Different Types Of Leather And How To Recognize Them

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Leather is an ancient material with a long and deep history, and it has been used in various ways over the years.

Undoubtedly, it's considered one of the most durable materials out there, but it can be hard to tell what type of leather you have unless you know what to look for when purchasing leather items.

There are multiple types of leathers, each with its own pros and cons depending on what you need or want from your item.

Conveniently, we have described them all below. So, without further delay, let’s have a look at what each type of leather offers.

What are the different kinds of leather?

Leather is a durable, flexible and pliable material that comes from the skins of animals, usually cattle or sheep because they are cheap.

There are many kinds of leather, with each having its own unique properties and uses.

Furthermore, leather is divided into many categories which includes, Tanning process, Type of hide, Location of the cut, The thickness of the leather. Let’s have a look at how each type differs.

Classification Of Leather By Its Type


Full-Grain leather

Full-grain leather is the most durable type of leather. It's also the strongest form, making it ideal for any product that needs to stand up to heavy use or abuse.

It is made from whole hides which means they contain all the hair and other materials that come off during processing. 

This makes full grain leather stronger than any other type of processed or synthetic hide, but it's also more expensive because there are fewer opportunities for improvement through tanning or dyeing techniques like embossing or burnishing (which can give a smoother surface to your full grain leather product).

Top grain Leather Or Corrected leather

Top grain Leather

Top grain leather is the outer layer of the hide. It's also known as corrected leather and was typically used to make shoes, handbags and jackets.

In general, top-grain leather is not only more durable than other types but also more expensive due to its high quality.

Further, it can be identified by its smooth finish and tight grain structure that causes it to have a slightly oily feel when dry or wetted with water/soap (depending on how much you rub it).

Genuine leather 

Genuine leather

Genuine leather is the best quality of leather. It’s made from the top layer of a cow's hide, and has been processed to remove all other materials, including hair and horn.

This makes it softer than any other type of leather on earth—softer that you can feel your skin through it!

This cowhide leather is also known as 100% pure vegetable-tanned leather.

That means there are no dyes added along with this product; everything was done at one time during its creation (which means no chemical treatments). 

The result?

A smooth finish with beautiful sheen that won't wear off over time in harsh environments like rain or sunlight exposure (the latter being why genuine cowhide jackets aren't always waterproof).

Split leather

Split leather

Split leather is made from the split of the hide. It’s cheap and tough, and it’s ideal for items that don't come into direct contact with your skin. The most common example of this type of leather is car seats and furniture.

It's also known as split-grain or burr grain because it's made up of many small pieces that look like splinters when they're all together in one piece (hence why it's called "split leather").

Bonded leather

Bonded leather

You've probably seen bonded leather in the wild: it's made from scraps of leather that have been glued together. Bonded leather is not a natural product, so you'll know it if you see it.

It's also less expensive than other types of leather and doesn't have quite as much durability or longevity as other types.

Classification Of Leather By Its Purpose

Leather is also classified by its purpose.

Chamois leather

Chamois leather

It consists primarily of cowhide that has been tanned with bark from trees called "chamois," which means "deer" in Spanish!

This type of tanning produces an extremely durable material that resists stains well due to its high oil content."

The downside? 

It doesn't hold up well over time if you wear it in water or rain often (although this could change if you get a good protector).

However, if you're looking for something simple yet comfortable enough to lounge around on then chamoise might be right up your alley!

Upholstery Leather

Upholstery Leather

Upholstery leather is the outermost layer of the hide. It’s often used for furniture because it is durable, long-lasting and more expensive than other types of leather.

The most common way to identify urethane upholstery is by looking at its texture.

If you can see any fibers or other parts through your fingertips when you rub them over it, then you have found an upholstery leather product!

Strap leather

Strap leather

Strap leather is made from the outermost part of a hide, which means it's often considered to be the most luxurious and expensive type of leather.

It can be used for belts and straps, but also as handles on furniture or other accessories.

Saddle leather

Saddle leather

Saddle leather is made from the back of a cow, and it's often used to make saddles and bridles. Saddle leather is thick and sturdy, but not very flexible. 

Apparently, t’s also very durable because it has been treated with oils to make it waterproof.

This makes saddle leather ideal for riding horses or working in the outdoors because you can use your saddle on wet days without worrying about it getting ruined by water damage!

Saddle leather comes in different colors depending on where it was processed; however, most varieties are brown or black due to the time they spend under sunlight during processing (which means more pigments have been added).

Lining leather

Lining leather is a type of leather that is used to make the inner layer of a leather product.

This can be done by stretching out the hide and then sewing it back together, or it can be made from another type of material like nylon or polyester.

