Top Grain VS. Full Grain Leather: A Guide to Knowing Your Leather Before Buying

  • by Go-Uniq
Top Grain VS. Full Grain Leather: A Guide to Knowing Your Leather Before Buying
What is the difference between top-grain leather and full-grain leather for leather enthusiasts and newcomers looking to add leather to their wardrobe? More often than not, when the average consumer walks into a store, they are told that "This is genuine leather." And that is usually enough for people to pull out their wallets.

However, if you really want to get the best bang for your buck, you need to know the difference between the types of leather, what they bring to the table, and which would ideally suit your needs in the long run. In this article, we look at the differences between top-grain and full-grain leather.

Top Grain and Full Grain Leather Misconceptions

There is a common misconception that top-grain leather is the best there is—mostly because of the ‘top’ in the name. The fact of the matter is that, while top-grain leather is one of the most durable and versatile types of leather, it is not the most genuine nor the highest quality of real leather. Top grain is generally made from the upper part of the hide and is usually much thinner in appearance. This leather is also split to expose the grain of the hide, hence the name.

Full-grain leather, on the other hand, is the most durable and genuine quality of leather you can get your hands on. While it is also from the top layer of hide, it isn’t split. But there is more to these two than that.

What is Top Grain Leather?


Top grain leather is the second-highest quality of leather on the market. It is more commonly used because, of all the other types, top grain provides a more pristine look and feel. While this kind of leather does come from buff or cow hide, like most other modern-day leathers, it isn’t built to last. This issue occurs simply because in the leather making process, the very top layer of the hide is sanded, buffed, or shaved off. This process removes the protective layer of the leather, and while it may look more pristine for a while, it won’t last nearly as long as full grain.

Keep in mind that it is still a solid quality of leather, it definitely has its merits, and it will provide a good user experience. But if you are looking for the best quality on the market, this common form of product may not be for you.

Where Does Full Grain Leather Fit In?


Full grain leather is a combination of hide grain and corium, which is a part of the hide layer. It is actually the highest quality of leather you can get on the market. It is also one of the more expensive types, as only the best animal skins can be made into full grain leather products.

Unlike top-grain leather, this one does not go through the process of sanding. For the most part, it is left intact, which means it is more durable and rustic in nature. Since full grain is less processed or refined compared to top grain, it is also more difficult to work with. This type of leather is great for bags and other durable items. However, it is not so great for thinner material items like jackets or sofa covers, since it is not so easy to work with.

How Do You Tell the Difference?

Now, it’s all well and good to know the difference, but when you are in the store, you won’t necessarily have the history of how each piece was made in a factory. So, how do you actually tell the difference visually?

Well, the answer is in the manufacturing process. Since top-grain leather is made by scraping and sanding off the imperfections on the hide, it will appear more uniform and lack a natural grain structure. Full grain leather, on the other hand, is not processed the same way. As such, you will be able to see the scars, marks, and imperfections on the surface of the leather. It will look more natural and rough.

Another subtle difference is that full grain leather develops a patina on the topmost layer of the hide as it ages. If the leather is sanded down like top grain, this patina won’t be able to form on the surface as it will be trapped within the leather, which would be less breathable.

Whichever type you choose, just know that these two options are much better than other “genuine leather” items, or even corrected, aniline, or bonded leather. Having said that, if you want to delve into the depths of how leather is made and the leather industry in general, check out this paper. You should also check out our website for the best leather products in the Indian market!

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