June 23, 2021 5 min read

Primary Types of Leather

Not all leathers are created equal. There are many different types of leather for all sorts of purposes. Some leathers are named based on their origin or based on their tanning process, separated primarily by texture, process, and durability. There is Nappa, ItalianAniline, Semi-Aniline, and plenty of others.

Beneath all these subtypes are primary types of leather which really determine the quality of the hide that is used to make leather products, from purses to saddles. The resulting products’ durability and character are largely dependent on this choice, whether one chooses full-grain or “genuine” leather.

There are five principal types of leather: full-grain, top-grain, genuine, split-grain, and bonded leather. Each has its difference, but the main chasm of difference lies between full-grain and genuine leather because of the former’s premium quality and the latter’s less than honest marketing techniques.

Is there really a difference between all of these leathers? How do you spot it? Does which cut of leather really determine the quality of a product? How can we even tell? We’re about to answer all of those questions and more down below.

Full-Grain Leather vs. Genuine Leather

Let’s dive into the differences between these two types of leather.

Leather at Its Best: Full-Grain Leather

At Andar, all of our products are made using full-grain leather, but why is that? What is the reason for choosing exclusively full-grain leather to construct our products?

Full-grain leather is made only from the outermost layer of the cowhide. It remains the most natural layer of leather because it hasn’t been sanded or altered to remove any of its imperfections. In fact, the hair is the only thing removed, and the rest of the full-grain section of the hide is kept intact. The reason for its name, “full-grain,” is because the fibers on the outermost layer are finer, making this cut extremely resilient, tough, and lasting. There is nothing higher-quality than full-grain leather.

Since the integrity of the full-grain leather cut is preserved, it develops an extremely rich patina over time that makes each product unique and beautiful. That’s why Andar is committed to only sourcing full-grain leather for each of our products because we want your product to last and endure the test of time.

A Lesser Sort: The Downsides of “Genuine” Leather

Regrettably, “genuine” leather is barely genuine. Its inherent ambiguity allows for it to slide by standard definitions because of a vague technicality. Genuine leather is sourced from any layer of the hide, and can in fact be sourced from multiple different layers and then later stitched together to be a foreign concoction of different quality pieces stitched together for efficient commercialization. 

Oftentimes, genuine leather is modified to remove its imperfections. It’s sanded, then dyed or painted to make it look like a quality product when it’s not.

Genuine leather is less durable, less resilient, and evokes a less complex and robust patina that arises from constant use. It’s a copy, and a poor one at that. Therefore, Andar has avoided any use of genuine leather in sourcing our products.

We are invested in building a future on the solid foundation of craftsmanship. We don’t want petty substitutes. We want pure and true full-grain leather, so we can create a pure and true wallet, one that will stay faithful to you every day, no matter the use.

The Different Types of Full-Grain Leather

Now, there isn’t just one simple type of full-grain leather. “Full-grain” is a name for the highest quality cut of the hide, a league above everything below it. But leather is more than just a piece of cowskin. Leather tanning and the subsequent processes determine what constitutes the different types of leather that are out there. 

But what’s the best type of leather for our wallets? Well, that depends on what you’re looking for. Regardless, we’ve chosen only the most premium types of full-grain leather to be used for your wallet.

Here’s a brief overview of the different types of leather we use for our wallets, followed by a brief explanation of the importance of our decisions in choosing these types.

Distressed or Vintage Leather

Distressed leather or vintage leather is a special type of our oil waxed full-grain leather that goes under a particular type of distressing process which gives the wallet an aged and refined look. Conveniently, distressing full-grain leather also adds an additional level of durability on top of the already incredibly resilient full-grain leather.

The process of distressing leather involves soaking the leather in water, and cutting, burning, or scraping the leather in different places to bring a new and lighter color out. After this intricate process concludes, what results is a more robust, more durable, and broken-in wallet that looks like it’s belonged to you for a long time and will stay yours for years to come.

Specially Tanned: Nappa Leather

In short, Nappa leather becomes Nappa leather through a distinct chromium tanning process perfected by a Jewish-German immigrant in the late 19th century in Napa, California.

Nappa leather is passionately sought after for good reason. It is always and exclusively full-grain leather, which retains all the texture from the original hide and preserves the integrity of the hide, rather than suturing together a bunch of foreign pieces into one singular entity

Moreover, it possesses singular durability and incredible water resistance due to its trademark tanning process. Sourced from sheep, goats, lambs, or calves, it is crafted using only the top layer of the hide which is softer and more durable than any of the other layers. Because of its unique tanning process, Nappa leather is particularly soft, contrasting starkly to standardized pigment leather because of the way it feels to the touch.

In other words, the Nappa tanning process created a leather that is incomparably supple, unsurpassable soft, and exceptionally pliable. It’s no wonder why Nappa wallets are so sought after.

Dyed to Perfection: Aniline Leather

Aniline leather is different from Nappa, because it isn’t indebted to the Nappa tanning process. It differs from distressed leather because it isn’t intentionally damaged to give a cool aesthetic and increased durability.

Aniline leather undergoes a treatment of tanning with soluble chemicals that allows the leather to speak for itself as a quality item. It gives a rugged, uneven look but does so in a truthful way that is painstaking to accomplish. However, if done correctly, aniline has a natural look that truly looks like leather that cannot be mistaken for anything else. No two Aniline products are the same due to the intricate dyeing process that makes each Aniline product extremely unique.

What Matters the Most

In the end, what matters the most for a quality wallet isn’t whether it’s Nappa or distressed leather, but whether it’s full-grain. We use exclusively full-grain because we don’t want to settle for a lesser material and make you settle for a lesser product. It’s frustrating that leather companies that produce masses of wallets can get by on using “genuine” leather when the highest quality is readily available.

Andar is committed to creating products that will last and naturally become your go-to products for daily use. Without the use of full-grain leather, this simply isn’t possible. 

 

Sources:

The Jewish Merchants in the Light of Eleventh-Century Geniza Documents | JStor

What is so Special About Italian Leather? | Info Bloom 

Aniline leather | Leather Dictionary 


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