For example: if you were making a purse, lining would be added on either side so that your purse will have structure and support when filled with items inside (like coins).

Classification Of Leather By The Process Of Tanning

There are three main ways of tanning animal skins: vegetable, chrome and brain.

Synthetic tanned leather

Synthetic tanned leather

Synthetic tanned leather is a type of animal hide that has been treated with chemicals to make it more durable and water-resistant.

The process involves injecting the material with chemicals like rubber, plastic or vinyl to make it pliable, harden it and give synthetic leather a glossy finish.

Synthetic tanned leather can be made from any type of animal skin (not just cowhide), but common choices include pigskin, and seal skin—all of which are softer than other types of hides but still have some toughness to them.

Chrome tanned leather

Chrome tanned leather is a type of leather that is tanned with chromium salts, typically with the use of a tanning agent.

The process of chrome tanning is generally used to make the leather products more water-resistant and has better dyeability than vegetable-tanned leathers.

Brain tanned leather

Brain tanned leather is used in the production of high-quality leather goods, such as shoes and handbags.

It's known for its softness and flexibility due to its use by cattle farmers who want their livestock to be comfortable while they're being slaughtered.

Also, brain tanning makes it easier for manufacturers to produce more types of products because they can use less expensive hides instead of having them be used only once before being discarded as waste material.

This means that you'll be able to find more affordable prices when shopping online or at brick-and-mortar stores like Nordstrom Rack!

Vegetable tanned leather

Vegetable tanned leather

Vegetable tanned leather is the most natural method of tanning. It's made from an animal's skin that has been soaked in water, scraped and allowed to dry.

The tanning process removes all traces of grease, making it stronger than other types of leathers.

More so, vegetable tanned leather is also more expensive than other types because it requires more time and labor to produce each piece of clothing or accessory you buy from your local department store.

However, it does have some advantages over its counterparts including its durability and flexibility which makes it great for outdoor wear such as shoes or belts!

Classification Of Leather Based On The Treatments On Its Surface

In order to classify leather, it is important to know what type of finish has been applied.

Aniline leather (Unfinished leather)

Aniline leather is a type of unfinished leather that's not treated with any chemicals.

The natural look and feel makes it popular among consumers who want to avoid the "chemical" treatment, but still have a product that looks like genuine leather.

The main difference between aniline and other types of unlined or unlabeled leathers is that it does not have any chemical treatment applied to it before being dyed or finished (like chrome-tanned).

This makes aniline more durable than other types because there are no added chemicals involved in its creation; however, it can also cause discoloration over time if exposed directly to sunlight or prolonged contact with water.

Nubuck leather

Nubuck leather

Nubuck is a type of leather that has a napped (fuzzy) surface. It’s made from the flesh side of the leather, which makes it softer and more pliable than full-grain leather.

Nubuck is great because it's very durable and doesn't crack as easily as full grain or vegetable tanned leathers do.

Nubuck can be dyed to match any color you want—there are no restrictions on how dark or light you can dye it!

Semi Aniline leather

You might have heard of Aniline leather, but what about Semi Aniline? It's a full grain leather that has been covered with a protective layer of pigmented or lacquered paint.

Semi Aniline is a good choice for people who want the look of aniline without the risk of damage to their investment pieces.

Typically, this means that the grain surface has been buffed to produce a high shine which protects it from wear and tear as well as from dirt stains and other contaminants that may interfere with its appearance over time

Pigmented leather

Pigmented leather is a type of leather which has been colored using pigments.

The pigments are embedded in the leather during the finishing process, and they don’t absorb into it.

This means that when you wear your shoes or leather jacket, they will still look new even after many years because they haven’t been stained by dirt or other materials on your feet and hands.

Bicast Leather

Bicast leather is a type of leather that is made from split leather that is treated with a mixture of chemical and natural substances.

It's used to make shoes, handbags, and other accessories. Bicast leather can be identified by its distinctive pattern, which appears when you look at it under magnification.

Nappa Leather

Nappa Leather

Nappa leather is a smooth and soft leather that's made from split hides. It's also known as full grain, which means it has all the natural properties of its original animal source. 

The term "nappa" comes from the Latin word for nap, referring to the fact that this type of leather was once used in making robes for monks who took naps during prayer sessions.

The biggest difference between nappa and other types of leather is that it doesn't have any grain lines running through it; instead, there are no wrinkles in the surface area where you can see them if you look closely enough at your handbag or shoe. 

All in all, this makes nappa a much more luxurious option than others when looking for something with longevity and durability over time—it won't get worn out or torn easily like some other types might do over time because there isn't anything hanging out on top!

Classification of leather, based on surface look

There are many different types of leather, each with their own unique characteristics.


