The art of leatherworking is an ancient human activity. This art is associated with tradition and terminology. However, it’s a lot of fun to learn about leather, but it can also lead to confusion for consumers.

There are many incredible types of leather available in the market, but sometimes distinguishing between them can be very confusing. Every type of leather has its own features and benefits that help make different leather jackets, gloves, and footwear. In selecting the best types of leather or buying ready-made leather products, it is important to understand the different types of leather to ensure that you know what you are paying for.

What is leather? What is leather made of?

A natural substance, Leather, is basically the skin of animals refined by processing raw animal hides using chemical or natural extracts. It is impossible to use rawhides without treating and altering their fibers first, as they are vulnerable to decomposition. A tanning process permanently alters the hide’s protein structure, turning it into a flexible, durable, and breathable material perfect for multiple uses.

Types of Leather:

Leather can be obtained from various animals, including sheep, deer, horses, kangaroos, and other exotic leathers comes from alligators, ostriches, fish, frogs, and snakes.
Most of the leather used today is derived from cows due to their size, quality, and easy accessibility. There is a distinct set of qualities, uses, and appearances associated with each type of leather. However, various factors influence the quality of leather obtained from specific animals. Many of these have to do with the way the animal lived, such as their diet, nutrition, climate, or exposure to the disease. After the animal has been slaughtered, some other factors also affect leather quality, such as the tanning chemicals, dyes and stains, and the way the leather is handled and shipped. There are several types of leather that vary based on how they are made and where they are sourced. However, the most important classification is based on what part of the animal skin is being used for the product. So, the six most important types of leather are; Full-Grain LeatherTop-Grain LeatherGenuine LeatherBonded LeatherSplit Leather, and Faux Leather.
Full-grain Leather:
Full-grain leather is considered the highest grade quality leather worldwide. It refers to the strongest, durable, and top layer of the hide, just below the animal’s hairs. Leather that is considered fully intact without sanding or buffing, not even tried to remove imperfections and blemishes, which means it displays the more natural characteristics of leather. Full-grain hides with few blemishes are the most desirable since they tend to be less common and more visually appealing. Therefore, they are ideal for saddles, footwear, and furniture. Furthermore, the outer layer also provides some water resistance qualities. Full-grain leather does not wear out over time but rather develops a beautiful patina that enhances the style and character of the final product.

Top-grain Leather:

Top-grain leather is considered the second-best quality leather worldwide, which comes from the upper layer of cowhide. If the uppermost layer of cowhide is corrected in any way, it then becomes top-grain. It means that to remove imperfections and blemishes from a full-grain hide, buffing and sanding techniques can be applied to make it look shinier, thinner, and flexible; it becomes top grain leather. Finish coats are usually applied to top-grain leather bags to prevent patina formation over time. It is mainly used to craft high-end leather bagsleather wallets, and leather belts.

Bonded Leather:

As the name indicates, it’s bonded together leather made from production leftovers. Bonded leather is of the lowest quality of leather, combining scraps of leather with a filler and covered with an embossed polyurethane coating. A piece of leather-like this is not as strong as top grain leather or even genuine leather. Many manufacturers market bonded leather as genuine leather even though it contains minimal genuine leather. Thus, it is typically added to products in a less visible manner. This material is frequently used for shoe soles and heels, textile linings, and book covers. However, unlike real leather, bonded leather looks worn and ugly after some time of use. It is also referred to as reconstituted leather or blended leather.
Split Leather:
The split-grain leather is a layered cut of leather from below the top grain area and above the flesh layer of the hide. It is not as dense, tight, and useful as top-grain and full-grain leathers. Thus, it is frequently used in finishing leather that is colored, embossed, or has a surface that has been altered. It has some of the advantages of leather material but has a visual appeal and is frequently functional, which is beneficial for leather products. It is relatively more fragile than other materials and will easily be damaged if not handled properly. Split leathers are commonly used to make suede leather.

Genuine leather:

Among various leather typesgenuine leather stands third in terms of quality. When the outermost two layers of the hide are removed, an intermediate layer remains, which is what makes up genuine leather. After sanding, buffing, or dying to remove imperfections, an artificial texture and color spray treatment is applied to create a natural appearance on it. As a result of this process, some of the natural characteristics of the leather are altered, but it is versatile enough for everything from leather backpacks to briefcases, leather belts, and other similar products. It will not produce patina over time, so it will result in surface cracking as the leather ages. It is far less durable than full-grain leather or top-grain leather. However, it provides an affordable alternative to high-end options. 

Faux (Synthetic Leather)

Faux leather is a kind of synthetic leather, usually made of polyurethane or vinyl. Although it resembles real leather, but it costs significantly less. It is widely used BY commercial places for furniture since it is the cheapest and does not get damaged soon, and looks original. In addition to having its own distinctive look and feel, it has many uses; therefore, it is used for various purposes. However, this material retains its popularity due to its classic aesthetics and durability. But, it lacks the properties of real leather, including longevity, natural stretchability, breathability, resistance to cuts and abrasions, as well as a unique natural look and feel. You can also refer to faux leather by some other names, including Faux Leather, PU LeatherVinyl Leather, and Vegan Leather


All leather types have their own distinct look and feel, making them suitable for different purposes. This material has been in fashion for decades because it looks classic and holds up well. This short piece about leather covers numerous types of leather, how leather is made, and how we can identify various types of leather. Even though you will need years of experience to truly identify the appropriate type of leather, but this guide has provided you with an overview of the different types of leather. You may find this helpful the next time you go out to buy leather items. If you would like to know more about leather, visit

Leather Goods Leather History

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