Consumers have been bombarded with leather terminology for decades, with tricky advertising and marketing tactics afoot, some buyers are understandably confused by the difference in leather grades. What do all of these classifications mean, and which grade will outlast the others by miles?
In general there are 4 basic classifications of leather but here at Portland Leather Goods we like to focus on the most premium grade: full grain leather.
WHAT IS SUEDE?
Let’s talk suede. Soft, supple, malleable - it has a lot going for it! This is a popular leather for making delicate, colorful, and beautiful leather goods. One reason why suede is so delicate is because the top grain has been removed, leaving behind only the loose, soft fibers of the lower layers of the hide. These lower fibers are authentic leather, but since the tough top grain has been removed, they won’t stand the test of time in the same way that a full grain hide will.
WHAT IS GENUINE LEATHER?
The term most confused for quality leather. Given how wide of a net this umbrella term casts, it's no wonder consumers are the most familiar with it. While Genuine Leather can be used to describe any grade of leather in products that are often made in both “genuine” and “faux” leathers, Genuine Leather is most often built upon split hides, the most bottom layer of the leather hide with the loosest, least durable fibers.
In order to look like leather, a top-coat of waxes, resins, or synthetic materials, are applied onto the leather base, then stamped with an artificial texture to mimic the appearance of the best quality hides. Some genuine leathers can even be made by gluing layers of split hides together into a thicker material that is then painted along the edges to hide the evidence. Products made from low-grade genuine leather generally feature an eerie shine, almost plastic in appearance, because they’ve been altered so dramatically from their original state.
CHARACTER THROUGH AND THROUGH
A full grain leather product tells a story. Since full grain hides retain the characteristics from the life of the cow, each wrinkle, scratch, and pockmark come together to remind us that the material had life. In the case of a Full Grain Leather Tote, we’re striving for beauty in longevity and durability, as well as functionality and design. A tote that has been sanded or buffed down to remove all traces of character and personality ends up identical to the one next to it, and ultimately won’t last nearly as long as a tote whose fibers are left intact, showcasing the traits that the cow worked so hard to gain in the first place! Our ‘Almost Perfect’ products provide the best of both worlds - a super durable, functional, full grain tote to last a lifetime, with extra character marks to prove it.