Leather is widely used in making articles ranging from footwear and clothing to fashion accessories and furniture. The reason for the extensive popularity of leather products is mainly because of their impressive durability and contemporary look, compared to faux leather or any other material. When planning to buy leather products, the knowledge of different grades of leather is useful as well as fundamental.
Top grain leather is the leather that has been made from the outermost layer of the hide. The natural grain is sanded away from the upper surface of the leather to remove any imperfections, making it thinner and easier to work with. The fine, dense network of fibers in top grain leather concludes the amazing toughness and durability of the material. Top grain leather grabs the second place for nighest quality leather, after full grain leather.
Full grain leather refers to the entire grain layer of the hide and isn’t sanded like the surface of top grain leather. This grade is the highest quality of leather of all the grades. Since full grain leather is not sanded, the surface of this leather shows all the raw and beautiful imperfections and marks. The strong and dense fiber in the natural grain results in exceptionally robust and durable characteristics to the material. As full grain leather ages, it acquires an unparalleled and beautiful patina that is loved by leather enthusiasts. Aniline dye is often used in finishing full grain leather, called Aniline full grain or true aniline leather.
Corrected grain leather is made from those hides which have excessive scars, scratches and other faults. The hide goes through thorough finishing processes like sanding, buffing, stamping and lastly dyeing. The objective of these processes is to create a uniform look of the leather. After the finishing treatment, the leather holds no real or natural grain
Nubuck is top grain leather produced by brushing and sanding or buffing the grain to create a texture like velvet. This also corrects the imperfections in the hide. If you run your hand across the surface of nubuck leather, its shade slightly changes. Nubuck leather is soft and sensitive and hence, great care must be taken against staining and soiling of the material.
The corium is the fibrous under-layer of the leather hide, which when separated, is called the drop split. Split leather is made from this drop split, as the name suggests. Split leather comes in varying thickness, depending on the use of the material. It is less costly compared to other grades of leather.
Suede leather is made from the inner part of the split to create a softer finish. It is not as durable as the top grain of full grain leather, but its softness and flexibility make it popular for clothing. Suede is preferred in making shoes, bags and other accessories. Suede leather is popularly used for making shoes due to their soft texture.
Bicast leather falls into the cheaper grades of leather, made from polyurethane or vinyl coating applied to the surface of split leather. It is more popularly known as PU leather and is stiffer than top grain leather. The material is embossed to make it look like it is a grain.
Patent leather is made by giving a high gloss finish with coating to split leather. The modern versions of this leather come in the form of bicast leather.
Bonded leather or reconstituted leather is made from leather remnants and pieces from clothing and footwear factories which is recycled and bonded together with polyurethane on a fiber mesh. Synthetic grain is applied to the material and finished. Bonded leather is called ‘Genuine leather’ and utilized in many low priced leather products. This kind of leather does not even remotely match the other kinds of leather in terms of quality, no matter how cheaply priced it is.
Different grades of leather provide different levels of quality, depending upon the part of the hide that is used and the processes that the leather goes through. As a customer, it is important to know what kind of leather products you are looking at to determine its quality and durability. It is also recommended that you know how to take care of your leather based on its type.