Types of leather


It is quite common for people to struggle to identify if a product is made of real natural leather or if it is an alternative material. Manufacturers have decided to place “leather” in the description of the material to attract customer to buy an inferior quality product.


Leather is a natural material, and no hide will be same than the other. The characteristics can be similar, but no hide will by identical to another.

There are small simple steps to follow to check if the product you are about to buy is made of genuine leather as asking the salesperson what type of leather the product is that you want to buy or you can look for the label of the material. Here is a summary of the most important types of leather so it can help you to identify and make a decision when buying any leather product.




Full grain is the most natural way of presenting the skin. On this leather, the hair has been removed but the character of the outer grain layer has been kept intact and not altered in any way. To have full grain that looks great only the best and highest selection of the hides can be used, as the imperfections of the animal (scratches, bug bites, etc.) can be seen. The original grain structure is intact and with a sharp eye you can see the pores on the skin. Full grain is also called aniline leather.

Full grain is used for high end footwear, handbags, and garment as well as fine upholstery (furniture and automotive).


Top-grain leather is like full grain leather differing only that this leather has gone through a light finishing process where imperfections have been better hidden.

Top grain leather is still considered a high-end leather and many of the products that use full grain leather can be found as well with top grain leather.


Nubuck can be made of full grain or top grain selection, but it does have a mechanical process to make it look smooth.



Going down on selection, we find full finished or corrected leather. The different quality of selection of leather can be defined for their final use and the process they need to cover imperfections. Corrected grain leather has been sanded and buffed to remove imperfections such as scars or bites from the surface of the hide and the leather can be finished, printed or plated to give the desired effect.




To be able get the grain to a certain thickness the hide goes through a splitting process where the top grain is separated from the rest of the hide, the bottom piece is called split. The split can be used in different products depending on when is obtained in the tanning process. When the splits are colored and processed you can create SUEDE or any other products as it can be embossed and pigmented and it is widely used for shoes, gloves, belts, and many other products. Splits are attractive for their lower price.

There are many other uses of the splits, but I will speak deeper about that on another occasion.



Genuine leather is a general term for any of these leathers produced from an animal hide, so you can find full grain, top grain, full finished or corrected grain and splits under genuine leather.



In my opinion the following materials should never be preceded with the word leather:

Bonded, faux, vegan, cork, ocean, manmade as they are not being done with the actual skin of an animal.

When you want to buy a durable and sustainable product, I invite you to look for genuine leather, at the end it is a byproduct from the meat industry and it is being used what is already on the Earth.