Full Grain and Genuine Leather: What's the Difference?

The term "Genuine Leather" sounds like the epitome of quality. It's what is stamped on all those bargain leather goods sold at the big box stores, you know the ones that fall apart after a year. So it looks that "genuine leather" isn't all that it seems to be. 

But to understand the difference between genuine leather and full-grain leather, we need to look at the basic properties and anatomy of a cowhide.

Cowhide can essentially be divided into two layers: the grain layer and the flesh layer. The grain layer is what is on the outside of the animal. It is the layer exposed to the elements and must physically protect the animal, and is therefore very tough and durable. The fibers of the grain are densely packed and impervious to the elements. The flesh layer is underneath the grain layer and is what connects the hide to the animal; this layer is much thicker than the grain layer, but the fibers are softer and less densely packed. 

Full-grain leather contains all of the grain layer and a portion of the flesh layer. The amount of the flesh layer that is removed depends on how thick the hide needs to be for a particular application. Full-grain leather is not sanded smooth, so the grain pattern and all the small markings on the animal are visible. This makes each and every full-grain hide completely one of a kind. Even within a single hide, there may be multiple grain variations, giving even more character to each and every piece made from that hide. Full-grain leather is the highest quality leather available.

Now back to genuine leather. Technically it's leather, but the same way that particle board is technically wood, it is not in its natural form. It has been altered so much that almost all of the natural strength, durability and beauty have vanished. It can be little bits and scraps glued and pressed together (called bonded leather) or it can be virtually any combination of layers glued together; there is no standard for what can be called genuine leather. It must be sanded smooth and painted or coated with polymers to make it stay together and look "okay". Ultimately, genuine leather is the lowest quality leather, and it will not last.

Because full-grain leather is the most durable and the most beautiful, it is all we use in all of our products. Premium materials make premium products. We care about quality because you care about quality.


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