Across the globe leather has been the coveted material for man’s clothing and accessories for centuries. It’s value is in the quality of the hide that’s used to manufacture the piece whether it’s tanned in a factory or by hand. That’s why even though many times two leather goods may look very similar they may really be as different as night and day.
Full grain leather is the best quality since it contains more of the actual hide. It’s made from the top layer of the hide which actually has all of the grain. The surface of full grain leather gets more beautiful over time with use which is why it also costs the most. If you are interested in working with fine leathers and customizing your own outfits or other items, I suggest investing in a good sewing machine for leather so that you will be able to work with the thicker fabric.
The most expensive leather on the market currently is nappa leather. It is very soft and full grained, made from the skins of lambs or kids. Nappa leather wears well, plus it’s very supple and light weight. Typically it’s used to make luxury handbags, shoes, gloves, accessories as well as luggage and of course clothing items, particularly outerwear.
Often a coating or wax is applied to nappa leather to give it a more lustrous appearance. This coating also adds additional durability and strength to the leather but also requires additional cleaning and special care. With brushed nappa, it tends to have more of a matte finish as opposed to a sheen since it does not have a coating.
Top grain leather is the second best which is made from the split level of the top layer of the hide which makes it more pliable and easier to work with than full grain.
With genuine leather, the third grade, imperfections are sanded off or spray painted to give the appearance of higher grade leather. It’s usually made from parts of the hide that are split off of the higher grade hides.
Bonded leather, the lowest grade, is created from scraps left over that are then ground together with latex or glue and applied on top of a fiber sheet. This form of leather is often used for commercial applications because of it lower cost and durability.
There are many grades of leather and the quality varies among them, so you’ll want to to read the labels on any leather products you purchase to make sure you know what you’re getting.