Know Your Leather, Ladies (Leather 101)

The battle of the leather is one that stretched for centuries, and for more centuries to come, hopefully.

As a child and adolescent, just like every other child and adolescent out there, I was terrified and petrified with leather. It instantly translated as “dead animal skin, dead animal skin, dead animal skin” in my head. So, naturally, I would flinch and frown and threw a look of disgust every time I would come across items made of leather.

That was a proof I was normal (girls under 18 who beg their daddies to buy them Balenciaga are bullshits lemme tell you).

So, just like normal women I, too, managed to conquer my fear of leather and turned it into one of affection. I began obsessively looking into different types of leather, trying to find the difference between one another, which is the best for the price, etc. I was nuts. And I wanted to share with you what I’ve gotten from my days and days of obsessive-compulsive search.

vintage YSL cross body

Mama’s vintage YSL crossbody bag


Without further ado, let me tell you about different types of leather and more relevant pieces of information you definitely should know (these info I collect from the internet, the most reliable source of ’em all)


The Animals They’re Born From

Taken from small cows, you know, calf. That being said, the leather is more sensitive and more supple, yet more elastic.

Solid, good flexibility, tough as f***, most popular (since beef gets eaten a lot, so the leftover skin from the cow is usually used to make leather goods, to make sure every cow’s body parts are mutilated to perfection). But also tends to crack without the right treatment. (So is every other leather actually.)

Also tough as hell. Probably the second most popular after cowhide.

A lot like sheepskin, but considering a lamb is a young sheep, the skin is more delicate and supple but less durable.

Often used for exquisite leather products, and usually fetch higher price due to its crafting intricacy. Snakeskin when finished improperly tends to crack, flake, and becomes brittle, which is utterly disgusting.

The mother of all exquisite animals. The price for alligator stuff stings a lot, though. See example here. To put things to perspective, a Kelly bag usually costs around $5000- $8000 depending on the built, the type of leather, the size,etc. BUT make it alligator and WHOOP! the price goes.

*of course, the choice is a wide array of variety that doesn’t limit to the ones above. I’ve come across a wallet made of stingray leather. Fancy?


I dare you to skin this monstrous thing


Types of Leather
(taken from Saddleback Leather’s official website, thanks Dave!)

Basically, there are 4 types of leather:

Full Grain is the best leather money can buy. It comes from the top layer of the hide which has ALL of the grain, therefore, FULL grain. The natural surface of full grain leather burnishes and beautifies with use.

Top Grain is pretty good since it still has some of the grain ( read explanation of “Grain”) on the top after most of the grain was sanded off to get rid of the blemishes.

Genuine Leather comes from the bottom half of the hide and doesn’t have any grain. Suede is an example of genuine leather

Bonded Leather is the PT Cruiser of the leather world. It’s the dust and shavings of the leather glued and pressed together.

Note from me: a leather good made from full grain leather does NOT guarantee the piece will be of high quality, again, the treatments are also a major deciding factor (how they tan the leather, the solvent and coloring used, the stitching, etc). BUT given the same treatment, a leather good made from full grain leather is CERTAINLY better than that made of bonded leather, let alone polyurethane.

Red Frye Wallet

A Frye wallet. Notice the scratches and discolorations here and there? That’s a full grain leather to you


The Best Leatheriers

From all those lone time I spent browsing the internet like some angry leather maniac (a poor, cost efficient leather maniac that is), I found out three companies that stand out for their craftsmanship plus attention to detail (including where the leather is coming from, etc)

Fryeicon (I own a pair of boots and a wallet from Frye, they look ridiculously gooooood)
Saddleback Leather (you should read the backstory of the owner too, it’s fun!)
Lotuff (was thinking of buying the Bi-fold wallet for daddy, daddy politely refused)


IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: I’m a semi vegetarian who can’t stand the smell of sirloin steak, yet I’ve learned to love the feel of a rich leather. Over the years of my lifespan, I’ve realized that you should know when your conscience and principal are being a hindrance and when they are being helpful. By eluding leather altogether, you are making your own life and craftsmaster everywhere miserable. By buying fake handbags and synthetic leather stuff, you’re also supporting companies that exercise child labor and overwork their employees (you do realize those stuff are MADE IN CHINA, right?). It’s a lose-lose situation, really. So stop being self-conscious and treat yourself some leather goodies. Besides, don’t you want your wallet/bag/shoes/whatever to last forever too?




-The Dilly Chic-

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4 Thoughts.

  1. I learned a lot from this article. And you bring up some awesome arguments for people that are against leather in all forms. Will be pinning this for future reference.


  2. love it. thank youu.
    am too lazy to browse it myself
    thanks for the suggestion. prev, i only choose some brands w/o considering these

  3. Thank you for the informative article on leather. I know about only two types of leathers, genuine leather and bonded leather. I have even heard about some furniture shops trying to deceive customers by selling cheap bonded leather sofas as genuine leather sofas for cheap rates. It is important to take care when purchasing them and buy leather sofas and other furniture only from reputed shops.

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