Known for its durability and strength, leather is regarded as the most sought after material for jackets and outerwear. It’s luxurious due to the time and money invested in its process and manufacture. From tanning to cutting, stitching and dyeing, there are several steps that transform an animal hide or skin into a distinguished and quality-approved leather product. The study of different leather types has several aspects and variety. One can break it into different leather cuts, leather finishes, leather hides and types of leather cuts, etc.
Types of Leather
Leather is distinguished and categorized based on its manufacturing process. On one hand, leather is distinguished on the basis of its finishing, on the other hand, it is distinguished according to the type of animal hide or sometimes even the cut. In this article, we’ll be touching upon the types of leather depending on the grades.
What Are The Five Types Of Leather?
When one talks about the five types of leather, they’re basically talking about the volume and layers that are present in the final product of the animal hide. These five grades of leather are known top grain, full-grain, genuine leather, split-grain and bonded leather.
The quality of each leather type is dependent on which part of the animal hide that leather is extracted from. Of course, the breed of the animal and it’s lifestyle are also critical contributors to the quality of the leather. In addition, the leather manufacturing process (tanning and finishing) is in-depth and affects the quality of the leather as well.
Let’s elaborate more on the five types of leather.
Full Grain Leather
Known as “grain”, this is the topmost layer of leather present at the outer layer of the animal hide. It contains all the imperfections as it has not yet been buffed or even sanded. However, it doesn’t have animal hair. This outermost layer of the animal hide is the strongest and densely packed with fibres making it extremely durable, and adding to its longevity.
In cowhide leather, the reason for imperfections on the hide is it rubbing against the fence. Full grain leather has minor imperfections that are a result of cuts and bruises the animal receives in its lifetime. However, if you do end up getting full-grain leather without blemishes, you would have to pay a high price for it because it is extremely rare with a stellar appearance. Full-grain leather is great for leather jackets, footwear, saddlery, and furniture because of its strength. When the manufacturer doesn’t remove the outer layer, the surface of full grain develops a patina. Patina is visually appealing and changes the color of the surface. This grain is known as the highest quality leather.
Top Grain Leather
When the top layer gets sanded or buffed, it transforms from full-grain to top-grain leather. This is the type of leather that has been touched and redone. What that means is that it’s irregularities and imperfections are removed making it much softer and flexible. This is done with the use of dyes, sometimes even finishing.
Because of the processing, the water resistance, and durability of leather decrease. In the bargain, one gets to see a more refined, softer, and strong leather. Due to this reason, top-grain leather, a refined grain leather, becomes an excellent choice for handbags, wallets, and footwear.
Also known as corrected leather, genuine leather can be extracted from any layer of the leather given that it has gone through a proper treatment (processes) to become more uniform and pleasant to the eye; hence, the name “corrected leather”. Not only is genuine leather sanded and buffed, but it is also dyed, sprayed, stamped, and embossed to achieve a flawless appearance. After going through so many alterations and processes, this leather is used in making belts, coaches, and similar leather goods.
Split Grain Leather
Split grain leather is found in the lower layers of top grain leather. It is usually found just above the flesh of the animal. The quality of split-grain leather is not fine, but not as great in comparison to the aforementioned leather types. This leather may not be as dense and tight as expected but its uses can’t be completely disregarded. You will find it being used in the process of leather finishing; the ones that are being colored or embossed.
Loosely called the scraps of leather, this type of leather is shredded and bonded together with the help of polyurethane. Sometimes the percentage of leather in this grade is 10% while in rare cases it can go up to 90%. This distinct presence of leather in the grade impacts the functionality and aesthetics of the bonded leather. This reconstituted leather is also dyed and processed with embossing.
Full-grain leather is the highest quality of leather. It is the outermost layer that is completely untouched and hasn’t been processed yet; also the most expensive leather. Also known as raw leather, in the levels of leather, this is the best leather.
There are different grades of leather all distinguished based on the amount of processing they’ve been through. The five grades of leather are full-grain, top-grain, genuine leather, split-grain, and bonded leather.
There are four levels of leather and five grades of leather and there is a lot of confusion because the fifth grade of leather, i.e., genuine leather grade, can be extracted from any part of the animal hide. Thus, the four levels of leather are full-grain leather, top grain leather, split-grain leather, and bonded leather.
There are several leather categories from which different types of leather materials are made. The different leather grades explained above emphasized on their placement and manufacturing. The grade of leather quality is determined by the amount of tanning and finishing it has been through. In totality there are five grades of leather; full grain, top grain, genuine, split grain, and bonded leather.