Full Grain Leather vs Top Grain Leather: What are the Differences?

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Top grain leather is called “top grain” because it has the very top of the leather processed. This can give a wide variety of looks and colors for the leather. Full grain leather is called “full grain” because the grain of the entire leather remains unprocessed. This leather looks more natural and retains its durability for longer stretches of time. 

There are two parts to full grain leather. The grain and the corium. The corium is the same in both full grain and top grain leather, but the grain is different. Grain gives leather two different components, the actual look of the leather and the strength of the leather. Top grain leather processes the top to increase the look of the leather and reduce the strength of the leather. Full grain leather maintains a more natural look and an increased strength of the leather.

Full grain leather is more natural, organic, and authentic. Top grain leather is cheaper, but has a wide range of aesthetic modifications available that make it suitable for fashion.

Full Grain Leather Properties

Full grain leather is extremely strong and durable, and is used to make genuine leather products that are built to last. Because of the fact that full grain leather is the strongest, you might think that this is because it has the most processing done to it. Actually, the full grain leather hide is the most organic and natural form that you can find leather in.

Full grain leather hides are extremely natural and bring out the natural characteristics that were contained in the hide. This makes every single full grain leather hide extremely unique. You can often see the markings, folds, and actual aging of the animal in the full grain leather hide. It gets you up close and personal to the actual life of the animal. These markings and detailings add a lot of character to the hide, and many people feel that a full grain leather gives them an emotional connection to the leather by connecting them to the life of the animal. The markings don’t change the longevity of the hide, but give it a story.

Still, full grain leathers are generally priced on the quality of the hide. Animals that have less markings and scarings will generally produce full grain leather that has less markings and defects, making the leather worth more.

Top Grain Leather Properties

Top-grain leather has a less natural aesthetic to it. The imperfections and defects of a hide are rubbed away to produce a smoother, cleaner cut look.

With top grain leather, you can actually change the pattern of the leather to maintain the same aesthetic quality of the leather over time. Doing this will maintain the way the leather looks but actually reduces the overall durability of the leather. You’ll reduce the lifespan of the leather, but extend the number of days that the leather will look good.

Differences

Price

Full grain leather is typically a lot harder to find than top grain leather, and also costs a good deal more than top grain leather does.

Because full-grain leather is extremely scarce and also really expensive to produce and obtain, the push for leather products in the fashion industry requires leather to diversify its holdings. There isn’t enough full grain leather to produce as many fashion products as the market demands. In addition, many consumers who desire leather products don’t actually have the money to purchase full grain leather products. In cases like these, top-grain leather provides a cheaper alternative.

Quality

Full grain leather is the best leather that any amount of money can buy. It is expensive because it is rare, and appeals to the authenticity that many people crave in leather. Whereas top grain leather can work with hides that have a number of blemishes on the surface, because the top grain is scrubbed anyway, full grain leather requires a minimum number of imperfections to get a good leather. Full grain leather can’t hide any defects behind processing, meaning that manufacturers can only use the best hides.

Top grain leather, while not as good as full grain leather, is still the second highest quality leather that is available. The hide remains intact while the top grain is scrubbed. This means that manufacturers working with top grain leather can accept hides that have a few more defects than people working with only full grain leather. This makes the hides a bit cheaper and easier to come by.

Aesthetics

Full grain leather has a natural look, whereas top grain leather has a more artificial look. This doesn’t mean that one of them looks better than the other. While leather enthusiasts who love an authentic leather will tell you that it’s full grain or nothing, the fashion industry makes use of a top grain leather in order to change the appearance of the leather to fit certain products and styles. 

They both have their place. The full grain leather tells the intimate story of an animal by protecting even the defects in the hide, including and incorporating those scars and marks into the final leather. Top grain leather has a number of artistic and creative possibilities that full grain leather doesn’t have available to it.

Aging

Full grain leather is a completely natural kind of leather. It starts out stiff and gains that worn down, rugged look as it gets older. The colors begin to fade in beautiful ways. If you’re looking for that worn down leather look in a product, full grain leather is the only way to get that. It’s also extremely durable, meaning that while the colors fade and change with use, the leather remains strong and intact.

Top grain leather has a layer of durability that comes from the buffering and coating that is done to the top layer. While full grain leather is more susceptible to staining and the bad kind of wear and tear, it also takes on a more realistic and authentic kind of aging. Top grain leather ages a bit artificially. It doesn’t lose its colors in the same way, and doesn’t obtain the aged patina look that full grain leather will. The top grain production process also means that the leather loses a bit of its durability and toughness. It will look “new” for a longer amount of time but wear out quicker.

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