Types of Leather: How Many and What Are They?

Types of Leather: How Many and What Are They?

What comes to mind when you think of leather? Presumably, you’re envisioning oxblood-colored dress belts, glossy dress shoes, and those lovely handbags that go well with just about anything. While all of those items are made out of leather, not all of them are the same. 

All of our products are made of full-grain leather; it’s one of the many different types of leather out there. Here, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about all of the types of leather and what defines each one. 

What Is Leather?

As you have probably seen from leather products, leather is a strong, durable, and flexible material created by tanning the rawhide of an animal. Most leather products are made out of cattle hide. However, it’s not uncommon to find some made out of sheep, goats, buffalo, pigs and hogs, seals, alligators, and more. 

The tanning process that’s involved in leather-making alters the protein layer found in the flesh on the animal hide in a way that makes it imperishable or incapable of decomposition. Before or after this process happens, the hide of the animal can be split into layers to create various depths of leather. 

The production that follows the tanning process can have an immense impact on the quality of the hide. Because of this, it can impact whether or not the end product is perceived as genuine leather. Genuine leather is a type of leather that is popular among consumers who have mistakenly perceived the name to be a qualitative term to describe the material (but we’ll get to that later).

Why Do People Love Leather So Much?

Leather, which is deemed by many to be the “king of fabrics” and “luxury high marks,” is very popular in terms of function and fashion. Leather products are used by millions of people all over the world. But why do people love it so much?

The durable and versatile nature of leather is among the many characteristics that make it a wonderful material to carry out the functions of various products. For example, leather is light, strong, and supple. It can be cut and shaped easily and breathes well, all of which provide a significant amount of comfort (as seen in leather footwear, for example). 

Similarly, at Andar, we have various high-quality leather products, including wallets, handbags, iPhone cases, and more. Not to mention, it adds a bit of fare to your everyday look, and its authentic appearance only gets better with age.

While leather, in general, is placed on a pedestal by many, different types of leather are of a higher quality than others and are therefore more suitable for certain products. Read on to learn more about the different types of leather and the benefits to each.

How Many Types Of Leather Are There?

Leather has its own unique set of characteristics and quality based on where in the hide the finished product comes from, the type of hide, the way it is cut, or even the manufacturing or finishing process. 

The types of leather can be broken down into several different categories, such as types of cuts, leather qualities, leather grades, leather finishes, types of leather by animal, and more. Although there are many types, people often focus on five types of leather grades: bonded, split grain, genuine, top grain, and full grain.

The Five Types of Leather

Here, we’ve highlighted what is known as the “five types of leather” and detailed their many qualities.

Bonded Leather

Bonded leather is primarily made up of ground-up leather fibers that are bound together with a plastic mixture and then attached to a paper or fiber backing, thus allowing for lower grades of leather and smaller pieces to be used in the finished products.

The appearance of bonded leather is purposefully very similar to that of natural leather due to the grain pattern it’s stamped with. The finished products come in a variety of different colors, textures, and styles which are applied to the material’s surface.

Since bonded leather is essentially made of a bunch of leather “scraps” of different sizes, the actual amount of leather in the products can vary anywhere from 10% to 90%. Consequently, the functional and aesthetic qualities can be affected.

Typically, you’ll see this material used for furniture upholstery, bookbinding, bags, and personal accessories—but at a low price. While this is a benefit in many ways, keep in mind that bonded leather is less durable than natural leather, and the plastic used in its production makes it very inflexible. This can result in early cracking and wearing of the product after only a few years of use. 

So while it may look and smell like real leather and is cheaper than real leather, it may not last as long as you would expect.

Split Grain

Split grain leather is a layered cut usually from the lower part of the hide, just above the flesh and within layers of the top grain area. 

While it provides useful leather material, the surface of this leather isn’t as dense, tight, or useful as the full-grain and best top grain layers that sit above it in the hide. Because of this, you’ll typically find it used in leather finishes that have been colored or glossed, which gives the product a visually appealing surface while also offering some of the functional and helpful qualities of the material.

Genuine Leather

As we alluded to earlier, genuine leather has a bit of a deceitful name. While it is, in fact, “real” leather, it isn’t necessarily the highest quality that money can buy. 

With genuine leather, any layer of the hide undergoes a treatment to make the surface look more uniform. The surface imperfections can be removed through sanding or buffing, and then the swatch can be dyed, embossed, or stamped to complete the final appearance.

Genuine leather is often used for belts and handbags. However, the treatment process can sometimes alter the quality of the leather, making it not as elite in quality as others like top grain or full grain.

Top Grain

Top grain and full grain leather are very similar. There is one key difference that results in one being higher in quality than the other.

While the cut of the two pieces of leather is similar, top grain involves the sanding or buffing of the very top layer to remove imperfections. The result is a visually appealing finish that’s softer, more pliable, and flexible. This makes top grain a great and commonly used material for high-end leather goods such as handbags, wallets, and shoes. 

The downside to the sanding and buffing process, however, is that it strips away some of the strength and water-resistant properties that full grain leather can provide. 

Full Grain

Unlike top grain, full grain leather doesn’t undergo the sanding or buffing of imperfections, and therefore maintains many of its wonderful qualities that would otherwise be lost in the process. 

The cut of this leather is usually the outer layout of the hide, and usually, only the hair is removed from it. Due to the densely packed and fine fibers in the grain, the surface has a very strong and durable quality that can withstand tough use. This makes it great for footwear and really any other leather product. 

Since full-grain is the highest quality of all types of leather, it’s usually going to be on the pricier side. If you’re on a tight budget, we get why you’d gravitate more towards other leather products. But at the end of the day, the higher the quality, the longer the product is going to last, especially with all the incredible qualities that help retain its durability. 

Why opt for the cheaper, lower-quality leather product that you’ll likely have to replace within a year or two when you could have a long-lasting, authentic leather product?

The Andar Promise

Browse through our site a bit, and you’ll see that we believe in using the highest quality material to create handcrafted leather goods. All of our leather products are made from full-grain leather, which, as we discussed previously, is the best of the best. Our promise to you is functional, beautiful products that can last a lifetime. They only improve as time passes rather than decline in quality and appearance.

In contrast to many other leather products that lose their imperfections to sanding or contain a plastic appearance due to their finishes, our full-grain products wear their imperfections to create a look that’s unique and individualized to you. The natural patina that it holds gives it a weathered look that ages with time while maintaining its original strength. 

Whether you’re going for a sleek leather wallet or a stylish handbag, you’re able to enjoy the added benefit of not needing to worry too much about water damage due to the product’s great water-resistant quality. This is an important trait to have when it comes to maintaining the beauty that is leather. 

The Highly Desirable Material

Leather truly is a highly desirable material—and for good reasons! With so many options to choose from, why settle for less than ideal? Andar’s full-grain leather products are sure to organize your everyday life all while doing it in style.



Full Grain Vegetable Tanned Leather & Vegetable Tanning Process Definitive Guide | World of Leather 

Grain Leather - Full Grain, Top Grain, You'll Know the Best | Liberty Leather Goods 

Bonded Leather - The Truth on Quality, Cost, & Durability | Liberty Leather Goods