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Full-grain leather, genuine grain leather, top grain leather - What do these 3 terms mean?

Full-grain leather, genuine grain leather, top grain leather - What do these 3 terms mean? - Vinacreations

Full-grain leather, genuine grain leather, top grain leather - What do these 3 terms mean?


Most leather newbies would be confused with the term “Full-grain, genuine grain, or top grain of leather” Today, Vinacreations would guide you step by step to understand the pros and cons of each type of leather. From there, you can pick the most suitable leather for your preference. 

I. What does “grain” means?

In a nutshell, grain is just the skin layers of animals, such as goats, cows, and sheep, or herbivore in general. Each animal has a different number of skin layers. 


This is the outermost layer of the skin. It is composed of tightly bound and dense fibers. Grain is the layer exposed to all environmental influences. They are sturdy and durable.

II. Three types of grain on animal skin 

1. Full grain leather

_ About full-grain leather  

Full-grain leather consists of the grain layer (epidermis) and part of a second layer. Because of its durability, it is often used specialized as weapon holsters, utility belts, etc.


Treating full-grain leather is minimized to retain its natural signature. Sanding is bypassed, giving this leather ultimate strength and resistance to frequent and long-term use. It can be scratched when the animal rubs against the fence; it can be insect stings, wounds, scars, etc. Many people don't like this, but you have an expensive yet strong, durable item.

Except from herbivore, most animal only have one full-grain layer of leather. Alligator is a typical example. 


Manufacturers use full-grain leather for bag making because those accessories require tougher leather for a uniform look. 

_ The pros

  • Full-grain has a tough texture, that’s why a full-grain bag can last for decades.

_The cons

  • Full-grain leather is hard to work with, that’s why the labor cost is higher than the other two types of grain. 
  • Some full-grain leather can have scratches and scars from the cows, goat,... 

2. Top grain leather 

_ About top-grain leather  

Top grain leather removes most of the tough grain layer of the leather to achieve the most aesthetic. This results in a more beautiful surface, softer, supple, and flexible skin. Due to being treated with a surface layer, this type of leather is resistant to dirt and does not absorb well. Products from this type of leather are often patterned and colored to achieve uniformity.


Top grain leather is used in the handcrafted foldable leather wallet, leather belt or watch strap, and watchband, which requires a softer and smoother skin texture. 


_ The pros

  • Retain a smooth texture and luxury look
  • Labor cost is lower than full-grain leather because it is softer to work with

_The cons

  • Not as durable and strong as full-grain

3. Genuine grain leather 

_ About genuine leather  

Genuine grain leather is mostly in the 3rd layer of leather and has the lowest quality of products made from real herbivore leather. This leather does not possess a strong texture, so manufacturers often use glues and surfaces to look like top or full-grain leather. When the surface layer is not used, natural grain leather is called suede.


This is the worst type of leather and is often available on the market differently from cheap leather products. They don't last as long as high-end leather products. If you are limited by budget and quality is not a priority, this leather is the better choice.

Disclaimer: The term "genuine leather" refer as low-quality leather only for herbivore leather, in other circumstances, it is referred as "real skin". 

_ The pros

  • Extremely cheap and affordable price

_The cons

  • Low-quality leather can wrinkle and crack after a short term of use
  • The outer look isn’t as attractive as top grain leather

III. Conclusion 


_Full grain is the best type of leather for durability. Each full-grain leather bag can last for years or even decades. However, the price is high, so it might not suit everyone. 

_ Top grain is the most reasonable price leather compared to its quality. They have a softer texture than full-grain but are still a strong type of leather. 

_ Genuine leather is an option when you need something from a real cow, goat, sheep, but still affordable. It has the lowest quality because it comes from the underneath layers of cowhide. The texture is way too soft; you can only use it for a short term, so consider an upgrade to top-grain If you can. 

At Vinacreations, we use alligator leather and top-grain cowhide to handcraft our leather accessories. You can still have the unique grain direction from the alligator belly, Hornback, or tail but still feel comfortable with the smooth and soft top-grain cowhide line inside our leather wallet, leather watch strap, or leather shoes. Shop now! At for more products.