What is Full Grain Leather – Myths & Reality

What is Full Grain Leather – Myths & Reality

How many times have you been fooled into buying a product because it was labeled Genuine Leather? Quite a few times I reckon. Don’t worry, I used to be in the same boat as you until I went the extra mile to educate myself about what was so “Genuine” about Genuine Leather? Turns out it was nothing I had imagined. 

Let’s take a look at a couple of myths from the world of leather products and then check out the reality behind them.

Full Grain Leather Belt

Myth: Full Grain Leather is leather with grain, pebble effect, etc.

Reality: Full Grain Leather is the best leather you can get. Full grain refers to the full, unadulterated animal hide in its natural form. It is neither sanded, nor buffed at all. Therefore, it has no grain or pebble effect in its natural form. Why is it called Grain then? The grain is the top outermost layer of the hide. It’s the visible skin of the animal you see walking around. This layer of the hide is also the strongest, its fibers are very dense and tight. Well it has to be tough as the animal comes in contact with predators, rubs itself against trees, rocks and fences. Had this layer been weak, an animal would be bleeding all the time. But if its not altered, how do you achieve different thicknesses? Well, you shave it down from underside instead of the top. The underside is also called the corium or the suede side.

The layers of a hide

Myth: Full Grain Leather and Top Grain Leather are the same thing.

Reality: No, they’re not. While Full Grain Leather is the outermost layer of the hide, Top Grain refers to the top layer of the hide that has been altered by means of sanding it down a bit to hide imperfections like scuff marks and scratches. Why is this important to know? Sanding the hide makes it weaker. If you want a leather satchel to last you a while, would you weaken the hide on purpose? Secondly, the leather loses some of its natural properties when it is altered. Full grain leather ages well and changes color over a period of time. Natural marbling, texture and variety of color in the hide comes through fully when the leather is Full Grain. That is not the case with Top Grain leather. 

Full Grain Leather Satchel with natural scars and color change aka Patina

Myth: Genuine Leather is the best form of leather you can get.

Reality: Genuine leather is the umbrella term for anything that falls under the term Leather. The vast majority believes that anything marked or marketed as “Genuine Leather” is the best or a premium category product that warrants a higher price when actually, the opposite is the case. It is probably the best kept secret in the industry.

The definition of genuine leather now includes any animal’s hide. That means pig leather, goat leather, etc. It also means that discarded hides and  scraps of used leather qualify as “genuine leather” too. So you could take scraps of pig hide, sand down the surface, emboss it with “Genuine Leather’, treat it with chemicals, create a bag, jacket or wallet out of it and charge a hefty price for it.

Awareness comes first, no matter what it is. The purveyors of material stuff that we chase and invest in can be lazy and dishonest. It is up to you to find brands that actually care about what you spend and what you spend it on. Let me know in the comments section below if you would like to see more of these articles.

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