’s frequently used in products such as tool pouches, moccasins, suede garments and suede shoes. It’s also incorporated into lower-cost furniture and clothing, and marketed as “genuine leather” although it is not. 

Nubuck Sueded Grain 

Further down the scale is nubuck suede grain leather. It has a suede effect due to it being lightly sanded to open hair cells, which gives it a velvety texture. With that said, the process results in correcting imperfections in the natural grain. What makes nubuck grain unique is that it is a very sensitive material despite its soft texture, making it quite vulnerable to soiling and staining. It is difficult to clean and sometimes impossible to remove these blemishes from this type of leather, so caution is advised. With that said, it’s still used for many types of clothing and in upholstery. 

Reconstituted, Bonded or Fibre Leather 

Made from leather remnants and scraps, reconstituted leather is ground-up and recycled that often comes from clothing and shoe factories. With these types of leather, the fibre particles are bonded together with adhesives into a fabric and afterwards, the application of a synthetic grain. It looks smooth like full-grain leather (and is often marketed as such) and has a suede back. This material is used in many low-priced clothing and upholstery products. 

Know the Grades, Own the Best 

The categories mentioned above are the main types of leather, but you can break them down further. Different grades of leather offer buyers unique a range of appearances, textures, styles and costs. Your budget and tastes will ultimately steer you towards the type of leather you will buy, but it’s important to remember that you owe yourself the best quality leather regardless of what you buy. Here at Hides Canada, we are committed to providing you with men’s and women’s leather accessories that are made with genuine material and will last a lifetime.  Need help finding leather accessories? Get in touch with us to help you find the right match.