A Lesson In Leather: Leather Types


The demand for leather goods is ever growing and industry revenue is forecast to reach £59.2 billion by 2018. Consumers are demanding innovative leather products which fit fashion, trend and lifestyle.

Full Grain Leather

Full Grain is the term used to refer to hides which have not been sanded or buffed to remove imperfections or natural marks on the surface of the hide. Since it has been left in a raw state, the leather develops a patina over time whilst retaining a natural feel. Full grain leather has an extremely tight grain which gives the product strength and durability, along with great breathability which results in less moisture created from prolonged contact.


Top Grain Leather

Top Grain leather is the most common type used for premium leather goods. Leather classed as top grain is usually full grain which has been treated to make it thinner and more pliable. It’s surface is sanded and a finishing coat is added to the surface. The advantage to this is that the leather is smoother with less imperfections and it will not develop a natural patina. This alone is a matter of personal preference, some brands prefer a natural patina to develop over time whereas others prefer a leather with a greater resistance to stains than full grain, resulting in a consistent and long lasting finish.



Suede most commonly refers to leather which has a soft and napped finish, however it can also refer to a similar finish which has been applied to other kinds of fabrics. Suede is created by taking the inner splits of a hide and abrading the surface. Since it is made from thinner hide, suede is less durable that full or top grain leather and is more susceptible to stains, however suede is an excellent choice when creating some products.


Saffiano Leather

The term Saffiano refers to a distinctive cross hatch pattern on the surface of leather. This pattern is pressed in to a wax coating during the production process, resulting in a finish which is scratch resistant, water resistant, durable and easy to clean. Regardless of Saffiano’s many practical qualities, it is commonly used in high fashion and for decorative purposes.


Patent Leather

Patent leather is leather which has been given a high gloss, shiny finish. It is usually used in applications where an eye catching appearance is the most important consideration, such as evening shoes and small leather goods like handbags and wallets. The original process was developed by an US based inventor and used a linseed oil based lacquer coating to create the high gloss finish. Leather goods manufacturers now use modern techniques; synthetic resins which have revolutionised the industry and allowed patent leather to be mass produced.


Ostrich Leather

Ostrich leather is soft, flexible and durable. Its unique pattern of quill sockets give it a distinguished look favoured by high end leather goods brands. Despite its softness, Ostrich leather is unsurpassed for its tactile strength. In fact, Ostrich is one of the strongest hides available with naturally occurring oils in the leather preventing cracking even under extreme temperatures and sun exposure.


Alligator Leather

Alligator leather combines rugged durability with a striking appearance which is commonly used for small leather goods such as wallets and watch straps. Alligator leather is synonymous with luxury. High end fashion brands use it regularly in their marketing campaigns, when they want to put across the prestige of their brand with bold designs and textures.