If you’ve spent time browsing Leatherology or other leather sites, you’ve probably seen terms like ‘full grain’ and ‘corrected grain’ referring to specific items. But do you know what they mean? There’s more to it than just making you think you’re getting a fancy cut of leather.
(Image above show swatches from our Terra, Classico, and Timeless collection – top to bottom)
One cow doesn’t just give you one type of leather. You can get any type of leather from any cow – it all has to do with how the hide is treated. A cow’s skin is like our skin. It’s covered in hair, it’s tough to protect the body, and over time it will show signs of wear. Cow fall down, run into fences, get in fights, get bit, get branded – you get the picture. All of those things contribute to how the hide ends up looking. With that in mind, here’s what all those terms you see on leather sites actually mean, along with some photos from our very own factory!
(Image above show hides from our Zita and Terra collection – top to bottom)
Full grain leather is top quality stuff, leaving most of the cow’s natural grain intact. All the original marks on the skin are still there (which we think gives extra character). Some full grain leather is spray treated, but most is aniline dyed, which helps preserve that natural look. As a bonus, it will patina over time, helping it look better with age.
When a hide’s going to be used for leather, it’s split into layers – the upper layers are called top grain and the bottom layers are called split grain. The very top of the top layer, the most desirable part, is where we get full grain leather. The rest of the upper layers end up as top grain. If you want a really smooth, finished looking piece of leather, this is for you, as all the scars, brands, and other marks are sanded out of the hide.
Leatherology doesn’t use corrected grain leather, but it’s still useful to know about it. It’s just what it sounds like – leather that wasn’t presentable enough to be used, so it had to be corrected. The top part gets removed and rebuilt through things like debossing an artificial grain into it. The bottom layers of corrected grain tend to be weaker fibers that don’t have the strength of quality leather, making a product that won’t last as long as full grain or top grain.
Split leather is another kind that we don’t use, but here’s what it is. A cow’s hide is really, really thick. When it arrives at a tannery, it gets split into layers. You’ve got your full and top grain, then everything else. In that everything else is the split leather. It looks like suede on both sides and it has to have an artificial grain applied since it’s from the underside of the skin. As you can imagine, it’s a low quality product that’s often used to save on production costs.
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