Of course, we all know that leather has many different types. With each of these types comes varying strengths, durability, and overall quality. To name a few, there are full-grain leather, top-grain leather, and genuine leather. Knowing the different types of leather is important whenever you consider buying one. Knowing their different qualities will also make it easier to choose which to buy. In this article, we will be focusing on a very common type of leather. It is the type of leather that you see in most leather products in stores and malls. This leather can be on shoes, belts, and even wallets. They call this leather Genuine Leather. What is genuine leather and how is it different from other types of leather? What the advantages and disadvantages of genuine leather? Let us have a look!
What Does “Genuine Leather” Really Mean?
You are at the department store, you take a look at a leather belt, leather shoes, leather furniture, leather sofa, or even a sleek-looking leather jacket. Taking a closer look, you see right on the leather it says "genuine leather" or "made with genuine leather". You look at the price and it's cheap too! Buying a genuine leather product sound like a great deal right? However, we are sorry to burst your bubble, but this leather is not the best of the best. Nor is it a great leather.
We do however want to set the record straight. If you are looking for real leather then you are on the right track. Genuine leather is indeed real leather. This means that the material comes from real animal skin or that there is some kind of leather in the material. While its quality comes nowhere near full-grain leather or top-grain leather, it is still from real animal skin.
Confused? Continue to read this article to know more about this fascinating leather.
How is Genuine Leather Made?
From the get-go, we must accept the fact that genuine leather is not as strong when comparing with full grain or top grain leather. While it does come from real animal hide, it does not come from the best parts of the hide. The reason lies behind or underneath the animal hide. The hide has many layers, each layer with different qualities. The strongest and toughest belong to the outermost layer of the skin. This is where the natural grain is. Oftentimes, the skin may be too tough and too thick to work with. Leather artisans, therefore, split the leather into layers. Of course, the outermost layer will still be the strongest and toughest. The layer underneath it is what we call "top-grain". And likewise what is beneath it will have lower quality like suede or nubuck.
Making genuine leather can be tricky. Most of the time it comes from split leather, usually from the intermediate layers. For example, are those between top grain and suede. However, any layer of the hide can be turned into genuine leather. That is what makes this type of leather unique.
These different layers and pieces of leather go through a correcting process or treatment. Usually because of imperfections on the outer layer of the skin. Hence why genuine leather is sometimes referred to as corrected leather.
This will give the leather a more uniform appearance. It usually goes through the process of sanding or buffing to remove any impurities. The leather is then dyed or spray painted to finish its look. This process however changes and alters many of the preferable qualities of leather. It is therefore the reason why it is inferior to full grain and top grain.
Quality of Genuine Leather
The good thing about this leather is that it is leather. Or to say it correctly, it is real leather. Real and genuine leather may sound the same but they have different meanings. Real means that it comes from animal skin. Genuine on the other hand refers to the type of leather.
Of the various types of leather, it is at the bottom of the list when it comes to quality. In comparison to full-grain leather and top grain leather, it is definitely an inferior product. It is not as strong nor as durable. Therefore its longevity is questionable. It is likewise not as strong against wear and tear. This leather however may give off a strong first impression because of its uniform leather appearance. However, if you are looking for high-quality and long-lasting leather, this is not the best choice.
The Appearance Genuine Leather
Leather is not only great for its strength and durability. Many consider owning leather because of its great appearance. The appearance will depend on the type of leather. For example, top-grain leather has a refined and uniform look, like the leather we usually see. Full-grain leather on the other hand develops a beautiful appearance called the patina. While suede and nubuck have a fuzzy appearance, that is velvety to touch. What does genuine leather look like?
Perception vs Reality
Genuine leather will typically look like top grain leather. It will have a very uniform and smooth appearance. However, genuine leather may come in a variety of appearances depending on how it is manufactured. You can therefore say that this type of leather has no consistent appearance. It is therefore important to know how to identify what is genuine leather and what is not. Because while it looks like top grain leather, in reality, it is not. It is inferior in quality to what top grain leather looks like.
