What Is Real Leather?

Amidst all the doom and gloom of realizing that there a lot of people out there trying their level best to trick you with leather products that are mediocre at best and abominations at worst, there is good news. Quality leather exists!! So what makes this leather, commonly referred to as either top grain leather or full grain leather, so much better than bonded leather or genuine leather? This is actually super simple.

Here’s the secret. This leather is actually made from the hide of the cow! The natural strength of leather comes from the skin, or top layer of the cowhide.


Which part of the watermelon would you trust to protect you?

Since I am a fan of metaphors, I like to think of it like a watermelon. It is kind of a silly example, but if you were going to make a helmet with a watermelon, would you use the rind or the red fruit in the middle? Obviously the rind would be way more solid. Leather works the same way.  Leather that has the full “rind”, or surface, intact is called full grain leather. This is the good stuff.

One of the reasons that this leather is so awesome is that instead of wearing out and peeling, like cheaper materials do, it creates a patina, or film that gives it a little extra strength and shine.


You can see the shine of the patina on the wallet on the right, which has had over two years of use.

So instead of wearing out with time, it gets prettier with time! There is also sort of a natural beauty that comes with full grain leather.

You can see the markings and wrinkles that give this leather it's unique appearance

You can see the markings and wrinkles that give this leather it’s unique appearance

Other leather types buff or sand imperfections out of the leather to make it look “perfect”, but anyone who is familiar with nature(or anyone who has looked in the mirror) knows that beauty and perfection are not synonymous.

The “imperfections” in the leather, the branding marks, the wrinkles, the scars, etc. give the leather a unique look that tells a story. That is also one of the fastest way to identify quality full grain leather. It is going to have quirks, but just like with human beings, those quirks are what make it strong and interesting.