The Main Types of Leather Demystified


A seasoned leather connoisseur will already know how diverse the world of leather really is. There are so many different kinds of hide to explore, and each one offers its own unique look, durability, and benefits to its wearer.

When looking to buy goods made out of this versatile material, it’s always a good idea to know the differences between the main leather types before you make your purchase. This will allow you to buy the best possible products for your specific needs while also helping you to track down top quality goods that will hopefully last a lifetime! Here are the different types of leather available and their main characteristics.

Full/Top Grain Leather

This is the top layer of the hide which is split into separate layers by a special machine to achieve a certain thickness. This layer is highly sought after for its character, as it shows the natural hair cell patterns and scars of the animal who wore it.

It’s also extremely durable, strong, and receptive to finishes, making it a leather worker’s dream to work with. It is often used for upholstery, shoes, accessories and saddlery, and is commonly considered the highest possible quality leather money can buy. You might even find it on your office chair or lounge suite on which you play the best pokies online!

Corrected/Embossed Grain Leather

Hides with a lot of scars or scratches are evened out by a process called correction. Leather workers will correct the natural grain of a full grain skin by buffing and sanding the hide and replacing its pattern with an embossed grain to simulate a natural one.

The original look and feel of the leather grain is reduced somewhat through this process, as is its durability in the long term. Shoe and handbag leathers are often embossed with exotic prints (like crocodile or ostrich) to simulate an authentic look as well.

Split Suede

The second, lower layer of an animal skin after removing the full grain layer will be split suede, which has the same suede finish on both sides. This type of leather comes in a variety of thicknesses, and as it is a byproduct of the hide tanning process, it tends to be more affordable than full grain products.

It tends to be used in products where full grain is not required, such as moccasin shoes, tool pouches, and soft suede clothing.

Nubuck Suede Grain

This is a full grain layer of skin that is given a suede-like effect by sanding its natural grain to create a velvety feel. This process does damage the hide to an extent, creating a product that is attractive but very sensitive to wear and tear.

Take care not to stain or soil nubuck suede, as it is very tricky – if not impossible – to clean. This kind of leather tends to be used mainly in garments and upholstery.

Bonded, Fiber, or Reconstituted Leather

These forms of leather are created by grinding up and recycling leather scraps from shoe and garment factories. The fiber particles are bonded using adhesives, creating a fabric that is finished with a synthetic grain or hair cell finish.

It has a suede back and the look of full grain leather, although the quality is somewhat diminished. Be careful when buying such products, as they are often labelled as genuine leather if they have a hide content above 51%!