However, if you have no problems with quality then this type of leather is a great choice.
What Products is Genuine Leather Used For?
Genuine leather has become a catch-all term for non-high grade leather. Amazingly there is a diversity of uses for this fascinating leather. Likewise, there is a wide selection of products that comes from this type of leather. From purses to shoes, leather bag, briefcases and, even belts, all of these may come from genuine leather. What all of these products have in common is the quality. Understandably, you won't find them in high-end leather retail stores. Rather you will commonly find them in department stores, malls, or stores that sell cheap shoes. However, the different uses of this type of leather are not just to shoes, bags, etc.
What are the Advantages of Genuine Leather?
To be fair, just because genuine leather is inferior does not mean it has no advantages of its own. In comparison to full-grain leather, top grain leather, suede, etc., there are quite a few areas that genuine leather shines. The best example would be on the price. Genuine leather is cheaper, it is affordable. When comparing it with other types of leather, especially with full-grain leather, a huge difference in price is clear.
Another advantage is how the leather looks and feels. For those who do not want to invest in high-quality, high-end leather but still have the same amazing leather aesthetic. It is also easy to care for and maintain. Although it does not last long, proper care will extend its life.
What are the Disadvantages of Genuine Leather?
Obviously, this type of leather belongs on the lower side of the list. In strength, durability, and overall quality, it is inferior. Likewise, time, different elements, and frequent use will wear and tear the leather down. You may notice that cracks and stretch marks will eventually appear.
The biggest disadvantage however does not come with the leather itself. Uninformed or uneducated consumers may easily be tricked into buying low-quality leather at a high price. This is not alarming since genuine leather and top grain leather look alike. It is, therefore, best to read on how to identify leather before dishonest sellers overcharge you for it.
Understanding Grades of Leather
Different types of leather over different characteristics. Whether on strength, durability, toughness, appearance, texture, etc. They are often graded according to their quality. Understanding the different grades of leather is important especially when you consider buying one for yourself.
How is leather graded?
Grading typically starts with the rawhide or animal skin. The grading will depend on the quality of the animal skin and how it has been split. This is important especially for tanneries who process the skin into leather. Knowing exactly the quality of leather that they are receiving and working with is important for consistency in quality.
There are usually inspectors who grade the rawhides. They particularly look for imperfections on the skin. Imperfections such as holes, deep cuts, scars, large abrasions, and discoloration. They will also look at any machine damage from skinning the process or any remaining hair on the skin. Grain inconsistencies are also a factor in grading.
Surface treatment and how the tanning process goes is also a factor in grading. For example, whether or not the skin has gone through sanding or buffing. Or whether the skin goes through vegetable tanning or chromium tanning or aniline leather. Conclusively, the leather is graded after the final product is presented and this creates the various leather grades
Types of Leather
Different types of leather give us different qualities of leather. Here are a few of the different types of leather.
Most consider full-grain at the highest quality leather. This type of leather contains the outer layer of the hide or as many refer to as the "grain". The grain contains most of the strong fibers of the animal skin. This is therefore the reason why full-grain is strong and durable because of the fibers. It does however make the leather tough. Moreover, full-grain is full of imperfection because of the grain. These imperfections however are deliberate since full-grain does not go through the sanding or buffing process. It does develop a patina which gives off that vintage leather look.
Top-grain is similar to the full-grain except for the top layer of the skin that goes through sanding or buffing to remove any imperfections. Removing the grain will also affect the overall quality of the leather. It is less durable and weaker than full-grain but is still high-quality leather. Moreover, top-grain has a more refined look in comparison to full grain. It is therefore more visually appealing since has a uniform appearance. It is also softer than full-grain because the grain is out of the picture.
Unlike full-grain, genuine leather can come from any layer of the animal's skin. However, they usually use the layers below the grain since the grain will go through the treatment process. This process usually involves sanding or buffing out the skin to remove any imperfection, it is then dyed or spray painted to give it its final appearance. This process is usually referred to as correcting the leather.
