Consumers have been bombarded with leather terminology for decades, with tricky advertising and marketing tactics afoot, some buyers are understandably confused by the difference in leather grades. What do all of these classifications mean, and which grade will outlast the others by miles?

Our main focus today is on full grain leather.

Picture a cow grazing in a field, living its best life, withstanding the elements day in and day out. The animal is protected by its large hide. Naturally, the exterior of the hide is the strongest so it can protect the animal. It is also important to note that this external, top-most layer of the hide is the most beautiful and enduring when used in crafting leather products.
Full grain leather is the crème de la crème, the outer layer or top most layer of the hide which contains all of the natural characteristics from the life of the cow. Full grain hides are the most expensive for both producers and consumers. They are desirable because all of those tightly knit fibers that protect the cow against the environment are left intact during the tanning process, resulting in the strongest, most durable leather available.

Full grain hides are rare. In order to use the full grain of the hide, the cow had to live a great life in a pasture outdoors and in a good climate. Cows that are raised in less-than-ideal conditions have less beautiful hides, so they must be sanded down in order to produce beautiful looking leather. Full grain leather, however, hasn’t been buffed, sanded down, or altered to weaken it, so it is the most desirable in terms of its strength and longevity. It’s the same quality of leather used in long lasting outdoor gear like saddles, boots, and jackets. Your full grain leather wallet will likely be the heirloom piece that develops a patina you hand down for years and years.
A full grain leather product tells a story. Since full grain hides retain the characteristics from the life of the cow, each wrinkle, scratch, and pockmark come together to remind us that the material had life.

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