Put simply, grain leather is the top layer of skin on an animal hide. Full grain is the best quality. The most common animal hide used to craft leather products is Bovine, otherwise known as cow, bull, heifer, ox, kip and calf depending on the age and gender. Due to the size of these animals, the skin is thick and needs to be split into layers so it can be applied to products.
In order to make leather, first the hide is soaked in lime which removes the hair, then the skin is preserved to ensure it is transformed from a degradable to an inanimate material. Now the hide is ready to be split in two, the top half is called the grain, because this is where the natural grain texture of the skin lies. The bottom half is called the split as this is where the fuzzy texture for suede comes from.
How is leather graded?
Once the grain has been separated from the split, it can be graded depending on its quality. This would be done based on the level of damage to the hide, for instance brand marks, scratches, scars and insect bites. If a grain hide has too much damage to it, it needs to be buffed, sanded and snuffed which basically removes the very top layer of leather so that all defects are taken out. This process also removes the actual grain texture so it would need to be replicated by embossing the natural grain pattern back into the leather with a printing plate which in essence is not genuine. This is called corrected grain leather.
Full Grain Leather:
Full grain leather is only selected from the best quality hides because it has a clean surface, free of defects. When a hide needs to be sanded down, it loses its durability and tensile strength as the fibers are the most tightly interlinked on the top layer of grain. This is why full grain leather not only has the best appearance but is also the most durable type of leather, making it long lasting and something that only gets better with age due to the patina effect (the process of leather texture improving over time). This is why we choose to make our products from full grain leather.
The 4 basic grades of leather:
Full grain: The highest quality and most natural textured leather
Top grain: The most commonly used leather, it is finished with a coat to remove light defects
Genuine: Misleading in its name, this leather is not long lasting or made from quality hides
Corrected grain: Made from a very poor quality hide, it has been heavily sanded, dyed and embossed
Investing in a quality leather product is an important decision. Presence full grain leather bags and shoes are handcrafted to give a long lasting durable product that can accompany you on all your travels.