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What is Top-Grain Leather? A Leather Grade Guide

Leather is a reliable material that has earned an excellent reputation over the years for its durability and flexibility. Made from the hides of animals, and more commonly cowhides, leather has proven to be a versatile product that can last for decades. With that said, you may have noticed that some of your leather items last much longer than others, and there’s a reason for that – not all leather is made the same!

There are four basic grains of leather: full-grain leather, top-grain leather, genuine leather, and corrected grain leather. Genuine leather and corrected grain leather are lower quality materials, while top-grain leather and full-grain leather are considered to be of high quality. In today’s blog, we’ll be focusing on the high-end category of leather and unpacking what exactly top-grain leather is.

What is Top-Grain Leather?

Top-grain leather is the second-highest grade of leather. The top few millimetres of the hide are sanded down in this leather grain, which removes imperfections and makes for a more pliable material. Once the outermost layer of the hide has been sanded down, a finishing coat is added to the leather to make it less breathable, cooler, and give it a plastic-y feel. The leather is also imprinted with an imitation grain to give it a uniform look.

The workability of top-grain leather is reflected in its price and manufacturers prefer to use this leather to make handbags and wallets. Consumers also tend to be attracted to the pristine look of this leather.

leather materials

Full-Grain Leather VS Top-Grain Leather

Knowing the difference between full-grain leather and top-grain leather will better equip you to make an informed decision about the products you are buying. Here are the main differences between the two:

  1. Durability

Full-grain leather is the strongest and most durable grade of leather, and it is made up of the part of the hide just below an animal’s hair. This section of the hide is very tight and it resists moisture well. Over time, full-grain leather develops a patina, which is a thin layer that acts as extra protection and prevents wearing or corroding.

By contrast, the outermost layer of the hide on top-grain leather is sanded off, and a natural patina does not develop over time. Top-grain leather is a lot less durable than full-grain leather, so if you’re purchasing an item that will undergo a lot of wear and tear, it’s probably best to opt for the latter.

leather on sewing machine

  1. Appearance

Unlike top-grain leather, full-grain leather doesn’t undergo any sanding or buffing, and any natural marks or imperfections on it remain visible. If you prefer your leather to have some natural imperfections on it, then full-grain leather may be a better choice for you. If you like your leather flawless and free of blemishes, then top-grain leather is the preferable option.


  1. Cost

Not surprisingly, full-grain leather costs more than top-grain leather. Full-grain leather is more expensive for manufacturers to purchase, and it is more difficult for them to mould it into a product. Top-grain leather is much easier to work with, and this is reflected in its price.

Being able to distinguish between full-grain leather and top-grain leather is highly beneficial as a consumer, but you should also know what “genuine leather” actually means. Many consumers make the mistake of looking for the words genuine leather when, in actuality, the term is a red flag. Genuine leather is an all-encompassing term that applies to anything that can technically be considered leather. Be wary of this word when shopping for your leather items, or you may end up with something you didn’t bargain for!

There you have it – everything you need to know about top-grain leather. Now you’re all set to hit the shops and get what you paid for!

leather wallet

Why Love Your Leather

Love Your Leather is the largest leather cleaning and leather repair company in Southern Ontario. Having been in operation since 1987, our team of leather care technicians and tailors are well versed in how to service leather items in all kinds of conditions. We offer weekly pickup and delivery in Ontario and have a Canada-wide shipping service that makes it much easier for our customers to get their leather items serviced. Contact us today to keep your top-grain leather in tip-top shape!



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