Buying A Leather Bag? Learn About The Types Of Leather First!
The Journal

Buying A Leather Bag? Learn About The Types Of Leather First!

Everyone loves leather products, for their durability and aesthetic value whether you are referring to handbags or wallets.

But has it ever crossed your mind that there are different types of leather?

While cowhide is the most common source of leather, crocodiles, ostriches, and kangaroos are also used to produce the leather for certain applications.

Types of Leather for Handmade Bags

Nowadays, it has been hard to travel without a good bag, whether it is a laptop bag, briefcase, duffle bag or backpack and the best bags are made of good quality leather.

When shopping for a leather bag, you would often see the term genuine leather, full grain leather and PU leather. While most of the leather enthusiast know the difference, others don’t.

So here is a brief rundown of what this term means.


If you are looking for quality leather, consider the full grain variety. Although usually made from cow skin, different animal skins can be used to make it. Full grain leather is very strong given the fact that it undergoes very minimal treatment. After the animal hair has been removed, the hide is used without sanding or buffing it out to remove any marks or imperfections. This way, it includes the entire thickness of the skin. Although it may look imperfect because of the marks, keeping the full grain allows it for additional strength and durability. Because of this, only the highest quality of furniture, luggage, bags and even footwear features full-grain leather.

And as the leather gets older, it takes onto a great patina that is not easy to duplicate.

Top Grain

When it comes to quality, top grain leather comes second.

In the process of preparing it, the outer layer or imperfections is usually removed through sanding or buffing. Therefore, it appears smoother but thinner than full grain leather. Since its thinner, it’s the more preferred leather for manufacturers because it's more workable.

Top grain leather rarely features any blemishes or imperfections because it is already removed. The natural grain is removed and replaced with an imitation grain to prevent possible staining that would otherwise sink and absorbed. That makes the leather not as strong as it should be.

Genuine Leather

Although real leather, genuine leather also means the lowest quality of the material. Therefore, it doesn’t last or look as good as the leather of higher quality.

Bags made of genuine leather are usually sold for a relatively lower price. It generally refers to the material that is left over after stripping off the higher quality leathers. This type of leather also sometimes has had an artificial grain applied to its surface.

 If you have no concern about the quality of the bag you are buying, this type of leather shouldn’t be an issue.

Split Leather

In the process of making leather, it can be split into two sheets. The top side of the leather is stronger; given that it has all the natural grains. Split leather usually refers to that on the lower part of the hide and looks like suede no matter which side you choose to look at it. Split leather is not as strong nor is it water resistant.

PU Leather (PolyUrethane Leather)

This type of leather is simply artificial leather.

It was created to make it feel and look like real leather but without using a real animal skin. It would be safe to say that when you see a bag or wallet that says it is made with PU leather, it's not authentic leather.

The most common way of making one is by combining split leather with polyurethane then pasting it to a surface. Although, PU leather is different from Genuine Leather, there are still similarities with the real thing since PU leather was created to fool your sense of sight and touch.

Distressed or Vegetable Tanned Leather.  What are these?

The properties of the final leather product usually depend on the method that was used to make it. At Odessie, you would usually see our items as either Vegetable Tanned Leather or Distressed Leather. So what are these?


Distressed leather

It is an aniline dyed leather that has an artificial worn and aged appearance where the natural characteristic of the hide such as scratches, wrinkles, and scars are considered positive characteristics. It is designed to look aged or worn without weakening the general integrity of the leather.

Vegetable-tanned leather

Among the different tanning methods, this is still nowadays the most traditional and most recognizable type of tanning.

The process of producing this type of leather involves natural tannins and other materials that are commonly found in plants. Hence called vegetable tanned leather.

The tannins used can be from plants or trees such as oak, chestnut but hundreds of other plants or tree have been known to be used.

Some of the benefits of using this of this type of tanning include:

  • Leathers are thick and hard wearing
  • The leather has a natural feel and earthy smell
  • Develops a unique patina as you use it and over time

If you are looking for a passport wallet, a portfolio case, laptop bag, briefcase or backpack, don’t hesitate to talk to us at

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