Suede leather

Suede is a type of leather that has a napped finish on one side of the hide.

It's often used for shoes and belts because it's durable, soft, and lightweight—but it can also be used to make bags or wallets.

Suede leather is made from the underside of the hide; this gives suede its unique texture (it feels like suede).

Lastly, suede come in many different colors and patterns but tend to be darker than more common types like nubuck or finished full grain leather.

Antique Or Vintage Leather 

Vintage Leather

Antique grain leather is a process of dyeing leather to give it an antique look.

The dye is insoluble in water and the process involves a chemical treatment of the material with a dye that is insoluble in water.

This treatment can be done by hand or machine, depending on how better leather quality you want.

While antiquing may seem like just another way to dress up old stuff (like painting over rust), there are many different ways that antiqued leather can be used: bags, briefcases/purses/belts etc., as well as shoes and boots!

Glazed Leather

Glazed leather is a type of leather that has been coated with a layer of resin or polyurethane.

This coating makes the material more resistant to water damage, but it also makes the surface rough and bumpy.

Glazed leather will generally have some sort of design stamped into it, such as ornamental stitching or patterning on the front side.

The surface can also be stained differently depending on how much protection was added during production. 

For example, if you’re looking at an expensive pair of boots made from glazed leather then there may likely be some kind of branding visible on them as well (such as “Dansk”).

Moreover, glaze protects against scratches which helps keep your shoes looking nice longer than plain old suede would; plus if you get caught in mud then no worries since these types are waterproof!

Pearlized leather

Pearlized leather is a type of leather that has been given a surface treatment that makes it look like it has been covered in pearls.

It’s also referred to as ‘pearlized’ or ‘pebbled’ leather, and is often used for high-end upholstery because of its luxurious appearance.

Pearlized leather was first invented by the Romans during their reign over Britain, but today the process is still carried out by hand in small batches in Italy and France.

It's usually made from calf skin or buffalo hide which has been treated with ground limestone dust mixed with resin solution before being dried out again under heat lamps until they harden into flat sheets ready for tanning process (the same way you would tan your own shoes).

Patent finished leather

Patent finished leather

Patent leather is a shiny, glossy type of leather. It's made by applying a coating of shellac or lacquer to the surface of the leather.

This is done to protect it and make it more durable, but also gives it that trademark look.

Patent leather may also be known as "patent" or "patent finished."

Embossed leather 

Embossed leather

Embossed leather is the process of pressing two pieces of different types of leather together to make one piece.

This produces a raised pattern on both surfaces, which can be used to create unique patterns or designs.

In addition, embossed leathers are often dyed with different colors to give them more depth and character than other types of leathers.

Knowing What Type of Leather You Have

Knowing what type of leather you have is important. Leather is a natural product and its characteristics can vary greatly from one piece to another, depending on the animal it was made from and how it was treated.

The main difference between different types of leather lies in the way they're processed: some are tanned using vegetable dyes while others are dyed using chemical dyes to create darker colors or patterns. 

You'll also find differences in the amount of oils used during tanning, which results in different levels of durability (and therefore price).

Knowing What Type Of Leather You Have

How do you know what kind of leather to choose? 

Here are a few things to consider when choosing a pair of shoes:

Durability: Many types of leathers have different levels of durability and strength. To get the most for your money, look for one that's lightweight and can take a beating without falling apart.

Softness: A good pair of shoes won't be comfortable if you're walking around on rough-textured surfaces like gravel or concrete. You want soft leather so your feet don't hurt after wearing them all day long!

Washability: Not all leathers are waterproof! If you plan on going swimming in your new kicks, make sure they're washable so they don't lose their shape over time.

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Why Do the Prices of Leather Vary?

There are many factors that go into the price of leather. The type of leather, its quality and craftsmanship, are all major factors in determining the cost.

  • The type of leather determines how much it costs to produce.
  • The quality of stitching affects pricing as well as durability—the higher-quality stitching will hold up longer than cheaper materials or methods.
  • Lining material affects how well something protects against wear and tear over time.

How Can One Care for Items Made of Leather?

  • Cleaning a leather item with a damp cloth is the first step in caring for it. This can be done by rubbing the area with soap, warm water and some detergent.
  • Don’t expose your leather items to sunlight for long periods of time—the sun can weaken them over time and cause them to crack or even break apart if you do not take care of them properly.
  • If possible try keeping away from getting wet altogether because moisture could cause mold growth which ruins any kind of garment made out there - including yours!


Leather is one of the most durable and beautiful materials you can use for your home. It also comes in a wide variety of colors and styles, so you'll always find something to match your decor.

If you're looking for an investment piece that will last for years, full grain pigmented leather might be just what you need!

Ryan Mills
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