Leather 101: What Is The Difference Between Top And Full Grain?

Taylor Miles
Leather 101: What Is The Difference Between Top And Full Grain?

Top Grain VS Full Grain Leather


In this post, we are going to talk about a subject that we get asked about A LOT!

You see, there's a lot of information out there about Top Grain and Full Grain leather and what it means to the quality of leather. We were asked about this so much, that we reached out to all the tanneries we work with for their clarification to what these terms actually mean.


To be honest, Top Grain simply means that the natural grain and top layer of the leather have not been cut away. "Top" is not in reference to the quality of the leather (like, "this stuff is the tops!"), but it sure can sound that way! Technically, unless leather is a Suede or Split, all leathers would be considered Top Grain. This is still a desirable leather as the top grain is always the strongest part of the leather. But it is also the layer that will show the most damage from things like scars, brands, and insect bites.

Suede is what is left behind after the Top Grain has been split away from the hide, which is why it has that fuzzy nap on both the top and the bottom of the leather. Split hides are when the hide has been split or cut down from a thicker hide to make thinner, more workable leathers. Some embossed leathers come from split hides, due to the fact that there is no texture left when the Top Grain is removed. You will see these listed as "embossed split leather".


Full Grain leather means that the original grain of the leather has not been altered in any way. Full Grain is exactly how the grain appeared during the tanning process. If the texture or surface has been changed at all, it would be called a Corrected Grain Leather or just Corrected Leather. Embossing is an example of Corrected Grain. So a Pebbled Grained leather would be considered a Full Grain whereas a cowhide with Crocodile Embossing would be considered a Corrected Leather. 

So is Top Grain better than Full Grain? Well, if the leather is Top Grain and has not been altered in any way, it's actually Full Grain as well! As mentioned earlier, this is not a way of deciding the quality or grade of the leather. Economy or low-grade hides can also be called Top Grain. These terms simply let you know what layer of the hide you are buying, and whether it has been altered in any way. And because of that, leather can be both Top and Full Grain at the same time!

Curious about the different types of Grain/Textures available in genuine leather? Check out our Leather 101 Texture blog for more information.

Still have questions? Feel free to reach out to us at sales@theleatherguy.org, or through our chat box located in the bottom right corner of the page!

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