5 Types of Leather: How to Buy the Best Leather?

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Types of Leather - Handicraft Villa

5 Types of Leather: How to Buy the Best Leather?

Leather goods and products have been in existence for thousands of years, and we humans are making clothes and accessories since we are consuming animal meat. However, not all leather products possess the same quality, and if you are a novice in the world of leather, things may seem all the more confusing for you while purchasing. Whether you are looking for leather bags, or purses and wallets, you must have the basic know-how about different types of leather to help you choose the best type of leather.


With varying types, finishes, and qualities, choosing the right material can seem overwhelming. But fear not, fellow leather connoisseurs! This guide cuts through the confusion, empowering you with the knowledge to make informed decisions for your bulk leather purchases.


Mostly, a leather product is your everyday companion, so it is advisable to know what it is made of before buying readymade leather goods. For starters, leather is taken from several animals, including cows, sheep, pigs, deer, buffaloes, horses, etc., while frogs, fishes, snakes, ostriches, and alligators are sources of exotic leather types. Various types of leather for bags differ in characteristics and appearance and are used distinctly as well.


Why Understanding Leather Matters for B2B:


Beyond aesthetics, choosing the right leather impacts your cost efficiency, quality control, and product differentiation. Understanding different types allows you to:

  • Optimize cost per product: Match budget considerations with appropriate leather grades and characteristics.
  • Maintain brand reputation: Ensure consistent quality and durability for bulk orders.
  • Cater to diverse customer needs: Offer a variety of leather options to stand out in the market.


Our buyer’s guide to differentiate between types of leather finishes walks you through the most-used five types of leather grain types with pictures, leather tanning, and how to care for your leather goods. You will get all your answers to the question, are there different types of leather. Let’s find out!




Leather Grades: What are the Top 5 Types of Leather?


1. Full-grain Leather


The king of the pack, known for its natural beauty, durability, and rich patina development. Think premium bags, wallets, and jackets.

Full-grain leather is the top-most layer of the hide and is considered the best in the business. It is the highest grade and top-of-the-line quality leather available, and the most expensive too. In order to be recognized as full-grain leather, the grain must be intact fully. Moreover, sanding or buffing must not be applied even if it is for removing natural imperfections. For a finer grain, full-grain leather is crafted from the hide’s outer later.


Apart from carrying a unique and attractive appearance with all markings, wrinkles, and scars of the animals preserved on the hide, full-grain leather is also the most durable and breathable. The tight grain pattern also makes it a bit resistant to moisture but, like other types of leathers, develops a natural patina over a period. The best part about full-grain leather, which is also its unique characteristic, is that it becomes more graceful with age. It also shows a slight change in colors with continuous use. In addition, no two full-grain leather bags will be exactly the same.


2. Top-grain Leather


A slightly more affordable option, still offering good durability and appearance. Often used for shoes, belts, and some bags.

Followed by full-grain leather, top-grain leather is the second-best quality of leather and is mainly used to make top-notch leather bags and accessories. Basically, it is the second layer of the hide from the top. The corrected form of full-grain leather can be termed as top-grain leather as it has the imperfections removed with the application of sanding or buffing, providing a uniform appearance and flawless finished product. For the same reason, top-grain leather is thinner and affordable as compared to full-grain leather, but, at the same time, it reduces product durability and life.


Due to the application of finish coats to the top grain, there is a reduction in the product’s breathability, preventing natural patina formation. It also leads to stretching and protects the leather handbags from stains, unlike a full-grain leather bag. While some leather lovers would argue that the uniqueness from full-grain leather gets eliminated in top-grain leather goods, others would find it more suitable to buy.


3. Genuine Leather


The third grade of leather, genuine leather, is crafted using the remains after splitting hide’s top layer for top-grain and full-grain leathers. Genuine leather is also known as split leather or corrected leather. Similar to top-grain leather, genuine leather is also made free of imperfections through sanding or buffing techniques. Lacking the natural skin finish, genuine leather needs leather tanning and artificial processes to get a top-quality leather finishing.


Genuine leather products have a similar appearance to top-grain leather goods after undergoing artificial techniques, and it is durable as well. However, types of leather purses made using genuine leather may not be as breathable for the same reason. Coming to the pricing, genuine leather is more affordable than full-grain and top-grain leather as it can be altered artificially.


4. Split-grain Leather (Suede)


Luxuriously soft and warm, requiring extra care but adding a touch of elegance. Perfect for jackets, shoes, and lining materials.

Split-grain leather or Suede is formed from the inner layers of the hide that is in contact with the animal’s flesh. The name suggests that the material is extracted after splitting the hide. After sanding or buffing, the leather turns out to be flexible and soft.


Its surface becomes absorbent, making it vulnerable to stains, and it is less durable compared to genuine, top-grain, and full-grain leather. On the other hand, the leather becomes more convenient for embossing or coloring. Apart from leather aprons, purses, shoes, and sofas, Suede is generally used to make leather jackets.


5. Bonded Leather


Bonded leather, as the name suggests, is the leather made by reconstituting various leather scraps. It is also known as blended or reconstituted leather and is the lowest grade of leather to be used as filler. Using chemicals like latex or polyurethane, the leftover bits of leather are combined to form bonded leather. Due to the lack of real leather, the durability of the products made from bonded leather also suffers.


Many experts do not even consider it real leather because the actual percentage of leather used at the end of the entire procedure is 10% to 90%. Also, a lot of embossing, coating, chemicals, and spray paints are needed to make it appear like top-grain or full-grain leather. It is among the cheapest types of leather used for handbags.


