Ask the Shopkeeper
When considering the types of leather used in products today, it is our goal to give you the best information to make an educated purchase.
Ultimately, it is up to you and your budget. Better leather and construction costs more than bad leather and poor construction.
Sometimes the difference is based on personal taste. Other times, confusing marketing or unfamiliar terms can lead you to pay more for an inferior bag.
We mentioned corrected-grain leather in our top-grain vs. full-grain article. This type of finish can also be referred to as genuine leather.
Here’s where confusion slaps you in the face. “Genuine” leather, or corrected-grain leather, refers to leather that has had an artificial or faux grain applied to the surface. Dyes and paints are often used to make the pattern mimic snake, alligator, or other exotic species.
Genuine leather can also refer to split leather. Split leather means that the hide has been cut crossways with a machine that separates the top grain from the suede.
Think of this process as taking apart a sandwich. The top bread is removed (top grain). The bottom bread is removed (suede). The middle section may be what is referred to as genuine.
The term is way to general to know for sure. Just be aware this “cut” is not the best leather. Don’t expect the product to last.
Bonded leather is the particle board of leathers. Scrap leather is ground up, mixed with a binding agent, usually latex or polyurethane, and “bonded” onto a fiber sheet.
Those sheets are stamped with a leather grain pattern. The percent of leather vs. binding agent varies.
Bonded leather is the cheapest leather and sits at the bottom of the grading scale. As leather fans, it’s hard for us to even consider bonded leather on the list of choice materials.
However, you will find this approach used on Bible covers, journals, furniture upholstery and other low-priced products.
Other names for bonded leather are reconstituted leather or blended leather. You will find these terms for manufactured upholstery material for sofas and chairs.
A bonded-leather sofa in a furniture showroom looks amazing. After six months of wear, you will wish you had saved for the higher priced model made from better leather.
Don’t be enticed by the price. As the old saying goes: “If it looks too good to be true…”
As in any purchase, be sure you know what you’re buying.
If the product is not clearly marked with the type of leather, ask the sales associate. You may find that you know terms they’ve never heard of.
Be persistent. Check the manufacturer’s website for the item in question. Call their customer support line.
Our experience tells us that if no one seems to know what type of leather is being used, chances are it's low quality.
Insist on quality and you’ll be rewarded with a product you can use for years then pass down to a family member.
We’ve seen far too many bags that give up before they should. A bag should endure to tell stories of adventures and travel.
Passing down an heirloom can’t happen if the bag wears out after a season of use.