Bonded leather a mix of different kinds of leather that are attached to each other. The materials are often from shredded leather scraps and leather fibers. They are held together by bonding materials that unify them into a singular fabric. Bonded leather is sometimes a mix of real leather and fake leather. Many call it reconstituted leather because it comes from scraps. Sometimes referred to as blended or split grain leather as well.
Corrected Grain Leather
This type of leather is very similar if not the same to genuine leather. In that, the animal skin goes through the same correcting process of sanding or buffing. The sanded layer is then given an artificial grain to make it appear genuine.
Moreover, it got its name because of the process which is to correct any imperfections on the bare skin. Imperfections such as scars, bug bites, and blemishes. Removing that layer means to correct the leather thus its name. It is then stamped with a fake grain.
Bonded leather a mix of different kinds of leather that are attached to each other. The materials are often from shredded leather scraps and leather fibers. They are held together by bonding materials that unify them into a singular fabric. Bonded leather is sometimes a mix of real leather and fake leather. Many call it reconstituted leather because it comes from scraps. Sometimes referred to as blended leather as well.
PU leather or Polyurethane leather is fake leather. It does not come from animal skin but an imitation of it. It has often had a leather look but sometimes has a synthetic feel to it. PU leather is also not as strong nor as durable as real leather. However, it does have the advantage of not involving any animals in the process. It is often marketed as Vegan Leather
Price vs. Quality - Full Grain Leather or Genuine Leather?
In buying leather there is always this common dilemma. Risk a lower quality leather for a cheaper and more affordable price or buy a higher quality leather for a much steeper price. There is always the temptation to buy something cheaper and affordable, especially when leather looks high-end. However, taking a risk on quality for the price might not always be the best decision. Investing in very expensive leather is not always wise either. While great quality, such as strength and durability can be great selling points, prices often discourage buyers.
Ultimately, you will ask yourself one question: "is it worth it?"
Make an Informed Decision
Many consider purchasing leather as an investment, and there will always be risks. That is why it is important to make an informed decision before buying one. To make the most out of your purchase it is important to know what you are looking for. There are many things to consider whenever you buy leather. First should be the price. Of course, you can spend daydreaming of the highest quality but you cannot even afford it. Look for the types of leather that are within your range.
Next, is to look for the type that you want. Always consider the risk of quality and price. It is also important to know how to identify the different types of leather. Mostly to avoid any scams or overcharging. There are many ways to identify leather, the most common way is to use your sense. Have a look at the leather, feel it, and even take a whiff at it. You may also check the label whether it is made with genuine leather or polyurethane.
How to Tell if Your Product is Genuine Leather
Telling if your product is genuine leather is important for two reasons. First, you have a way of identifying lower quality leather from high-quality leather among natural leather products. For example, you are looking for top grain, but genuine leather will also have the same appearance. The second is when you want to avoid any fake leather products. While genuine leather is inferior to full grain and top grain, it not as bad when compared to faux leather. Here are some tips to tell if your product is genuine leather or not.
Be wary of any product that doesn't specifically claim to be real leather.
For genuine leather, there is usually a label that specifies it is "made from" or "made with" genuine leather. They usually come from real leather and therefore not fake leather.
Using your senses
Trying to avoid fake leather can be a tough challenge. However, if you take a smell at the fake leather you will notice a smell. Most of the time it is fake leather if it has a plastic-y or chemical-y smell to it. Real leather usually has a musty smell.
The edges do not lie
Using your sense of touch and sight, you can also identify real leather from fake. While it is not conclusive, most of the time real leather has rough edges. Fake leather usually has even, perfect edges.
I do not know if you are allowed to do this at stores but dropping a small amount of water also helps. Real leather naturally absorbs moisture while moisture usually rolls off on fake leather. We are not telling you to do this because moisture can ruin the leather. This is merely a tip or a trick.
