Accurate Definitions of Leather Grain

Leather grain refers to the composition and appearance of the hide. It is similar to wood grain, which refers to the texture and appearance of wood fibers.  Unfortunately with leather grain, there is a lot of misinformation. In addition to inaccurate definitions, there are false claims regarding durability. We are here to help you learn the proper definitions and gain a full understanding of leather grain.

Top grain = the uppermost layer of the hide. Period.

Top grain refers to the composition of the hide. Some people equate top grain leather with corrected grain leather. This is not correct. Top grain simply refers to the uppermost, top layer of the hide. It is the most desirable layer for leather. Why? Because the fibers of the uppermost layer of the hide are the most dense, providing the strongest durability. As you move down to lower layers of the hide, the fibers are less compact, thereby providing a less durable fiber structure. Some companies use the lower layers of the hide to make less durable products such as suede, bi cast leather, and bonded leather.

Top grain leather is used to make full grain, enhanced (corrected) grain, or nubuck products. While top grain refers to the composition of the hide, full grain, enhanced grain, and nubuck refer to the appearance of the hide. Nubuck is top grain leather that is buffed to create a soft nap. It differs from true suede, which consists of lower layers of the hide. Leather made from the uppermost layer of the hide is top grain leather, which is the most durable leather you can buy.

Full grain = top grain leather that has the natural grain intact.

Yes, you read that right. All full grain leather is top grain. However, not all top grain leather is full grain. How can that be? Full grain leather means that the natural surface of the hide is not given a grain print. In order for the natural surface to be unaltered, it has to come from the uppermost layer of the hide, which is top grain. Full grain leather tends to be more expensive because none of the natural markings or imperfections are covered up. Therefore, higher quality raw hides are required.

Enhanced grain = lightly buffed surface to remove imperfections.

Some companies describe top grain leather as being the same as corrected or enhanced grain. This is not accurate. Again, top grain simply refers to the uppermost layer of the hide. When manufacturers lightly sand or buff top grain leather to remove imperfections on the hide, then apply a grain print, it is considered enhanced grain. Another name for enhanced grain is corrected grain. Corrected top grain leather is still extremely durable because it maintains its tight fiber structure and it provides a more uniform grain at a lower price.

Leather Grain

Definitions of Leather Grain

In summary, top grain refers to the hide composition, or the uppermost layer. Full grain and enhanced grain, on the other hand, refer to the wrinkles and appearance of the hide. Full grain is the most natural with an unaltered surface. Enhanced grain is lightly buffed to improve its appearance. Whether full grain or enhanced grain, all top grain leather provides exceptional durability.

If you would like further clarification regarding leather terms or types, please feel free to contact us. We are happy to answer any leather questions you may have.


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