Leather was among the first materials used to make clothing. And chances are that you have at least one leather piece in your wardrobe today.
But have you ever thought about what makes high-quality leather and how to recognize it?
It’s essential to know the basics to choose clothing and footwear that will look good, be comfortable, and last you years.
Let’s dive in.
First of all, let’s clear up everything about the leather types.
You might encounter multiple terms that determine the leather product’s type and quality, which can get overwhelming. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s the best quality leather you can find: smooth, durable, and breathable.
The best footwear, like dress shoes, is made from full-grain leather, and you will easily recognize it as it has that luxurious, high-quality look.
Full-grain leather is not buffed or sanded and will develop a lovely patina with time.
Because full-grain leather is expensive, many choose the next best thing – top-grain leather.
It is thinner and usually has a finish coat, making the end product less breathable.
Before adding the finish coat, top-grain leather gets sanded and buffed, which gives it more pliability.
However, it’s still durable, stain resistant, and looks pretty darn good!
Corrected-grain leather is, as the name implies, fixed to improve its appearance and functionality.
Dyes, artificial leather, and other chemicals are used in the process, and a big chunk of affordable products in stores are made from corrected-grain leather.
Yes, genuine leather is made from real leather, but it’s considered the lowest quality.
Generally, genuine leather shoes and clothes are made from leftover scraps and naturally are not as appealing or comfortable. They’re also less durable. However, the lower price point is what makes genuine leather accessible to most people.
It’s easy to recognize suede from its soft, fuzzy texture. Suede is made from full-grain leather leftovers, making it lower quality and less durable.
And while suede (e.g., suede jackets) tends to be more comfortable to wear, it’s less water and stain resistant. Suede is very stylish, though, and looks great with everyday pieces like v neck shirts.
Leather Quality Grades
There is no commonly accepted standard to rate leather quality, and you may see different ratings depending on the manufacturer.
Some products may also use the terms we’ve explained above to grade their leather.
Often you can use this as a guideline too:
- 1st grade – best quality
- 2nd grade – good quality
- 3rd grade – low quality
- 4th grade – poor quality
When shopping, always check the grade of the product and keep in mind that even if the item looks good, it might have been treated with various low-quality dyes and glues and lose its appearance very quickly.
So pay attention!
Leather Shopping Guide
Beside’s checking leather grade, there are a few things to remember when shopping for leather goods.
European leather is usually the highest quality (and most expensive). It’s also generally environmentally friendly and produced with labor-friendly practices.
Some people dislike the rich and intense leather smell, but it’s actually an indicator of quality.
If the product smells like plastic, it’s probably treated with harmful chemicals and is most likely low quality.
If the jacket, trousers, or other product has messy stitches, it’s a red flag. High-quality leather has meticulous stitching and straight lines.
Check the product edges to see if the leather is tanned correctly and the paint is not lifting.
Lastly, trust your own hands and instincts. If the item is stiff and feels like plastic, it probably is!