Leather Terminology


Genuine leather is a general label used to identify an item which has real leather in it’s construction. Contrary to popular belief, the term is not an indicator of quality. An item made using bonded leather can bare the tag “genuine leather”, which is a cheap material made up of glued leather particles.


Reconstructed, or bonded leather is a low quality material made of shredded leather particles glued or bonded together, then covered with a polyurethane or latex coating. It is significantly cheaper than real leather and is often used in furniture, car seats, and clothing. The advantage to using bonded leather is price and yield, but durability is severely lacking.


Full-grain leather is made from the highest quality hides and is the strongest and most durable type of leather. Full Grain leather has not been sanded or buffed to remove imperfections on the surface of the hide. This leaves the natural grain intact, which gives the leather a more luxurious look and feel. Full-grain leather is also more breathable and will develop a patina over time, which gives it a unique appearance. Products made with full-grain leather include high-end furniture, shoes, belts, and wallets.


Top-grain leather is a type of full-grain leather that has been sanded or buffed to remove imperfections on the surface of the hide. Both full-grain and top-grain leather are of high quality and will last for many years with proper care. Top-grain leather is often used to make products such as upholstery, luggage, and handbags, but is also used to make the same products as full grain leather.


English bridle leather is top-quality leather that is used to make products that will see a lot of wear, such as saddles, horse tack, and belts. It is vegetable-tanned, which means that it is treated with tannin from tree bark and other plants. This makes the leather more durable and gives it a distinctive rich color. English bridle leather is also typically treated with waxes and oils, which further protect it from moisture and wear.


Veg-Tan leather is a type of leather that is tanned using tannin and other plant-based materials. Veg Tan is considered to be of a higher quality than chrome tan leather due to it’s durability, moldability, and natural appearance. The tanning process for veg tan leather can take anywhere from several weeks to several months, depending on the desired results. This type of leather is also better for the environment because it does not require the use of harsh chemicals. Veg tan leather is used in a variety of applications, including upholstery, footwear, and accessories.


Chrome tan leather is a type of leather that is tanned using chromium sulfate and other chemicals. This leather is known for its softness, vibrant color options, and resistance to water and stains. It is often used in the manufacturing of upholstery, shoes, bags, and many other products. Chrome tan leather can take anywhere from 1 day to 6 weeks to tan, depending on the process used.


Pull-up leather is aniline dyed leather that changes color when stretched or pulled. It is made with a combination of transparent waxes and oils, which gives the leather a very soft hand. As the leather is handled and stretched, marks, scratches, and signs of wear will show and a rich patina will develop over time.

pull up leather example


Shell Cordovan is a high-end type of equine leather that is difficult and expensive to manufacture. Cordovan is highly sought after due to its uniquely smooth finish, resistance to creasing, tight fiber structure, and exceptional durability. Shell Cordovan is made using the tight fibrous connective tissue below the top grain of the hide on the rump of a horse. Today it’s commonly used for shoes, wallets, watch straps, and many other small goods.

example of shell cordovan leather