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How Long Does Leather Last?

How Long Does Leather Last?

What is leather?

Leather is a kind of natural fabric made commonly from animal skins like cows, goats or buffalos. It is a very popular material for being light yet strong, flexible yet durable. Because of its great characteristics, this material can be transformed into a variety of things. Things like bags, shoes, book covers, furniture and many more.

Full-grain leather bag
The Dagny Weekender

Get to know the material

Before we answer the question on how long does leather actually lasts we have to know its different qualities. For those who are new to this material choosing the best quality may be quite difficult for the untrained eye. The difference in quality may not be so obvious. This certain fabric may just look all the same but that is where they are wrong. It has varying qualities and the higher the quality the longer it will last. However, just so we are clear faux leather is not leather!

Bonded Leather

Starting with the lowest grade, we have bonded leather. It has the lowest quality among the four since it is literally stitching leather scraps together. They are usually weak and often degrades quickly. Its quality is quite similar to vinyl.

Genuine Leather

Moving a grade higher, we have genuine leather. It is the bottom part of the raw fabric after splitting it into two; the top part being the top-grain. It has a lower quality compared to the top-grain because it is not as durable and as strong.

Ascertaining genuine from other grades is quite a task. This is because this grade of the fabric is often doctored to look like a top-grain. There are however several things to look for in order to identify whether it's top grade or just genuine. First, is that there is usually a branding in the material. It is often firmer or stiffer as compared to the others. It is not as strong and durable from the others as well.

In this grade of material one example would be suede.

Top-grain Leather

Although it is called the “top”, it is not the highest quality of leather. It is the top part of the raw fabric after splitting the leather into two, the bottom part being the genuine leather. Unlike its bottom counterpart, top-grain is more durable and is softer. Top-grain has less grain and more corium as compared to full-grain. This is because it goes through the process of sanding and buffing.

Full-grain Leather

Saving the best for last is the full-grain. It is the strongest and most durable part of the animal’s hide. It is of high quality because it is at the top-most layer of the animal hide, just below the hair. Unlike top-grain, it is undoctored. This means that full-grain l has not been sanded down nor buffed nor snuffed. This gives the full-grain a more natural look and high quality.

Full-grain leather duffel bag
The Bjarke Weekender

So How Long Does Leather Actually Last?

So now that we have known the four grades of this beautiful material, how long does it actually last? Typically a lifetime. However, in order to give a more specific answer we go back to the different grades and ascertain how long do they last.

How long will it last: bonded

Having the lowest grade, it will logically tell you that it will not last that long. Bonded leather is weak compared to the others. It is not as durable and may be subject to wear and tear as it degrades quickly the more it is used. It may not last that long especially when it is used every day.

How long will it last: genuine

While genuine leather is not as bad as the bonded its durability and life span is not that promising. Because it has a lower quality than top-grain and full-grain it will tend to rip apart when placed under a certain amount of stress. Genuine leather may tend to last long if taken good care of. It may not however last as long as the other top tier materials.

How long will it last: top-grain

Number 2 when it comes to quality, top-grain is quite strong and durable. The reason however for not placing at the top of the tier is because of one flaw. Top-grain is only as durable as its finishes remain unbroken. Therefore, when opting to purchase items made from top-grain make sure to check its seams and finish. This grade of leather will often last a lifetime with proper care and use.

How long will it last: full-grain

Full-grain is regarded as having the highest quality of leather. It is absurdly durable and strong which is why it is most preferred out of all the other grades of leather. It is a material known for its long term endurance and will therefore last even more than a lifetime.

There is something unique about full-grain leather that no other leather grade possesses as well. Not only does it last for more than a lifetime but it ages beautifully as well. It develops a patina which changes color over time. A characteristic highly desirable for any leather enthusiast. The reason for its overtime beauty is because it is made naturally rather than being sanded down to obtain a natural look. They say that this, therefore, makes every full-grain product unique as no two hides are exactly the same.

Full-grain leather, therefore, is not only beautiful but a great investment as well. Just make sure to treat it properly and it will definitely last for more than a lifetime.

Vintage full-grain leather messenger bag
The Welch Briefcase