Nubuck Leather:

Similar to suede, but with a smoother surface. Offers a unique matte finish for jackets, bags, and footwear.


Focusing on “Genuine Leather”:


Genuine leather is a broad term, encompassing various leathers beyond full-grain and top-grain. It’s important to understand the different types within this category to make informed choices:

  • Corrected leather: Genuine leather with imperfections removed through sanding or buffing.
  • Embossed leather: Genuine leather with a pressed pattern for decorative purposes.
  • Bicast leather: Genuine leather coated with a polyurethane layer for increased water resistance.



  • “Genuine leather” doesn’t guarantee top quality. Always investigate the processing methods and specific type of genuine leather used.
  • Consider your needs and budget. Full-grain and top-grain offer superior durability, while genuine leather provides a more affordable option.
  • Inspect the leather for imperfections, grain consistency, and flexibility. High-quality leather should have a natural feel and spring back readily when bent.


1. Corrected Leather:


  • This type undergoes sanding or buffing to remove imperfections like scars and wrinkles, resulting in a smoother, more uniform appearance.
  • While offering a clean aesthetic, it sacrifices some natural character and potential breathability.
  • Commonly used in wallets, bags, and furniture, striking a balance between affordability and aesthetics.


2. Embossed Leather:


  • Genuine leather pressed with a design or pattern to create a decorative texture.
  • Adds visual interest and variety to products like bags, wallets, and phone cases.
  • Durability depends on the quality of the base leather and embossing process.


3. Bicast Leather:


  • This leather receives a thin polyurethane coating for enhanced water resistance and a glossier finish.
  • Offers practical benefits for items exposed to moisture, like shoes and handbags.
  • The coating can affect breathability and may peel or crack over time.


Beyond “Types of Leather Genuine”: Differentiating Quality:


Remember, “genuine leather” doesn’t automatically translate to top-tier quality. Here are factors to consider when evaluating genuine leather products:

  • Processing methods: Opt for leathers with minimal processing that retain their natural characteristics for better durability and breathability.
  • Thickness and construction: Look for thicker leather with sturdy stitching for enhanced longevity.
  • Finishing: Be mindful of finishes that might affect breathability or wear over time.


By understanding these distinctions, you can navigate the world of leather confidently and choose products that meet your needs and preferences.

Additional Tips:

  • Look for brands that disclose the specific type of leather used in their products.
  • Research reputable leather manufacturers known for their quality and ethical practices.
  • Consider investing in higher-quality leather goods for items you plan to use frequently, as they’ll likely last longer.


Exploring the Material Palette:


Leather Types & Applications: Delving into the various leather types used in bags and shoes can be overwhelming. From the robust durability of full grain leather, ideal for rugged boots and travel bags, to the supple grace of napa leather, perfect for handbags and wallets, understanding their unique characteristics empowers informed selections.

Grading the Quality:

Beyond types, leather grades play a crucial role. This guide decodes the intricacies of top grain, full grain, corrected grain, and genuine leather, empowering you to make informed decisions based on your product’s needs and target audience.

Genuine vs. Faux: Understanding the Distinction:

The line between genuine and faux leather can be blurry. This guide dives deep, exposing the differences in quality, durability, and cost-effectiveness. By understanding the nuances, you can make strategic choices that align with your brand’s values and target market expectations.


Perfect Pairings: Matching Leather to Footwear Needs:

Finding the ideal leather for your shoes goes beyond aesthetics. This guide explores how factors like individuality, activity level, and climate influence your selection. Whether you require the waterproof resilience of chrome-tanned leather for hiking boots or the breathable comfort of vegetable-tanned leather for sneakers, this guide aids in creating the perfect match.


How to Spot Differences in Types of Leather genuine?


Grain Pattern


As mentioned above, full-grain leather is bound to have minor imperfections and less grain consistency than genuine, split-grain, and bonded leather. Also, you might witness rough edges in the entire hide of the top quality leather, whereas low-grade manufactured leather will appear to be uniform.



The better the leather quality, the stiffer and durable it is. However, with time, full-grain and top-grain leather will improve flexibility. If you find loose structure or weak leather, consider that low grade.




If you smell plastic or chemicals, refrain from buying those types of leather stitching because real leather will never smell like anything other than leather.

Which Leather Suits you the Best?


If you are not an expert in buying leather products, some questions may hover in your mind, like what are the types of animal leather, which kind of leather would be best for you, what types of paint to use on leather, what are the different leather texture types, and so on. Before you make a final call to purchase any leather goods or accessories for yourself or your loved ones, read about the positives and negatives of each leather type.




Durability & Longevity

Full-grain Leather
Exceptional Finishing & Durability

Top-grain Leather

Affordable & Long Lasting

Genuine Leather


Choosing the Best Leather for Your Needs:


This is just a starting point! Delving deeper into each type, you’ll discover specific qualities, maintenance demands, and cost variations. Consider factors like:

  • Product Function: Will it endure wear and tear or prioritize aesthetics?
  • Target Audience: Are they seeking luxury, value, or a balance of both?
  • Brand Identity: Does the leather align with your brand’s values and positioning?


Pro Tip: Checking the flexibility of leather can reveal its quality. Bend a sample; high-quality leather springs back readily, while poor quality leather may remain creased.

Being an award-winning leather manufacturer in India, we, at Handicraft Villa, are always available to share our knowledge and guide you to get the best leather products and goods, no matter you buy from us or not.


We hope this post helped you clear some of your doubts about the different types of leather. Please feel free to reach out to us anytime. Cheers!

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