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Full Grain Leather vs. Genuine Leather

Leather is a durable and stylish option for items such as belts, desk pads, satchels and shoes, but not all leather is the same. Different types of leather can vary significantly in quality, so understanding the difference between full grain leather and genuine leather is the key to making a good purchase.

What Is Full Grain Leather?

The grain of the leather refers to its composition. As leather is processed, it may undergo sanding, buffing, and other treatments that can affect its appearance and durability. Full grain is the strongest and highest-quality type of leather. It has a natural protective layer that greatly increases its lifespan. It’s also resistant to weather and other common causes of damage.

Full grain leather undergoes very little processing, so it maintains its natural markings. It still contains the outermost portion of leather known as the grain, which has unique imperfections that make every full grain leather item different. These imperfections do not affect the strength or the quality of the leather, though. Instead, they make the item more visually interesting.

What Is Genuine Leather?

Genuine leather is a catch-all term for any material that can be considered leather. This is confusing for many consumers because it sounds like a high-quality label, but it doesn't offer much information about the material. Genuine leather can come from any layer of the hide, so unlike full grain leather, it doesn't usually include the top grain. Genuine leather also sometimes includes miscellaneous leftover scraps or pieces of the hide that is then ground up (like ground beef) with adhesives to make a "new hide".

The material can go through a good deal of processing, too. It might get sanded down or corrected so that it doesn't have any markings. These treatments affect the strength of the leather, so genuine leather typically has a shorter lifespan than full grain leather.

It's important to note that genuine leather is a broad class of leather, so two items may differ significantly in quality. Full grain leather and other high-quality types of leather are technically also genuine leather, but they aren't usually marketed as genuine because the term has a negative implication in the industry.

Is Full Grain Leather Better?

Full grain is the best quality leather. Most genuine items you'll find are far lesser in quality than full grain because they go through extensive processing and because they're sourced from different parts of the hide. Genuine leather may be a better budget-friendly option, but it doesn't have the appearance or durability of full grain leather.

Best Type of Leather for Shoes

All leather items should be strong, but durability is an especially important factor for shoes. Leather shoes need to be built to withstand constant motion and pressure as well as harsh weather conditions. Because full grain is the strongest type of leather, it's a great option for footwear. Top grain leather is an equally good choice. The durability is as good as full grain, the difference is that the surface has a textured look, whereas full grain leather doesn’t.

How to Tell if Leather Is Good Quality

The simplest way to evaluate the quality of leather is to check its tag. Full grain and top grain leather are of better quality than genuine leather, so reading the label can give you some good insight into what you can expect from the item.

You can also feel the leather to learn about its quality. Good leather has a fine texture, but lower-quality leather might feel like plastic. Some people like to evaluate leather by smelling it because higher-quality leather tends to have a stronger and more authentic smell. If you're not familiar with leather products, though, this method may not be helpful.

Leather is an excellent material for shoes, belts, bags, and other items that you want to last for years. When you invest in a quality item, though, you should always do your research beforehand. Knowing the difference between the various types of leather will help you make an informed purchase, and it will help to ensure that you're happy with what you receive.

Why Choose John Candor?

Whether you’re looking for durable men’s shoes or trying to find the perfect leather accessory, you can be sure that all John Candor leather goods are the highest quality. We know the importance of choosing full grain over genuine leather every time and that’s why our products are always full or top grain leather. Simple as that.

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