What is full grain leather?
Simply put, full grain leather is the real deal, the best you can get. Take a look at the picture above. This kind of richness, depth and character is only possible with full grain leather.
When people first hear the term full grain leather they sometimes think it means that the leather will look really grainy or pebbly. That is not the case. Full grain refers to the full, unadulterated hide in its natural form.
What is full grain leather?
Full grain leather is the least-processed and naturally made leather type. This kind of leather is considered the best and highest quality of all types of leather.
Full grain leather consists of two parts which are the “grain” and the ‘corium”. The grain of leather brings aesthetic looks and character to leather. Goods that are made from full grain leather are very durable and long-lasting and normally are the preferred ones to seek after.
What is distinctive about full grain leather? It is simply because of the natural process of making this leather. Leather makers won’t mix the hides with any other materials so as to remain the intrinsic quality and look of natural leather. The imperfections and natural scars on full grain leather’s surface will not be removed to obtain smooth look. Everything is kept for its instinct.
You can recognize full grain leather by looking at its unique markings. There are no two hides which are the same. There are small scars, bites or folds as you might see on animals’ skin.
Full grain leather goods are said to be looking better and nicer over time. This kind of leather is the best quality leather so far and most expensive in all types.
Here’s a deeper look at full grain leather vs. genuine leather. First, to better understand the difference, it helps to look at the composition of a hide. There are essentially 3 layers to a hide.
How Full Grain Leather is Made
Full-grain leather is made from the whole hide of the animal, whether it is cow leather, kangaroo, or any other animal. The hide of an animal is strongest and most durable just below the hair. Once the hair is removed during processing, the natural grain pattern is visible. The leather made with this part of the hide is called full-grain leather, and because the grain is tighter at this layer, it resists moisture very well. Full-grain leather incorporates the entire grain of the hide with all the imperfections and inherent toughness of the material. Other types of leather use only some layers of the hide.
The grain is the top outermost layer of the hide. It’s the part you see. This layer of the hide is also the strongest, its fibers are very dense and tightly “woven”. And that makes sense if you think about a cow in the wild. It needs the outer layer to be tough to contend with predators, fences, etc.
The junction is where the fibers start to loosen up a bit and the grain transitions to the split or suede part of the hide.
The Split (Suede)
The split as it is often referred to is essentially suede. Its softer, looser fibers make up the bulk of the hide. It is also the weakest part of the hide.
But it’s what happens from here that matters most.
Altering the Hide
Once the top layer of the hide has been altered, it is no longer full grain leather. This is also where the semantics start to get a little dicey. Once the top layer has been altered, you could end up with top grain, corrected grain, or genuine leather.
So, to recap, full grain leather is the best because it hasn’t been altered. It’s the full hide, not sanded or corrected or weakened in any way. Because of this, hide selection is important, as is the tanning process itself.