What to look for when buying leather

When you start your journey in owning leather products, you will be affronted with a thousand different options, with no clear distinction between them. This quick guide is meant to help you discern what and what not to buy.


 - Genuine Leather

At first glance, this might seem like top quality leather. Genuine leather just sounds like you are saying it is real leather. But genuine Leahter is actually just one of several grades of leather you can buy, and its actually second to the bottom in terms of quality.

The quality of leather depends on several factors, which I will go into full detail in another blog. For our purposes today, I'll give you a quick glance at each grade from worst to best. Before I go over this, keep in mind that there are some exceptions, as certain types of leather only come in one specific grade, due to how it is manufactured at the tannery. But for most bovine leather, it will come in every grade.

- Bonded leather

This is the worst of the worst. Bonded leather is like particle board, in that it is the left over shavings and scraps of leather all glued together and pressed into a sheet. Very little durability. AVOID AT ALL COSTS

- Genuine leather

Definitely better than bonded leather, this grade is the bottom portion of the hide, or the flesh side. This is the side of the skin that is inside the animal. You get this leather when you split leather into different thicknesses. Some durability, will typically be found in cheap footwear and leather goods. However, can also be found in suede and shell cordovan, due to how you create those leathers. IF BUYING SOMETHING MADE FROM SUEDE OR SHELL CORDOVAN, GO FOR IT. IF NOT, LOOK FOR A HIGHER GRADE.

- Top Grain

The grain denotes the strength of the natural fibers in the leather. The higher the grade, the less interrupted the fibers are. While genuine leather is the inside of the grain, top grain is the outside. Still created when the leather is split, the difference between genuine leather and top grain is the fact that you are getting the nice finished part of the leather, the actual top of the skin. This will increase durability, and prevent peeling and cracking. THIS LEATHER IS VERY GOOD IF YOU ARE BUYING YOUR FIRST PEICE, BUT DON'T HAVE A TON OF MONEY TO SPEND. NOT QUITE AS EXPENSIVE AS THE TOP GRADE, BUT STILL DURABLE ENOUGH TO LAST YOU FOR YEARS.

- Full Grain

This is the best of the best. Fully uninterrupted fibers, this leather maintains its full strength. This is typically what smaller crafters use for their goods, and it's why their stuff lasts forever. This is also what humans have been using to make things for thousands of years. IF YOU CAN FIND THIS, GET IT.


In conclusion, you have to always pay attention to the grade of leather you are buying. In my experience, 99% of what you will find from major retailers is going to be genuine leather. Once you get away from the big box stores, you will start finding true quality and craftsmanship.

If you want to shop the best leather goods on earth, always handcrafted in the USA out of Full Grain Leather, look no further! Cash&Card Leather Co. has your back.


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