Bending the Leather
Bending the leather can test the leather's strength and durability. However, it also tells whether the leather is real or fake. A slight bend will slightly change the color in real leather. Fake leather will have no change.
The Fire Test
We are pretty sure you are not allowed to do this in stores however if you are at home you can try. The fire test will likely ruin a good part of your leather so be sure to test it on the underside or a hard-to-see area. Simply hold a flame up to the leather for 3-5 seconds. If there is only a slight char then you have real leather. You will also notice a smell similar to burnt hair. If the leather catches on fire (whoops) then you have fake leather. Obviously, it will smell like burning plastic because it is made from polyurethane.
Real leather is rarely cheap. It is expensive for a reason. Even lower quality leather, like genuine leather, is more valuable than fake leather. This is not conclusive! Watch out for scams. This is why it is important to use the other tips we have mentioned.
How To Care For Genuine Leather
Knowing how to take care of leather is very important. Whether you have high-quality full grain or top grain leather or low-quality genuine leather you need to take care of it. Proper care and maintenance will not only keep the leather clean but extend its life. This is true even for low-quality leather. And because it is susceptible to wear and tear, proper care and maintenance are very important.
Luckily genuine leather is very easy to clean and maintain. Giving the leather a fair chance to extend its life. Cleaning it simply requires a damp cloth to wipe down any dust, dirt, and grime. Because it is so easy to clean and maintain you can also do it regularly, especially when you are in a dusty area. No matter how easy it is to clean always wipe it down gently to avoid damaging the leather. It is also important to remember to use a damp cloth. Do not use a wet cloth and do not submerge it in water. Make sure to wipe it dry afterward.
Another way to take care of genuine leather is to polish it. Polishing it moisturizes the leather to keep it from drying and cracking. You can also apply leather conditioners or creams to your genuine leather. Conditioners nourish the leather and also prevent it from cracking or drying out. Unlike leather polish, leather conditioners will not give the leather a shine. However, it will give your leather more protection.
Questions to Answer
What is the difference between genuine leather and bonded leather?
Bonded leather comes from gathering different leather scraps that are shredded and bonded together like paper. Genuine leather on the other hand suggests that there is real leather used in making the product. It is often used as a label to describe a general type of leather. The two therefore will differ depending on how you use the term and how you mean to use them. Most of the time, genuine leather is a meaningless or ambiguous phrase, something that is used for marketing.
Is Genuine Leather the cheapest quality that is available?
It depends on how you use the term genuine leather. Genuine leather can mean real leather. If we are talking about real leather then full grain and top grain and other types are included. However, for marketing, genuine leather usually refers to inexpensive leather that is made with real animal skin.
Is “Genuine Leather” the best quality of leather?
No, it is not. Many consider full-grain leather as the best quality leather because of its strength, durability, and beautiful patina. It also has the longest life of all leather.
Why do some people say Genuine Leather is the poorest quality leather?
It is the poorest quality of leather when you compare it to other real leathers. This is mainly because it goes through the correcting process. This process will make the final product look more appealing however it negatively affects the overall quality of the leather.
Is genuine leather good quality?
Genuine leather is good in comparison to other inexpensive leather. It is great, especially when compared to fake leather.
How did “genuine leather” get its name?
The term “genuine leather” can mean a lot of things. It can be broad, like when trying to identify leather that comes from real animal skin. Synonymous to real leather. It can also be used in a specific way, such as describing the type of leather that has gone through a correction process.
How to tell if leather is genuine?
You can tell if the leather is genuine in more ways than one. You can either check the price or the label to see if it is genuine or not. Using your senses also helps. Get intimate with the leather. Take a closer look, feel it, and smell it. You may also use different tests to find out if it is fake leather or genuine leather. Test such as dropping a small amount of water or exposing the leather to fire.
Does genuine leather last long?
It will mostly depend on how you use it. Proper care and maintenance also play a great deal. Take care of it and it will last longer than expected.