Types of Leather

There are all kinds of types of leather out there, most of which are given elaborate titles and then flaunted by advertising agencies. Here, you can discover what all those titles mean, and what you really want when you are looking for that quality leather product. Leather can be broken down to three basic categories, identified by the grain of the leather. There is full grain leather, split grain leather, and synthetic leather. There are several different types within each of these major categories.

What is the grain?

The grain is the outside of the leather. The part of the hide where the hair is or was. This is the strongest part of the leather, so many of the different qualities of leather are classified by whether they have the grain intact still or not.

Quick Summary

These definitions vary slightly from one leather worker to another, but for the most part they have the same general gist.

Full Grain Leather– Leathers that still have the grain intact can be referred to as full grain. One of these types is top grain leather, which has been split, but only some of the bottom weaker layers have been taken away. Corrected top grain also falls in this category. It is just like normal top grain, but with an artificial makeover. The last type is just referred to as full grain leather, which is the entire hide still intact, and is usually considered the highest quality leather.

*Suede is kind of a floater, and depending on the suede type, can be either full or split grain.

Split Grain Leather– Split grain leather is leather that has been split horizontally, and had the grain, or outer part of the hide, removed. The most common split grain leather is bicast leather. The notorious and nearly nameless “Genuine Leather” may also fit in this category. Metallic leather, while not always the case, will almost always be split grain.

Synthetic Leather– These are leathers that are either partially or entirely plastic. Pleather, or faux leather, would be the first and foremost of these. I would also consider bonded leather in this category, since it is only partially leather.

For an entertaining overview of the different types of leather, watch Dave from SaddleBack Leather explain it using chalk!