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The Truth About Genuine Leather - What Major Companies DON'T Want You to Know!

Picture this: You're shopping for a new purse online, and you come across one that you love! You find in the description, "made with genuine leather." That's great, right? Real leather!


Here's the secret that no major company wants their consumers to know: genuine leather is actually the cheapest leather you can get! 

A leather hide has the potential to be split into 3 different cuts, each with it's own characteristics and levels of quality (there's also a fourth type of real leather - bonded leather - that we'll talk about later).


Genuine Leather

One cut of leather is genuine leather. I'm convinced that genuine leather was first named by a marketing department. They knew that by using a word with a positive connotation -- "genuine" -- consumers would think they were getting a high quality product for a cheap price. In reality, though, genuine leather is anything but high quality!

Genuine leather is made up of the bottom layer, or the inside layer of the animal's skin. The natural fibers in it are soft and tend to break easily, making this the least durable option. It is also often coated with a plastic finish on top that cracks and peels rather quickly.

Genuine leather is unfortunately, the most common leather that is used today because it's so cheap and easy to produce! That's why any department store you go to will be riddled with this leather -- and often they'll parade the "genuine leather" term around like it's a badge of honor! But I think anyone can agree that major chain companies care more about making money than they do about creating quality products. 

Genuine leather is the epitome of our consumer society. Buy something at a bargain price and use it until it wears out or we no longer find value in it. Then throw it away and replace it for something else next year!

Following this cycle is exactly how companies make more money, so it's pretty safe to say that avoiding genuine leather will definitely save you a lot of money in the long run. 


Top-Grain Leather

A step up from genuine leather is top-grain leather. This is the next most common leather found in consumer products today, although it is quite a bit harder to find than genuine leather.

Top-grain leather is made up of the middle section of the animal's skin. The top half of top-grain's natural fibers are more tightly woven together, but it still contains the looser fibers of genuine leather underneath.

With top-grain leather, the most durable part of the leather hide is sanded or cut off to remove any skin blemishes that were present on the animal. Because of this, top-grain leather often looks very uniform and sleek. The downside, however, is that the potential lifespan of this leather is reduced significantly. It can last up to 10-15 years with proper care, which is not a lot compared to full-grain leather, which we'll discuss below.

Top-grain leather can be a great mid-grade option for those who want decent quality while also not needing to spend quite as much for full-grain leather. It is also a lot easier to find than full-grain leather products!


Full-grain Leather

And finally, the king of all leathers! Full-grain leather is the roughest, toughest, most beautiful cut of them all. Twice as strong as top-grain leather, you could quite literally depend on full-grain leather with your life!

Full-grain leather is made up of the outermost layer of the animal's skin. The natural fibers are woven so tight that it can withstand thousands of pounds before ripping apart. It also contains all the blemishes that were present on the animal's skin, and these small imperfections can actually help to make this leather more valuable, as it is the mark of true, high-quality leather.

Don't worry though, leathercrafters who use this leather will make sure there aren't any major scars or imperfections on your product! They want their goods to look as high-quality and professional as possible! But because of the natural qualities of this leather, it is normal to have some small variations from product to product. In fact, many leathercrafters who use full-grain leather will include this disclaimer somewhere on their websites.

Full-grain leather also smells amazing! It's from this cut where the classic leather smell comes from. Top-grain leather can also have some of this smell, but it's usually nowhere near as strong. Another classic hallmark of full-grain leather is that it develops a beautiful patina when used. This patina actually increases the value of the product over time.

Bonded Leather

The final type of leather that deserves an honorable (or not so honorable) mention is bonded leather. It is not a specific cut of a hide, rather many small pieces of leather bonded together with polyurethane or latex. It is also finished with a fake leather-like coating to make it look better. Technically it has real leather in it, but it's more prone to coming apart because it's made up of hundreds of little pieces. Plus, the polyurethane in it releases harmful chemicals into the environment when made (which is also the same for genuine leather), so it's safe to say you should steer clear of bonded leather!


Gone are the days of letting marketing ploys lull you into a false sense of security! Now that you understand the different characteristics and qualities of all types of leather, you can make informed decisions on what products you choose to buy so that you can get the best bang for your buck! Don't be afraid to contact a company to ask them about the leather they use for their products. If they answer that they're not sure, or proudly proclaim, "We use genuine leather," you can know that it's time to run in the opposite direction! 


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